Silence Is Golden
As an Ohio firearm rights attorney and concealed handgun license instructor, one of the most common questions I hear is, “What should I do after a self-defense shooting?” No gun owner ever wants to be in a defensive gun use (“DGU”) situation, but all gun owners have considered it. Even in a justified self-defense situation, the actions taken in the immediate aftermath of the shooting can mean the difference between a quick vindication of the DGU or months of criminal prosecution and potentially prison. While you should consult with an attorney about advice for your own anticipated DGU situations, there are some general points to consider.
First, remember that there may be multiple bad guys, and just because someone has been shot it does not mean they are no longer a threat. After you are sure there are no more threats, check on any family or other friendlies. Once the threat has been dealt with and you know the status of everyone who should be there, it’s time to make the first decision: Do you call your attorney or the police? Some firearm instructors I’ve spoken to disagree with me, but my personal belief is that if I am not already on the phone with 911 when the shooting occurs, they will be my first call. I’ll remember that everything I say on 911 or to the police when they arrive can be used against me later in court, and so I will try to give only general information. “Somebody just broke into my house. I feared for my life and I had to defend myself and shoot him.”
I will answer any questions about the number of people with me, where we are, what clothing we are wearing, where the firearm is, and other general questions to help the police find me and, more importantly, not shoot me. If the dispatcher tells me to do something, I’ll follow the instructions. If there is a substantive question about the shooting, I’ll try and dodge and plead for them to “send someone quickly.” I’m not required to answer any of the dispatcher’s questions, but I don’t want to make myself sound guilty when I did not do anything wrong. Once the police arrive, I’m going to ask if I can call my attorney, and then call the quick reaction program number of one of the other attorneys at Barney DeBrosse, LLC.
I have been asked why I would call another attorney, and the best answer is the old saying, “The attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client.” People don’t always think clearly in the immediate aftermath of a stressful situation, lawyers included. I want to cooperate with law enforcement in a DGU situation because it was justified, but I don’t want to say the wrong thing and end up in a worse position. I would rather wait until my attorney arrives at the police station to answer any questions than do so by myself with adrenaline coursing through my veins.
As an attorney, I could probably handle talking to law enforcement after a DGU during a home invasion without contacting another attorney. The situation is entirely different if the shooting occurs outside of my home. I would rather spend a night in a police precinct waiting for a skilled firearm lawyer before answering any questions than risk saying the wrong thing.
The one piece of advice I give to all concealed handgun licensees I speak to is this: Get to know an attorney now. Consider joining a program like Barney DeBrosse, LLC’s quick reaction program (“QRP”) so you’ll have access to an attorney at any time, day or night. Concealed handgun licensees carry a firearm so they may always be prepared for the worst, and part of that preparation should include knowing who you will rely on to defend your constitutional rights.