Have a Plan When Things Go Wrong

Very few self-defense incidents play out as we imagine them. The dynamic nature of a fight and the intensity of the investigation afterward means the worst 10 seconds of your life could drag on for years.

We play the “what if?” game all the time. What if the bad guy comes from your left side? What if you can’t back up? What if the best cover means you have to move closer to the threat? There are just so many “what ifs” that we can’t cover them all in this column, ever, no matter how long we keep running this column.

You can’t predict what will happen on the streets and you can’t accurately predict what you will need to do to protect yourself. This is why you need a good lawyer and the ability to pay for expert witnesses.

One of those big “what ifs” revolves around the first strike. What will happen to you legally if you strike first during a self-defense incident? The “lawyer” answer is, “It depends.” The actions taken by police and prosecutors will depend on the totality of the circumstances. But know this: You do not need to wait for someone to attack you before you act to protect yourself.

You need to be able to articulate that you reasonably feared an imminent attack that was likely to cause death or great bodily harm. In some states, you need to prove that you could not safely retreat. In every state, the amount of force has to be objectively reasonable and most places will use what is called the reasonable person test; that is to say that prosecutors will ask, “What would a reasonable person do in the same situation with the same information that you had?”

I have yet to find out the exact definition of a “reasonable” person, but that is another story.

Understanding pre-threat indicators and the nature of violent attacks and the expected responses will go a long way toward keeping you safe on the street and out of jail. Studying a book like The Crucial Advantage, written by Steve Tarani and published by the USCCA, will be a big help in letting you know when things are likely to get bad, but having an experienced attorney on your side will be just as important.

Remember, much of what we do in a self-defense incident could be considered a crime in most other circumstances. Displaying your weapon may be a crime. Shooting someone is a crime. Punching someone is a crime. But you are allowed to do these things in self-defense. So the investigation becomes a question of whether or not your actions were allowed under the state’s definition of self-defense. For that, you will need effective legal representation.

Concealed carry is not just about strapping a gun on your hip and calling it good. Concealed carry is just one part of a personal defense plan. The remainder of that plan is for you to know exactly what you will do after things go terribly wrong. Failing to have a plan for your defense after your use of self-defense could make the worst day of your life drag on for many months or years after the initial incident.


You'd do anything to protect your family.But did you know... You're still vulnerable to criminal charges and financial ruin…even if you did everything right? Your USCCA Membership arms you with the self-defense education, training, and legal protection you need to protect your family with confidence. Because, after all, doing the right thing shouldn't cost you everything...

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