Legal ramifications of "worked on" trigger


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gilfo
September 7, 2008, 02:50 PM
Thinking of having my CZ trigger smoothed out and lightened by a gunsmith by that I mean the DA pull. The gun is used for ccw/sd. Have there been any cases where this has caused a problem for someone if BG was shot and possibly killed and in court it was noted that the trigger was lightened by the owner. I don't know why I worry about things like this but in this day and age who knows.

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kwelz
September 7, 2008, 03:28 PM
Some people say it will not matter in a good shoot. Others think that you will be hung on the spot if you work on a trigger. I fall into the Former camp.

freakshow10mm
September 7, 2008, 03:31 PM
I'd love to see a case where a custom gun was the deciding factor in the case. I've yet to see one.

jaysouth
September 7, 2008, 03:53 PM
You tell the police, " I had no other choice, I leveled the gun, ordered him to stop, he didn't, I took dead aim and shot him twice center of mass".

Can't say what the outcome of this case would be, but it won't have anything to do with the caliber, bullet weight, bullet construction, custom night sights, front strap checkering or trigger pull.

If you deliberately shoot someone, who is going to raise any issues about trigger pull. What differences does it make?

Unless you can post a cite, please, no chest beating.

Cosmoline
September 7, 2008, 03:57 PM
In a normal self defense case where you INTENDED to shoot the bad guy, there is no relevance to the trigger's condition.

It could come up if you have it made so light that it becomes dangerous, and you ACCIDENTALLY shoot someone with it. Then the fact of the trigger job would become relevant. It might be the basis to increase charges against you or in a civil case to bring in the smith as a third party defendant if he screwed up and made it too light without telling you.

The key is to never get work done if it will render the firearm UNSAFE. It's not so much because of the legal consequences but because you don't want to shoot someone accidentally.

jaysouth
September 7, 2008, 04:00 PM
cosmoline,

Can you post a cite?

(citation to a previous case, i.e. ILL. V. Jones, 1987)

SoCalShooter
September 7, 2008, 04:07 PM
My gunsmith told me the same basic thing cosmoline told me however he did not lighten it he did smooth it out and make the 6 pound trigger feel like less.

jaysouth
September 7, 2008, 10:05 PM
SoCal

Did your gunsmith provide a cite?

If a shotgun was used, would trigger pull be considered for a deliberate shooting?

Give us a link to your gunsmith/legal advisor's cite.

KyJim
September 7, 2008, 10:24 PM
JaySouth,

I don't have a cite handy but have read several cases on Westlaw referring to expert testimony about there being a "hair trigger" on a gun. Most said a hair trigger was either starting at 2 1/2 pounds or starting below 2 1/2 pounds. Off the top of my head, I don't remember if they were criminal or civil cases.

I don't believe a trigger job to be very relevant in a self-defense case. The minute someone says, "I didn't mean to pull the trigger" then self-defense is out the window. It becomes a question of whether there was wanton or reckless conduct. This might include the issue of a hair trigger. Self-defense, on the other hand, requires an intent to use deadly force.

Cosmoline
September 8, 2008, 12:27 AM
Can you post a cite?

For what? I'm agreeing there is no support for the original contention.

As far as the notion that an overly light trigger can cause an ND, that's common sense. You don't want your self defense gun smithed to give it a hair trigger. unless you're using a double trigger setup you shouldn't have anything rigged with a hair trigger. The general principles of civil and criminal negligence apply to any screwup that results.

Kindrox
September 8, 2008, 02:31 AM
I have to wonder in 99.9% of self defense cases if the police even care to inspect/inquire about such gun smithing. I mean really, do police really inspect each gun for trigger work?

Exmasonite
September 8, 2008, 02:58 AM
another question:

what are the chances that LEO/DA will know if your gun had a trigger job on it? if they ask you straight out under oath, sure you've gotta answer....

