I read a book by Mas Ayoob on CCW. He suggested having a good lawyer that has experience with firearms laws. My question is how does one go about finding out which lawyers have experience with such things and how much should I expect to pay for something like that? I have never had a lawyer before, so assume I know nothing about lawyers. Do you keep one on a retainer, etc?
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March 8, 2012, 03:03 PM
First, if what you are concerned about is the aftermath of a self-defense encounter, what you need is an attorney who is familiar with the use of force laws. "Firearms" laws address everything from your Illinois FOID card requirements to concealed carry to full auto and sawed off weapons.
Let me suggest contacting these people (http://armedcitizensnetwork.org/), signing up, and asking the question there.
March 8, 2012, 03:16 PM
I'm not a lawyer, just an inexperienced layperson, but here's my opinion, for what it's worth
Do you keep one on a retainer, etc?
Generally, no. Keeping a lawyer on retainer means you pay them bunches of money just to answer the phone when you call. This is for those who expect to need a lawyer, or need continuing advice for avoiding litigation, not just dealing with an isolated case once it arises.
how much should I expect to pay
Again, don't worry about that right now. When you need a lawyer, you will REALLY need one, and don't be scared of finding a good one, who will necessarily charge a hefty price. When you need a lawyer, go here http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lris/directory/ and that should help you find one. Thats the American Bar association. The yellow pages may also be of use. If you contact a lawyer and they are unable to help you, they should be able to point you in the right direction (collecting their referral fee in the process, of course).
He suggested having a good lawyer that has experience with firearms laws.
This makes me think Mas Ayoob was not speaking towards the general firearm owning public. Any criminal lawyer worth his salt should be able to help you in a self defense case. "Experience with firearms laws" makes me think Ayoob might be referring to those attempting, for instance, to appeal a CCW denial, create a trust to get around certain NFA restrictions (fully auto, silencers, etc.) In those cases, you should probably get an attorney with some experience in "firearms laws," and that link above should be able to help you here. Just doing some google searches with your location and needs should be able to guide you if all else fails.
March 8, 2012, 03:26 PM
In the context of the book I read, he was specifically speaking to having a lawyer to handle your case in the event of a defensive gun use. He was speaking to those who carry for personal protection. His suggestion was to shop around for lawyers when you decide to carry, not after the fact of a defensive gun use. I just wasn't sure how to go about finding which lawyers had experience with what and whether or not you had to pay for "lawyer shopping".
Thanks for suggestions, I will definitely check them out.
March 8, 2012, 03:26 PM
Keeping a lawyer on retainer means you pay them bunches of money just to answer the phone when you call.Not necessarily the case. Some will have you pay a token sum; once the money has changed hands, he or she is "your lawyer" until you revoke the arrangement. You can now say "after I've spoken to MY lawyer" as opposed to "after I've spoken to some lawyer, that I guess my wife will have to find for me because I think I only get one phone call so I better call her, huh?"
Whoever the lawyer is, make sure you have (and keep with you, religiously, right next to your CCW--or DL is you don't have a CCW) his card with a number where he (or an associate if he's out of town) can be reached 24/7. Emergency. If you can't find someone to arrange bail for you on Friday afternoon you may be enjoying the county's hospitality until you're arraigned sometime on Monday. Or Tuesday.
My guess is you can arrange a small fee as a "retainer"--and a much bigger one for the "get me out of jail right now" service. Which, if you need it, may be an expense you're happy to pay.
Ideally, you want someone with trial experience in SD shooting cases. The defense strategy for criminals who shot someone is quite different ("I'll shut up and make them prove their case") from an armed citizen claiming self-defense ("Now that I've spoken with counsel, and he is present and the video is recording, I am prepared to answer all your questions.")
March 8, 2012, 03:34 PM
... Any criminal lawyer worth his salt should be able to help you in a self defense case....Not necessarily. Actually, you'd be looking for a lawyer with some more specialized experience. Defending a case based on a plea of self defense is fundamentally different from defending the usual criminal case. So you will really want a criminal defense lawyer with some experience putting on a self defense case.
