I am continually amazed at the number of permit holders who have been carrying for years, yet still don’t have a lawyer. How anyone could walk out of the house with a gun on their hip and not have an attorney’s number already programmed into their cell phone is simply beyond my comprehension. It’s like heading out for a cross-country road trip without a spare tire in the trunk.
The primary reason that we carry firearms is to defend ourselves from physical threats. Yet we also need to defend ourselves from legal threats. Because if, God forbid, we do have to employ our firearm, even without firing a shot, there will always be the potential for legal difficulties. Once shots are fired, especially when there is a fatal outcome, legal issues are a virtual certainty.
The time to select an attorney is long before you need one. To help drive this home, imagine yourself sitting in a jail cell, flipping through an old copy of the “Yellow Pages” scouring hundreds of names, hoping to find the one who might help. You could also put your life in the hands of some 27 year old Public Defender who carries 60 cases a week. But neither of those options is very appealing. Better to find a lawyer ahead of time.
When you start looking, remember that just any lawyer won’t do. Like doctors, lawyers come in a variety of flavors. If you were severely injured in a traffic accident, you’d certainly want a trauma specialist rather than a dermatologist. You want a criminal defense attorney, not a divorce lawyer or corporate liability specialist.
But be careful. There are plenty of attorneys out there who claim to be “criminal defense attorneys” whose actual criminal experience is limited to defending low-level drug dealers and pleading out DWI cases. You’ll need to do some homework.
Check with others you know in your local carry community. They are often relatively up to date on some of the better defense attorneys in your area. If you are a member of the NRA, you can get referrals to attorneys who likely have experience in armed self-defense cases. Check out the NRA-ILA website or just call (703) 267-1161.
Once you have several attorneys to investigate, call them and ask them some key questions. Are they available 24/7? Most are, but it’s a good idea to confirm it, as well as ask them what their backup process is, should they be on vacation for instance (“my partner automatically gets my emergency calls transferred to him/her.”).
Then inquire as to their experience in handling self-defense, specifically those cases involving the use of a firearm. How many cases have they taken? More importantly, how many did they win? Whatever numbers they quote you may not mean much by themselves, but after talking to three or four lawyers, you will get a pretty good idea as to who the “pit-bulls” are. And you definitely want a pit-bull, because if you should one day find yourself in court, the prosecutor in your case will be a Rottweiler.
Most lawyers who specialize in self-defense do not require a big retainer (deposit) in advance. They are used to getting calls from a “friend-of-a-friend” in the middle of the night. But rest assured, there will be a bill. On that subject, note that I did not list the lawyer’s billing rate as a criterion for selection. There’s a reason. As a sage attorney once said, “There’s nothing more expensive than a cheap lawyer.”
Even if you are on a very modest income, if it comes down to paying off $40,000 in legal bills over the next 20 years, or spending 20 years in prison, I’d say most of us would call that a bargain.
Lastly, having the best attorney on the planet will do you no good if, by the time they arrive, you’ve already destroyed your case by shooting your mouth off to the police. If you are involved in a shooting, call 911, say only that you were attacked and that you need police and an ambulance. Then hang up, lawyer up, and shut up. And let your pit-bull do their job.