But i've got a used XD and I have no idea what was done to it before i got it (seller MAY have mentioned it went to canyon creek... my memory is a little fuzzy :) ). Then again, seller could've lied to me. trigger could be entirely stock. i'm not volunteering potentially incriminating evidence.

side question: in the event of a SD shoot, will an LEO gunsmith break down my gun for inspection? and will he/she be able to determine if the trigger was worked on? just wondering if this happens.

TAB
September 8, 2008, 03:05 AM
I know one thing, I would not want to have a ND or AD cuasing injury to some one... might as well kiss your butt good bye as that will be the nail in the coffen. Might even bring charges against you.( doubt it, but I can see it happening)

Cosmoline
September 8, 2008, 03:23 AM
Technically, it would run the risk of turning negligence into recklessness or gross (criminal) negligence. If you handle a loaded firearm you know to have a hair trigger, mere negligence can become recklessness. This can open the way to criminal charges and, in civil court, punitive damages.

But I don't think any competent gunsmith would be willing to provide any such service for a defensive handgun. A hunting rifle with a set trigger is of course a different matter.

Disaster
September 8, 2008, 06:45 AM
It comes down to a couple truths.

1. When you are in a legal case there are a bunch of "facts" that will be used either for or against you...credits and debits, if you will. A worked on trigger will fall in the debit category.

2. You can be sued for anything. The worked on trigger just offers another opportunity.

With that knowledge you need to decide if it is worth the added risk, however small it might be.

jaysouth
September 8, 2008, 07:55 PM
Disaster,

On the debit side of a General Ledger, Accountants list Cash, Accounts Receivable, Inventory, and Long term assets.

Do you mean that a "worked on" trigger is an asset?

MASONITE: You make a good point. If you want to get your whole day ruined, sit in a witness chair and make expert judgements about subjects in which you are not qualified an "expert". A good opposing attorney will have every word said by you impeached(thrown out) for that trial and every one in the future in which you are giving testimony. If your testimony on such subjects resulted in jail time for someone, there would petitions for new trials based on biased testimony.

Just who is an expert on measuring trigger pulls. It's not cops. Prosecutors typically can't point out which end the bullet comes out of. Forensic examiners (firearm and toolmark examiners) do not get into such matters.

If the stakes were big, one could petition the court to allow somebody like H.P. White Labs to come examine the gun. But that's not likely.

Where do you find a certified trigger pull scale? Introducing testimony that a certain brand of scales was used to measure trigger pull would instantly trigger two questions; Who certified the scales to be accurate? Who certified the person using them to be an expert? I think both answers would be wanting.

Somebody please post a cite.

GZOh_Jr
September 8, 2008, 08:15 PM
I am a lawyer, although not one who specializes in gun issues. And I certainly am not providing you all with legal advice.

But this whole thread seems silly to me. Lets just say if I were to get a trigger worked on, I wouldn't lose a minute of sleep thinking about it.

GRB
September 8, 2008, 08:44 PM
The place where a worked upon trigger can come into play in a criminal trial is the place where the prosecuting attorney tries to show intent. If the prosecuting attorney is making out the defendant to have exhibited prior intent to kill someone, you can bet that a trigger that has been customized to reduce trigger pull will be called into play. I do not need to be an attorney to know that, I have worked on enough criminal trials from the case agent side to know how a prosecutor tries to stack the deck in his favor, and legally if not always correctly or ethically so.

Of course, a worked on trigger, would likely not be a sole deciding factor that showed intent to commit something like manslaughter or murder, or even criminally negligent homicide, but it would be a piece of the puzzle for the jury to ponder.

Let's look at the factors a prosecutor might want to tell the jury about during a case wherein he is trying to prove a charge of criminal homicide of one sort or the other. Let's use manslaughter for example. The prosecutor has brought a charge against the defendant. The case goes to trial, and you the defendant cannot believe this is happening. When you hear the prosecutors opening arguments you will believe it even less, because during his statements he says:

You over the past few years have indicated you were willing to kill someone.

You were not only willing to kill someone, but you did everything you could to make it easier for you to kill someone.

You bought several guns in the past few years period.

You joined a gun club and practiced relentlessly, going there once a week.

You bought guns that were in calibers know to be proven man killers, and guns in calibers that were known to be more effective than others as man killers.