In an ordinary criminal prosecution, the defendant doesn't have to present any evidence. The entire burden falls on the prosecution. The prosecution has to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
For example, if the crime the defendant is charged with is manslaughter, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was there, fired the gun (if that was the weapon used), intended to fire the gun (or was reckless), and the guy the defendant shot died. In the typical manslaughter prosecution, the defendant might by way of his defense try to plant a seed that he wasn't there (alibi defense), or that someone else might have fired the gun, or that it was an accident. In each case the defendant doesn't have to actually prove his defense. He merely has to create a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.
But if you are going to be claiming self defense, you will wind up admitting all the elements of the crime. You will admit that you were there, that you fired the gun, and that you intended to shoot the decedent. Your defense is that your use of lethal force in self defense satisfied the applicable legal standard and that, therefore, it was justified. So now you would have to affirmatively present evidence from which the trier of fact could infer that your conduct met the applicable legal standard justifying the use of lethal force in self defense.
Most criminal defense lawyers, including some of the top ones and generally including public defenders, have had little or no experience handling a self defense case. It's such a different animal from the usual "I didn't do it and you can't prove I did" defense in most criminal cases. If you are claiming self defense, you will want a lawyer with experience handling self defense cases.
March 8, 2012, 03:37 PM
Loosed horse sums it up. It's not a bad idea at all to have a consultation with a lawyer BEFORE you know you need one.
And no, not 'any lawyer worth his salt' will do. I have several friends from high school who are lawyers, including a few criminal lawyers, but none of them are really in tune with current defense tactics for a defensive shooting. In addition to self defense training, Ayoob also runs the Lethal Force Institute, which trains lawyers for these kinds of cases.
Seriously, you will commonly meet lawyers who have the same misconceptions and prejudices against guns and gun owners as the general public. Universities and law schools do not put a favorable view of self-defense and gun ownership into the minds of their students. If all the lawyer knows about guns and self-defense is what he learned in college, he is NOT the lawyer you want.
March 8, 2012, 03:38 PM
Keeping a lawyer on retainer means you pay them bunches of money just to answer the phone when you call.
Not necessarily the case. Some will have you pay a token sum; once the money has changed hands, he or she is "your lawyer" until you revoke the arrangement. You can now say "after I've spoken to MY lawyer" as opposed to "after I've spoken to some lawyer, that I guess my wife will have to find for me because I think I only get one phone call so I better call her, huh?"
Whoever the lawyer is, make sure you have (and keep with you, religiously, right next to your CCW--or DL is you don't have a CCW) his card with a number where he (or an associate if he's out of town) can be reached 24/7. Emergency. If you can't find someone to arrange bail for you on Friday afternoon you maybe enjoying the county's hospitality until you're arraigned sometime on Monday. Or Tuesday.
You may feel it is necessary to pay a lawyer to be on retainer, but by your own admission the only thing it does is ensure that they answer the phone. I don't know what a typical retainer fee is, nor can I make any claims about how readily available a lawyer will be if you've been taken to jail on a Friday evening. However, given what I imagine is a fairly high fee, the low probability that any of us will actually need that lawyer, and the reality that you will be able to contact a lawyer (that one phone call thing is made up by Hollywood, btw), I will not be retaining a lawyer. That being said, there is some merit to the idea - it just doesn't fit me.
However, as someone else just posted, it may be a good idea to get some numbers together. Talk to other people at the range and if they have anyone they can recommend. I just don't see much benefit to me in paying them as of this moment.
March 8, 2012, 03:53 PM
nor can I make any claims about how readily available a lawyer will be if you've been taken to jail on a Friday eveningWell, of course. I would think only the lawyer himself (or herself) can speak to that. If they don't want to give you an emergency number and assurance of action, move on.
A lawyer is a bit like a gun: if you need one, you'll need a good one, and darned quick at that.
March 8, 2012, 03:57 PM
Posted by Tipro: Any criminal lawyer worth his salt should be able to help you in a self defense case.I started to compose a reply to that in my mind, but I see that fiddletown has answered succinctly and very comprehensively.
I suggest that everyone read his reply carefully.
March 8, 2012, 05:52 PM
If you are claiming self defense, you will want a lawyer with experience handling self defense cases.
