Real-Life Self-Defense Story


Do you know when you can use a firearm in self-defense? Do you know when you can use deadly force of any type in self-defense?

My experience as both a former state prosecutor and a defense attorney has taught me that good, honest and well-intentioned people all too often get this legal understanding wrong — utterly and completely wrong.

This is either due to bad training or, far more often, a total lack of training. The consequences of poor or absent training can leave someone who has defended his or her life incapable of defending himself or herself a second time around … in the courtroom.

As part of the USCCA’s ongoing mission to educate responsibly armed Americans and ultimately save lives, I find myself uniquely positioned. Given my background, I can help further this mission by touching on the need for not only deadly force encounter training but also deadly force legal training.

I have had the pleasure to present on this topic to folks all over the country. I take attendees through real-life stories and break down the legal facts, putting them in the jury box to elicit the feel of real-life court cases involving shootings. Hopefully, people can learn the lessons that others may have paid for dearly.

Using a Knife in Self-Defense

One of the cases we discuss involves a 78-year-old retiree who awakens at night to the sound of something in his kitchen. He heads downstairs to check it out, only to be confronted by two home invaders, one armed with a screwdriver. A hand-to-hand fight breaks out, ending when the homeowner grabs a kitchen knife and stabs an attacker, causing the intruders to flee. The one who is stabbed dies at the end of the driveway, abandoned by his colleague.

Reading the above, what do you think? Is our brave homeowner arrested and charged with homicide, or are his actions immediately deemed justifiable self-defense? If you said to yourself, “No way he gets arrested and charged with a homicide,” you would be dead wrong. The homeowner was, in real life, arrested and charged with homicide.


This happened in merry old England, where the self-defense laws and attitudes are, to say the least, different than many of our own. While the homeowner was ultimately cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, the burglar who died had multiple convictions and was apparently a rather popular gang member. The retiree and his wife have faced numerous death threats since the incident.

A Lesson on Self-Defense

The lesson here is that your location can be every bit as important as your actions. Sorry, don’t blame the humble messenger. I don’t like insane self-defense laws that put the victim on trial either. But these, along with various other laws and attitudes in the justice system, are facts that my clients contend with daily. Pay attention to laws and elections in your area because they can be every bit as important as the facts of the case.

Do not assume that you know all of the laws. Hopefully you do, but odds are you don’t. I assure you that reading some statutes, while a good start, no better prepares you to actually understand the law and legal system than if you sat down and read a one-page article on how to remove a kidney. If you think I’m wrong, you sound like a future client.

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About Tom Grieve, Grieve Law

Tom Grieve is one of the most respected criminal defense lawyers in Wisconsin. A highly awarded former prosecutor, he started Grieve Law, LLC, which is one of the top criminal defense firms in the state. He developed a nuanced knowledge of Wisconsin firearms law. Tom has also received his certification as a firearms instructor and participates as a speaker and panelist with the USCCA for live broadcasts, national expos and training videos. He is even serving as a speaker and analyst on numerous TV and radio stations as well as on college and law school campuses. He has also started a family law firm, Divergent Family Law, to better serve those who live in Wisconsin.

The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. Members and the concealed carry community and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case. Laws are constantly changing, and, as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer for a specific case.


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