You used high speed hollow point ammunition in your gun, but never practiced with it, as range records will help prove.

You were a member of several gun forum websites, and while using those sites you often expressed your willingness to kill someone. in fact you sometimes said you would shoot to kill without hesitation.

You own several t-shirts with gun or shooting related themes printed on them.

At the time of the shooting you were wearing a shirt that said: "Go ahead punk, make my day".

Witnesses have informed police you have a bad temper.

You informed police you wore you pistol wherever and whenever you could do so.

You often wrote in gun related forums that you were sick of criminals and that something had to be done to them.

You had 2 extra magazines with you when you were arrested. In fact you had 46 rounds of ammunition with you when you shot Mr. Doe.

You had a special holster designed for quick drawing of your weapon.

You had your weapon modified so that it would be able to be fired with less trigger pressure than as designed by the manufacturer.

And whatever else he can make sound evil to a jury of everyone but those who are truly your peers.

During the trial you take the stand - or you don't. All the statements made by the prosecutor about the evil mannerisms you have, and how you made your gun a more efficient killer, have been held up by other evidence. Sure I and you know they for the most part were stretches of the imagination on the part of the prosecutor, but will the jury know that. They are facts my friends, and the jury will look at the facts and make up their own minds whether or not the facts agree with the reality of the shooting.

Has the prosecuting attorney proven intent to kill, instead of just intent to shoot to stop in self defense. maybe, maybe not, but you can bet you will be dirtying your underpants when you see jurors nodding their heads at the prosecutor as if in agreement and then staring at you like you are a psycho killer each time the prosecutor scores a point. Of course your defense attorney will not lose any sleep over that. Nor will the prosecutor, nor the judge, nor the jurors, nor anyone else - that is except for you.

Twenty eight plus years as an LEO have shown me that some overzealous prosecutors can be quite creative in trying to win a case. Years and years of news reports showing that innocent people were framed, or wrongly convicted even without malice, have also taught me that one should not tempt fate so to speak. The gun is good enough as it comes out of the box except maybe for more comfortable grips for my hands, or better sights for my eyes, or repairs as needed. So that is basically all I ever change from manufacturer’s specs on my guns; that way I do not lose any sleep over it, nor will I ever wind up losing sleep while sleeping with a cellmate because of it.

All the best,
GB

The Lone Haranguer
September 8, 2008, 09:38 PM
Let's just limit trigger work to smoothing and judicious lightening, and we won't give anyone a potential peg to hang the "hair trigger" hat on. OK??? :)

Storm
September 9, 2008, 12:30 AM
Did your gunsmith provide a cite?

Um, the vast majority of cases litigated are unreported and therefore there would be no cite.

Steve C
September 9, 2008, 05:41 AM
Most gunsmiths will not lighten a trigger pull below 4lbs on a gun that will be used for self defense, esp. on a .45acp. Target pistols are usually limited by the rules of their game. BTW the 4lb's came from the minimum allowable trigger pull for Service pistols used in those type matches.

I've had trigger jobs on my .45's to the 4lb pull and its plenty light. My .22 target pistols trigger is at the regulation minimum of 2.5lbs.

Burt Blade
September 9, 2008, 07:07 AM
Hmmm.. GZOh_Jr stated that he is a lawyer, gave an opinion that this thread seems silly, and provided a "lose no sleep" hypothetical.

That short post seems to have had no impact at all on the discussion, so I will make two observations that might give his post more context.


1) The 'aftermarket' for guns is alive and well.

If aftermarket items were a serious legal threat, wouldn't business be bad? If aftermarket items were legally relevant to a use-of-force lawsuit, wouldn't that lead to lawsuits against aftermarket manufacturers, so often successful that they could not stay in business?


2) We get the rare "I am a lawyer..." post that suggests this is a non-issue, but I have yet to see one that says "I was a defendant and I lost my posterior because I had a non-stock gun."

We have quite a few people on this forum, and we tend to participate in numerous other forums. I would expect that at least one of us would have firsthand knowledge of such a case, and could provide information on how to review it, were such a case actually likely to happen.