This being the case, the problem then is finding a lawyer with such experience. Self-defense is not listed as a legal specialty on the Dallas Bar Association referral page and I haven't found it listed anywhere else, either. Any search for a Self defense attorney yields criminal defense lawyers or sites that advise contacting a criminal defense lawyer. So it appears that you just have to get a list of criminal defense lawyers then call and ask if they have SD experience. Or search for SD cases in your area and find the attorneys who handled them.
March 8, 2012, 05:59 PM
As an attorney, I find it very interesting to read the opinions of non-attorneys about what we do, and how we work. I'm pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of many of the opinions here.
Before I give my take on the matter I want to mention my credentials so that you know exactly what I am and, just as importantly, what I am NOT.
I am not a criminal attorney. My focus is on family/divorce mediation, and Guardian ad litem work (representing children's interests in high-conflict custody disputes). It is a completely unrelated field, so I cannot offer true expertise based on a background of massive experience here.
I am someone who spent a year of law school interning in the Public Defender's office a burned out industrial city in CT with a bad neighborhood that would easily equal those of Compton, or Harlem. While there, I actually did successfully defend a case with a self-defense claim. It was a case where a mixed-race kid was shooting pool in a bar when a white supremacist biker gang rolled in. One of the gang's "probation" members was ordered to kill this kid as an initiation. When my client was backed into a corner, getting his face beaten in, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his pocket knife. He stabbed the attacking biker 4 times and killed him. Cops arrested my client, and he was charged with second degree murder. The case took about a year and a half before going to trial. During that entire time, my client was in the clink.
I learned a few lessons while working that case.
You may be "innocent until proven guilty," but that doesn't mean they are going to treat you as though you are innocent. My guy was locked up with a $550,000 bail. Since there was no way he could raise that, he sat in jail for 1.5 yrs for a crime he didn't commit.
The success of your self-defense case is going to depend a lot on the evidence. We were able to get great evidence that the gang was white supremacist, that the attacked was a probationary member, and we had video evidence of the attack. The really solid evidence made a huge difference. You want a very dedicated and committed attorney who will seek out every last scrap of evidence. All the fancy posturing in a court room won't help a bit if you can't back it up.
As for a defense attorney that has real experience working a self-defense case... the answer is a very definitive 'maybe.' If you have any real criminal experience as an attorney, you have transferrable skills that would easily be applied to a self-defense case. It's not black magic. It's not THAT out-there. Being a good criminal attorney requires that you can show a person's state of mind at the time of an alleged crime. You'd be doing pretty much that same thing whether it's self-defense, or if it's some other kind of crime.
That being said, I'd always rather have an experienced person handling any matter. I sure as heck don't like being the guinea pig. If you can find an attorney who has handled a self-defense case and done so successfully, there is no reason not to pick someone with a track record. But I certainly wouldn't see it as a fatal flaw if I really liked an attorney, and he had a great track record in other defenses and just hasn't had a chance to try a self defense case yet.
That my take on it as someone with some experience, but not an expert.
March 8, 2012, 06:55 PM
my suspicion is that any attorney is a better choice than no attorney when you are dealing with LE. no talking until he shows up. he can tell you if you need more specialized representation. I am not convinced the average Joe is in a good position to select a criminal defense attorney, but an attorney you know and trust from other work is probably as good a place to get help finding one as you are going to have.
March 8, 2012, 07:30 PM
an attorney you know and trust from other work is probably as good a place to get help finding one as you are going to have.
That's true. Look what it did for O.J.
March 8, 2012, 11:00 PM
I need to update things. Seems the dang lawyers keep retiring.....
My (plan) is to go to the city where (assuming its in my home area that I have to defend myself) I would be taken. I figure why have lawyer who will have to drive 70 miles to get where I would be taken....
What I did is find lawyer who advertised and were near Sheriff's Office. Interviewed a couple over phone, stopped in for two and did a 5 minute chat. Got phone numbers (including after hrs) Put them in my cell.
I HOPE that after I call 911 I call those numbers, give quick update, wait for Police. Thankfully have never needed it.
March 8, 2012, 11:18 PM
I AM a criminal defense lawyer. NONE OF WHAT I AM SAYING WILL BE CONSTRUED BY THE READER TO BE PROFESSIONAL OR LEGAL ADVICE AND WE DO NOT HAVE AN ATTORNEY/CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. Now that that is out of the way:
My experience as a criminal lawyer is in the military, but I work with private attorneys regularly, and I also worked in civilian law firms.
