Minimalist 5: Interacting with Law Enforcement

If you’ve been in a shooting you must deal with the after effects. If you are the one to call 911 you should tell them the minimum. Explain what you were a victim of such as a robbery, home invasion, etc The 911 operator will ask you all kinds of questions. Slow down and answer the basics for the safe arrival of police. Don’t answer detailed questions about what happened with 911. Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law. If you know what you are a victim of such as, someone tried to rob me with a gun or carjack me. You should tell them that. But that’s it. Plan for the police to arrive and take your gun from you. Don’t try to give them the gun. Tell them where it is and follow their instructions. Don’t try to explain anything, just do what they say. It’s not personal to you but they will secure the scene as they think necessary. They might even handcuff you.

But wait: If you are a law-abiding citizen who used lethal force through no fault of your own. You took the time to learn the law and implemented it properly during your shooting. You have nothing to worry about, right?

Well, maybe. The investigation will determine if there is a crime. If you look guilty then you are guilty. That’s just the way it is. The officers and detectives were not there. They come and look at the aftermath and try to piece it together. What seems like a good clear-cut righteous shooting to you sometimes looks different to law enforcement, county attorney and the court system. You’re only innocent until proven guilty in court. That has nothing to do if the detectives will arrest you or not.

If you know you did something wrong and made a mistake then I will give you some advice, tell the police what you are a victim of and you will be glad to talk to them right after you speak with your lawyer.

If you know what you did was proper, necessary and legal I will give you some advice, tell the police what you were a victim of and you will be glad to talk to them right after you speak with your lawyer.

You will have to wait for detectives to finish the investigation. You might be sitting in a police car or interview room for hours.

As a police officer I sat in the Chief of Police’s waiting room watching CNN for about eight hours while the investigation was ongoing. I say this to let you know that it is not unusual to wait for hours. As a civilian you will probably stare at four blank walls in a 5×8 room.

You should tell your whole story to your lawyer before you tell it to the police. This allows a few things to happen, first you need time to sort through your feelings and calm down. Even if calm you will probably need time to sort your thoughts. Memories during high stress incidents are often incomplete and altered. No matter how smart and trained you are, there are nuances of the law that you need to run by your lawyer.

If you are going to carry a pistol then you should plan for a possible lethal force situation. Many people decide to pay for a legal protection plan (legal insurance). The monetary cost is something to think through and make a plan for.

Whether you have insurance or not you need the name of a good law firm to call. You need to have their front desk numbers and ask them how they go about responding to any emergency situations. You usually don’t have to have a lawyer on retainer or anything like that. If you have a legal plan in place that plan will have lawyers for you to call in an emergency.

After talking to your lawyer, take their advice. Resist the need to explain it to the detectives. If the evidence makes you look guilty they might decide to arrest you. Let your lawyer play detective and then take their advice. At that point you don’t have the power to make it better but you sure have the power to make it worse, by talking.

If it is a good shoot then your lawyer will be with you while the detectives ask you questions. Take your time and never lie. It’s better to say you will not answer a question (or your lawyer will say that for you) or don’t know the answer than lie. Usually your lawyer will run interference for you during questioning.

Ultimately understanding the laws of lethal force and it’s justifications will allow you to respond to a use of force situation properly and quickly. Because you saw the circumstances that you know you needed to see before the use of force those facts will be in your memory.

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