What I wonder about, is why so few lawyers actually address this topic on various forums. Is it the case that lawyers tend not to be both gun owners and gun forum posters? Perhaps this is to avoid anyone assuming that they had posted "legal advice".

Or, is it that they find the whole thing so funny that they do not want to stop the comic routine of everyone all atwitter about lawsuit-bait guns?

ZeSpectre
September 9, 2008, 07:26 AM
You tell the police, " I had no other choice, I leveled the gun, ordered him to stop, he didn't, I took dead aim and shot him twice center of mass".

NO!
You tell the police "I want to talk to my lawyer" and then you shut the hell up and stay shut up!
Then the issue of trigger work or anything else is up to the other side to discover and you don't unintentionally incriminate yourself.

watch this video - Why even the innocent should never speak to the police (http://www.tangledwilderness.org/orc/2008/why-even-the-innocent-should-never-speak-to-the-police/)

tinygnat219
September 9, 2008, 09:08 AM
Zespectre,

Massad Ayoob had an interesting comment regarding not talking to the police where he related a case he had worked on where the defendant did not talk to police at all. The perp's wife was then talking to the media spreading false information that was eventually used against the defendant. I will need to check the gunrag for the appropriate citation, but it was fairly recent.

For me, I might say something along the lines of: "I was in fear for my life, before I say anything further I need to speak to my lawyer." This at least puts the Self-Defense argument out there.

I HATE the idea of saying anything, but it looks like at least SOMETHING would be needed.

Storm
September 9, 2008, 09:51 AM
What I wonder about, is why so few lawyers actually address this topic on various forums. Is it the case that lawyers tend not to be both gun owners and gun forum posters? Perhaps this is to avoid anyone assuming that they had posted "legal advice".

As an attorney, one that has been involved with firearms litigation, I can tell you that is exactly why I will never address these kinds of issues. Plus, the laws from state to state vary greatly, and jury results can vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and any answer that seeks to provide a "fits all" answer is foolhardy.

ZeSpectre
September 9, 2008, 10:10 AM
answer that seeks to provide a "fits all" answer is foolhardy

And here I thought that "shut up and call your lawyer" WAS the "fits all" answer :evil:

jaysouth
September 9, 2008, 11:08 AM
Storm,

Tell us exactly why you will never address these issues.

Thanks

XDKingslayer
September 9, 2008, 11:20 AM
cosmoline,

Can you post a cite?

(citation to a previous case, i.e. ILL. V. Jones, 1987)

Cosmo doesn't need to post a cite. If you do a search on this very subject, which was beaten into the ground once again only last week, you'll find that Mr. Ayoob was kind enough to mention 2 or 3 cases that a light trigger was brought up in "accidental" defense situations.

The guy drew his gun, didn't mean to fire, but the gun "went off" due to a light trigger.

buzz_knox
September 9, 2008, 12:13 PM
What I wonder about, is why so few lawyers actually address this topic on various forums. Is it the case that lawyers tend not to be both gun owners and gun forum posters? Perhaps this is to avoid anyone assuming that they had posted "legal advice".


Another alternative is that some discuss the issue, but don't identify themselves as lawyers.

Storm
September 9, 2008, 01:12 PM
Quote:
answer that seeks to provide a "fits all" answer is foolhardy

And here I thought that "shut up and call your lawyer" WAS the "fits all" answer:evil:

Generally, calling your lawyer is about as desirable as calling your proctologist.

As to giving advice, yes, it is conceivable that giving advice could be argued to be seen as representation potentially bringing about malpractice exposure (it's a stretch) but the real problem is offering general legal advice that does not fit the particular jurisdiction of the recipient. Laws and jury results are far too varied between states and even within states. Lawyers know this and are leery of offering advice to an unknown party in an unknown location where they may well be unknowingly giving very bad advice.

I will say this. I leave my self-defense guns 100% original.

Frank Ettin
September 9, 2008, 03:31 PM
[1] I'm a lawyer, And I'm also a shooter and NRA certified instructor.