In the Army, I've defended very serious criminal allegations. I actually have a case right now where I am defending a man against an assault with a weapon charge. It takes a lot of work but I am very optimistic we'll get a good result.
In the Army, I used to be a prosecutor and have prosecuted very serious criminal behavior.
I am very familiar with billing hours. A retainer is small sum that your lawyer keeps in an account to bill against you. Lawyers generally bill in 6 minute increments (factors of 10 per hour). So a lawyer that charges $200 an hour will bill you $20 for any increment of 6 minutes that he spends on your case file, phone, etc. He can use paralegals, clerks, or interns at a lower cost for things like photocopying, errands, etc. He will also have a Private Eye on staff in some capacity.
A lawyer can quickly burn through a $1000 retainer, if you figure that's only 5 hours of work on a felony case. A felony murder case could easly run you $50,000, or any portion thereof if you get it dismissed early on through lack of evidence it may only cost you $5,000
It's a good idea to interview some now and pick one and give him a retainer in the event you ever need it.
I won't tell YOU what to do. But here's what I do:
I have joined the armed citizens network, which Massad also recommends and is somehow associated with... It's about 20 cents per day for a membership.
They have a network of criminal defense attorneys supposedly experienced in self defense shootings. They also deposit a life-saving $10,000 into your attorney's account immediately if you are charged in a self-defense shooting.
I can tell you from a lot of experience, what happens in the first hours (statements, evidence gathered, opinions formed, etc.) will typically make or break a case. For instance, locating and interviewing witnesses and getting them locked down on their eyewitness statements is critical. The police are looking for "who dun it." You're lawyer (and his PI) are looking for evidence that says "You didn't do it." Big difference. Having a lawyer immediately avialable is sooo critical that I cannot emphasis it enough. My clients who walk, are typically guys who didn't make a statement. My clients who go to prison, ALWAYS made some sort of statement that incriminated them.
I understand what statements to make and when to shut up. You should invoke immediately. However if you are inclined to talk, the only statements that you should make are things like, "That man just threatened me with a knife/gun etc and I was in fear for my life so I acted in self defense. I want to press charges against him. I don't want to make any more statements and want to talk to my lawyer." I will tell you this - aside from these types of statements, I would say nothing. You'd be amazed at what incriminating stuff just pours out of the mouths of suspects!
As for the "I wasn't the shooter" or "I wasn't there" defense... with todays forensics and widespread cameras, it's unlikely you are at the scene but mistaken as the shooter. LEO are adept at figuring out who did the stabbing, shooting, etc. I suppose if it wasn't clear, then of course you don't admit to being the one... but in a situation where you're standing there with a gun and it just comes down to who was the aggressor, there is some wisdom in you immediately telling the cops that the other guy was the aggressor and you were in fear of your life and defending yourself. Sometimes the first one to tell the story and cry victim (particularly in a close call situation) is the person that is believed. It's human nature.
The seriousness, technicality, and costs associated with a criminal allegation is staggering and life changing. I'd recommend putting some thought into this today.
March 9, 2012, 10:16 AM
Thank you. Glad to have an actual criminal defense attorney weigh in.
March 9, 2012, 10:53 PM
Fiddletown and Leadcounsel just posted some outstanding advice!!
One other thing to consider when looking for an attorney: find out who the local police union uses for legal counsel in shooting incidents. NOT who they go to for labor law issues, but for use of force issues.
March 10, 2012, 12:05 AM
x2 on the Union. Mine(friend) worked for the city and now with the PD Union.
It's not really what he knows, but who he knows. He can stop things from the get go. If I actually had to pay, I think it would be $$$, so far I pay in beer:neener: Not that I actually used him, only asked "just in case"
Talk to the union and see who has left and went into private practice, or who can do side jobs.
March 12, 2012, 05:52 AM
Traveler's Guide to the Firearm Laws of the 50 States, by J Scott Kappas (wait for the 2012 edition to come out)
Self Defense Laws of All 50 States by Attorney Mitch Vilos & Evan Vilos (2010 edition is most current)
and, as always
In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection by Massad F. Ayoob
March 12, 2012, 06:39 PM
I was at a conference with Mitch Vilos the other night, he's a great resource for this stuff.
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