[2] I donít use a gun thatís been tinkered with, nor to I use handloads, nor will I disable a safety device on a gun that I might use for self defense purpose.

[3] It's not about the gun or ammunition per se. It's about how certain factors, like tinkering with your gun, using handloaded ammunition, putting "Punisher" grips on your gun, walking around wearing a "Kill Them All and Let God Sort it Our" T-shirt at the mall, or other "gun nut" stuff can be used to attack your character and credibility. This is important because if you're in trial at all, somebody in authority thinks that your claim of self defense is vulnerable, and your testimony might be crucial to establishing that your use of lethal force was justified. If the jury can be convinced by the prosecutor that you're a junior Rambo wannabe, they just might not be inclined to believe your story.

[4] Yes, I know ďthis doesnít matter if itís a good shoot.Ē And I agree, it doesnít matter if itís a good shoot; but who decides if it's a good shoot? Nobody has to take your word for it. Whether or not it's a good shoot can be uncertain. Physical evidence may be lacking. There may be witnesses who tell conflicting stories. In any case, if everyone agrees it's a good shoot, you go home. But if you're on trial, someone in authority doesn't think it's a good shoot. In that case, whether or not it was a good shoot will be decided by a jury; and they may just need to believe your testimony in order to find that it was a good shoot. So anything that can impair your credibility increases your risk of a bad result.

[5] And these choices I have made for myself are based on my overall experience and understanding of how the legal system works and my personal knowledge, based on my experience, of how to impugn someone's character in front of a judge and jury.

[6] Yes, we know that there doesn't appear to be a case documenting this, but this would be a trial court matter, and trial court activities are not well publicized or generally published in the official legal reporters. Only decisions of courts of appeals on matters of law are regularly published. In any case, I suspect that the great majority of private citizens who own guns for self defense, including those with CCWs, are not necessarily enthusiasts. They most like own and carry factory stock guns loaded with ordinary, commercial ammunition. So in fact, it's pretty unlikely that there have been too many cases, if any at all, in which a modified pistol or handloaded ammunition were used.

[7] Of course, if one is unlucky enough to be on trial, whether or not the gun has been modified is only one, perhaps small, factor. But personally, I'd rather avoid any of these sorts of "wild cards" altogether. Even though I may have an explanation, I know from experience that the less I have to explain, the better off I am. I can easily limit what I have to explain without impairing my ability to defend myself. I have several completely reliable and very accurate 1911s that came out of the box with excellent 4.5 pound triggers, and I think good quality, commercial JHP ammunition would be perfectly satisfactory.

[8] This is just what I do and why, based on my training and experience in the legal profession. Each of you may, of course, make his or her own choice.

jaysouth
September 9, 2008, 05:49 PM
Fiddletown,

Thanks for your insightful post. I know you spend a lot of time on it.

buzz_knox
September 9, 2008, 05:54 PM
Fiddletown summed things up quite nicely. The one additional comment I would make is that if a modification (even a trigger job) will enable a user to more effectively, accurately and safely use a weapon, and the user can reasonably and rationally articulate this point, then there's nothing barring the modification. If anything, such a modification is sensible and worthwhile, and the furthest thing from negligence.

The key is, as with every aspect of a shooting, whether one can convince a trier of fact that the decision (whether the decision involves a modification, choice of bullet, choice of weapon, or the shooting itself) was reasonable and appropriate.

Cosmoline
September 9, 2008, 06:07 PM
Yes, I know “this doesn’t matter if it’s a good shoot.” And I agree, it doesn’t matter if it’s a good shoot; but who decides if it's a good shoot?

It won't matter if it's an INTENTIONAL shot. And if you're claiming self defense then there's no issue of intent. You clearly intended to shoot, to use deadly force. It may matter if you claim you did not intend to shoot the person. But if you did not intend to shot, there can be no claim of self defense.

So how do you envision a light trigger coming into a case where the defendant admits right off the bat that he did shoot, and that he intended to shoot?

Storm
September 9, 2008, 06:19 PM
So how do you envision a light trigger coming into a case where the defendant admits right off the bat that he did shoot, and that he intended to shoot?

A light triggger would come more into play in a civil case where the allegation is that you did not intend to shoot but did so negligently, or, potentially in a manslaughter/negligent homicide criminal charge.

BTW, I know a few guys who who actually have an attorney on retainer just in case they ever need them quickly after a shoot, time being of the essence.

buzz_knox
September 10, 2008, 09:15 AM
So how do you envision a light trigger coming into a case where the defendant admits right off the bat that he did shoot, and that he intended to shoot?

If memory serves, in a couple cases (one in a store and another at a home), the first shot was intentional but the subsequent multiple rounds were due to the light trigger of a S&W 3rd Gen. The allegation was that the subsequent rounds showed an intent to kill, not just to stop. The defendants prevailed by showing the light trigger was due to the weapon's design, rather than his one.

Perhaps Mas can fill us in as he was involved in at least one of them.

wuchak
September 10, 2008, 09:42 AM
No competent gunsmith will put a "hair trigger" on a gun for liability reasons. A good gunsmith will polish up every contact surface so they look like mirrors and the trigger pull becomes smooooth. The trigger pull will feel a little lighter as a result of the loss of friction in the lockwork. You may also want to have the gunsmith install a set of lighter springs but that's not required. In a DA revolver dropping the springs down 2-4 lbs will still give a heavy enough trigger to be safe but one that will aid in accuracy.

If you have as reputable local gunsmith smooth your action and replace the factory springs with the first step down from them in weight from Wolff, the trigger pull will be demonstratively miles from one that could be considered "hair". This type of action job is a must for a lightweight revolver, especially a J frame as accuracy will be greatly increased.

crebralfix
September 10, 2008, 09:46 AM
BAH...this is not something to worry about unless you're a worry wart. In that case, you're going to worry about the paint on the walls at the site of the event. This is really a non-issue compared to the dead or maimed goblin and some overzealous prosecuter.

Focus on proficiency with your gear and tactics, understand how to manage the police, and have a good attorney onhand for any and all questioning.

Storm
September 10, 2008, 10:10 AM
Focus on proficiency with your gear and tactics, understand how to manage the police, and have a good attorney onhand for any and all questioning.

Now that is good advice.

Loosedhorse
September 10, 2008, 10:18 AM
To summarize: a worked-on trigger will allow either a prosecutor or a plaintiff's attorney to claim that the gun went off accidentally, because of a hair-trigger. This contention, if "proven," would immediately negate the self-defense claim--you can't accidently kill someone in self-defense, by law. So, if successful, this strategy puts the defender at risk of a manslaughter (negligent homicide) charge and wrongful death settlement.:scrutiny:

The keys to defeating (or even better, preventing) this charge are documentation, ability to articulate that your trigger was safe and why, and, if needed, expert witnesses. You need to document, if you get a trigger job, that you requested a "smoother" trigger, not a lighter one, if that was the case. Ayoob recommends no trigger pull below about 4.5 lbs (single action) on a defensive gun--he feels that experts (including himself) can confortably testify if needed that such a trigger pull is not too light for defensive use. So, if you do request a ligher pull, specify between 4.5-5 lb for any defensive gun.

For the DIY-types, you might want to document the trigger pull you end up with after you're done 'smithing.

Previous threads (with Capt. Ayoob's participation) on the subject:

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=168825

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=387133

IANAL

Steve C
September 10, 2008, 06:06 PM
To summarize: a worked-on trigger will allow either a prosecutor or a plaintiff's attorney to claim that the gun went off accidentally, because of a hair-trigger. This contention, if "proven," would immediately negate the self-defense claim--you can't accidently kill someone in self-defense, by law.

If you are claiming self defense or actually a justified use of deadly force, you have already admitted to intentionally shooting the BG, so the trigger pull and "accidental" has no bearing on the case. The only facts in question would be if the elements of self defense where present. Those are an imediate rational fear of personal injury or death from an adversary acting illegally that had the capability and perceived intent to inflict that injury or death. If not you will be found guilty of murder or a felony assault with a deadly weapon since you admitted to it.

No prosecutor or lawyer in their right mind would try to overturn a self defense or justifiable homicide defense and argue that "Yes the defendant says he intended to shoot the victim and had every legal right to do so in self defense but the state believes the defendant is lying about their intent and the shooting was accidental and caused by negligence. It would be a completely unprovable position and a no win situation.

If, on the other hand, you claim the "gun went off accidentally" or "I didn't mean to shoot" then the a hair trigger that you either knew about or modified yourself could implicate you in liability for negligently discharging the weapon.

I do agree that "you can't accidentally kill someone in self-defense, by law" which proves my point.

Frank Ettin
September 10, 2008, 07:38 PM
No prosecutor or lawyer in their right mind would try to overturn a self defense or justifiable homicide defense and argue that "Yes the defendant says he intended to shoot the victim and had every legal right to do so in self defense but the state believes the defendant is lying about their intent and the shooting was accidental and caused by negligence....
You simply can't be that categorical. If you're on trial at all, it means that the grand jury and/or the DA didn't buy the self defense story. The grand jury and/or the DA decided that there was probable cause to conclude that a crime had been committed and that you did it. Exactly what crime of crimes you'll be charged with, and the prosecutor will try to prove at trial, will depend on exactly what the circumstances were and exactly what evidence may be available. Depending on exactly what the evidence is, and the law in the particular jurisdiction, in a homicide case you might be charged with everything from murder to reckless endangerment, and you could be charged, in the alternative, with various crimes between those two extremes.

So let's say the police have just arrived at the scene, and there you are with a smoking gun in your hand and a dead body at your feet. You are, of course, under extreme stress and haven't properly prepared mentally for that moment. Or for whatever other reason, you forget all that you have been counseled about making statements to the police. As soon as you see the first cop, you immediately blurt out, "My God! I didn't want to shoot him" or "I didn't mean to kill him" or "I didn't mean to shoot him" or something along those lines. No question but if you intentionally shot in self defense, saying something like that would be dumb. But people do say dump things under extreme stress, and just because it was a dumb thing to say doesn't necessarily mean someone could not reasonably believe it to have been the truth.

The officer makes a note of your spontaneous exclamation, and it will now be part of the evidence that will be presented at trial. You have, from your own mouth, carelessly provided evidence that will be the foundation of a charge of negligent homicide (or whatever the proper term is in the particular jurisdiction), and given the prosecutor the gift of a basis upon which to argue that your subsequent claim that you intentionally shot the decedent in self defense is all eye wash to avoid the negligent homicide charge.

Of course, if you can hold your tongue, you can avoid this particular scenario. But "the devil is in the details", and depending on the details, you may still be vulnerable to a negligent homicide charge even if you have admitted to intentionally shooting in self defense.

orionengnr
September 10, 2008, 07:47 PM
"Huh? Trigger work? What trigger work? I bought it used and it was like that when I bought it. Never noticed any trigger work... :rolleyes: "

GRB
September 10, 2008, 07:59 PM
2) We get the rare "I am a lawyer..." post that suggests this is a non-issue, but I have yet to see one that says "I was a defendant and I lost my posterior because I had a non-stock gun."What kind of lawyer, what kind of cases, ever been involved in a criminal trial trying to defend against claims of intent by the prosecutor? Being a lawyer does not necessarily make someone suddenly an expert on whether or not something like this would be a moot point in court.

Frank Ettin
September 10, 2008, 08:26 PM
Yes Glenn, I'm not a criminal lawyer. But I have enough experience with choosing and impugning witnesses in front of juries, and have participated in enough post verdict juror interviews, to have some idea of how jurors can be turned against witnesses or parties.

In any case, you do what you want. It's not my problem. I've only outlined what I do and why.

GZOh_Jr
September 10, 2008, 09:00 PM
There is more than a bit of irony in Mr. Bartley's post, in that this entire thread is fueled by the FUD of laymen trying to play lawyer. Fiddletown and Storm have generously volunteered more details than I am comfortable providing--my advice is that you should all graciously take their words to heart, rather than second guessing them with FUD piled on top of FUD.

Really--why even think about things like this, when you can be reading threads on the merits of 9mm vs. .40 S&W ammo, or CZ vs. BHP? ;)

Loosedhorse
September 10, 2008, 11:37 PM
this entire thread is fueled by the FUD of laymen trying to play lawyer

As a layman trying to play layman, it was for a moment difficult to see this remark as the well-intentioned praise it clearly is, instead of as a belittling, elitist, laughingly arrogant snark that would simply reinforce unfair lawyer stereotypes.

I, too, thank all three lawyers for their remarks (not advice--what advice?) here. And agree that (lay) gunowners striving to inform themselves on, and prepare themselves for, the legal dangers that might attend a self-defense shooting (and not just rehashing ammo and arms) represents care and precaution--the antidote for FUD.

CWL
September 11, 2008, 03:16 AM
I don't own any guns with "hair triggers".

I DO own several firearms that have had reliability jobs done to them to insure safe and proper function. The more reliable my firearms are, the more safe I feel as to how they will function.

The fact that I sought out competent gunsmiths who regularly perform reliability jobs on firearms for members of the Law Enforcement and Military communities should be an indicator of how I go out of the way to responsibly make sure that my firearms will operate safely and in the manner that they were designed to.

My firearms will not "just go off" like is often reported in cases of accidental discharges.

Exmasonite
September 11, 2008, 09:24 AM
the more i think about this issue, couple of things come to mind:

1) When it comes down to it, does the fact that you altered the trigger really affect your intent? I mean, you own a gun in the first place.

2) I would imagine the people to REALLY ask about this aren't lawyers (there are a lot of lawyers out there). The people to ask would be the after-market manufacturers or gunsmiths. I'd be interested to hear what Canyon Creek or Springer Precision has to say about the issue. If these issues come up, i'd imagine the defense would subpoena the corporations to give an understanding of just how common an occurence a trigger job is. On the flip side, i'm sure they're apt to downplay such incidents but they'd have no reason to lie about it.

KyJim
September 11, 2008, 10:58 PM
I agree that claiming a gun went off "accidentally" is inconsistent with a claim of self-defense. You can only claim self-defense if you intended to pull the trigger. However, the shooter can give an inconsistent statement. In one statement, he says the gun just went off and it turns out the gun has a "hair trigger." In the second statement, the shooter claims self-defense.

The shooter might be prosecuted for a higher degree of homicide like murder under the theory he meant to kill the guy but it wasn't self-defense. The judge would also instruct the jury on a "lesser" offense like manslaughter, reckless homicide, etc. under the theory the defendant acted wantonly or recklessly by pointing the gun at the victim and the "hair trigger" would contribute to the wanton or reckless behavior. A jury could find him not guilty because of self-defense, guilty of murder, or guilty of a lesser homicide.

And don't ever believe police and a prosecutor are just going to take a person's word it was self-defense if there are other facts to the contrary. People, especially killers, lie.

sigma 40ve
September 11, 2008, 11:11 PM
FWIW, I post over at GT alot, under a different user name. I also subscribe to Combat Handguns. Mas Ayoob is a contributor to both. I trust his experience and judgement way more than any internet guru. He says "leave it stock". That is is all I need to know. I know there are some out there that like to disagree with him but, I pose the question---what is your creditability?

zxcvbob
September 11, 2008, 11:12 PM
The gun is good enough as it comes out of the box except maybe for more comfortable grips for my hands, or better sights for my eyes, or repairs as needed. So that is basically all I ever change from manufacturerís specs on my guns; that way I do not lose any sleep over it, nor will I ever wind up losing sleep while sleeping with a cellmate because of it.

Comfortable grips, so you could MURDER Mr. Brown without hurting your little hands?

Better sights for your eyes, to make it easier to kill??? :rolleyes:

(I haven't figured out a way to spin the "repairs as needed", but IANAL)

This whole thread is ridiculous.

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