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Does a trigger job add to legal problems in a justifiable shooting?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by at-home-daddy, Aug 7, 2004.

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  1. at-home-daddy

    at-home-daddy Member

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    If one wants to get a trigger job done on their home-defense weapon (in this case, a Sig) -- nothing overly exaggerated, just a *factory-completed* job in line with their the company's own standards and procedures -- does one overly complicate the legal waters in the event the gun is used in a justifiable defense shooting in the home?

    I've been toying with the idea of getting a trigger job done due to a stiff DA pull on my P220, but heard or read somewhere (Ayoob?) -- and more than once -- that the practice of having this done to your home defense weapon opens you up to negative ramifictions because a prosecutor *could* claim to the jury (if it got that far) that the weapon was customized to make it "easier" to kill.

    True...or urban legend? Obviously, anything's possible when it comes to courtroom antics...but does this seem like a likely tactic a prosecutor would/could take?
     
  2. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

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    It might, it might not.

    I've never seen a case hinge on a trigger job, but I have heard of stranger things being the turning point in a case. I don't have confirmation, but I recall reading that in one case the prosecution tried to make a big deal about the fact that a citizen had modified his BHP by removing the mag safety. The kicker was that the BHP wasn't even the gun involved in the shooting.

    I suppose it depends a lot on where you are, the circumstances of the shooting, and just how light the trigger ends up being.
     
  3. thumbtack

    thumbtack Member

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    I don't think that DA would even know if you had a trigger job done to a gun, unless you told them. I have never heard of a prosecutor taking apart a gun for a case, where the trigger was pulled and it fired the way it was suppose to. The only time that I could see it causing a problem would be if you put a Hell Fire on it.
     
  4. Kruzr

    Kruzr Member

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    You have to differentiate between the "criminal trouble" and the "civil trouble". IMO, if its a "good shooting", it may not matter in a criminal case. But, you can bet your last dollar (which you may lose anyway) that a civil attorney will be quick to point that out......probably calling it a "hair trigger" since there will be nobody on the jury that knows anything about guns. You will probably be portrayed as a modern gunslinger.
     
  5. dukeofurl

    dukeofurl Member

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    No.

    I have spoken to more than one criminal defense attorney about the subject, and here are the results.

    Things that internet people will say that will ***k you over in a self defense situation:

    Trigger pull
    ammo choice
    brand of ammo
    use of a highcap magazine
    use of skateboard tape/grip modifications
    choice of caliber
    number of safeties
    hammer down: good / hammer cocked: bad

    Bad news, its all false.

    Reality:

    Weapon choice has little to do with it, just dont use an AR15 with an ACOG, Knights RAS, et al. The use of a decent non-evil looking firearm and distance of the bad guy have more to do with it.
     
  6. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

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    Kruzr nailed it.

    Almost certainly not in a criminal trial. Civil trials are another matter entirely--they'll bring up anything they can think of.
     
  7. buy guns

    buy guns Member

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    its your gun, if they dont like you customizing it then screw them.

    thats like giving a porsche owner a bigger fine for speeding than a civic owner just because porsches are made to go fast :rolleyes:.
     
  8. Linux&Gun Guy

    Linux&Gun Guy Member

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    thumbtack - check your pm box
     
  9. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

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    I don't own a carry gun whose trigger hasn't been improved to one degree or another. If my life may depend on a gun, I want to be rock-solid sure it's 100% dependable and as accurate as possible.
     
  10. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Member

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    I recall reading a study that showed sports cars are pulled over more often than non-sports cars because they are more noticeable, not because they speed more. IIRC, the same study showed that red cars tended to get stopped more than any other color.

    Same principle.
     
  11. Treylis

    Treylis Member

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    Unless you or an incompetent gunsmith bubba'd the trigger into making it slamfire full-auto, I wouldn't worry at all.

    Even if this were an issue, wouldn't you rather have a better trigger and survive the gunfight to deal with legal problems rather have a crappy trigger and end up dead?
     
  12. SMMAssociates

    SMMAssociates Member

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    Hm....

    >>Trigger pull
    ammo choice
    brand of ammo
    use of a highcap magazine
    use of skateboard tape/grip modifications
    choice of caliber
    number of safeties
    hammer down: good / hammer cocked: bad<<

    Just IMHO plus what I've heard over the 37 years I've been involved in LE and carrying....

    Ammo choice, brand, and caliber _should_ be something like what the local PD is carrying. Juries don't really understand any of this anyway, but if you can show that your ammunition choice is less than or equal to what the local PD is using, that should cover you. Wadcutters or SWC should come across as "target" ammo, and "more accurate", an attempt to be very careful of what you hit, and to limit penetration to avoid hitting the wrong target. DO NOT use "Super Felon Blaster III" or something like that.

    I don't see anything wrong with carrying a .40 or .45 if the local PD is using 9mm's, particularly the .45, but you may need to show that the choice was made because it's a better way to _stop_ an assailant. Jurors may not understand any of this except which one is bigger, though. Just make sure your lawyer does....

    Number of safeties is probably irrelevant as long as what you've got is what the manufacturer supplied. IOW, don't remove the magazine disconnector, grip safety, etc.

    HiCap mags are also irrelevant if the manufacturer provides them with the weapon. Aftermarket mags might be a problem in this sense.

    Grip modifications should be approached as "to improve safe handling", and should be OK as long as it doesn't look like a zip gun. Commercial aftermarket grips, in particular, should be OK. IANAL, and all that, but this is kind of neutral as long as it doesn't diminish safety.

    IMHO, the hammer down/cocked issue is a grey one. SA's are just a lump of metal (& plastic) when not cocked, but a shark could accuse you of "looking for trouble" anyway. Establishing that the only way the weapon is useful is when cocked may be tricky, but I know a lawyer who could do it. DA0's and DA/SA, if fired double action, shouldn't be a problem.

    (Not that the lawyer's couldn't screw you over because of holster wear....)

    The key to trigger pull changes has to be _safety_. "This improves my control of the weapon", rather than any sort of "makes it easier to shoot somebody." Your lawyer should be good enough to deal with this. Just smoothing the thing out shouldn't bother anything. Trigger pull should be left approximately where the factory set it, or at least not reduced below whatever the factory calls it's minimum for that gun.

    (I've got a Commander that's something like 15#. The former owner was a diabetic and had neuropathy issues. He _had_ to know what the trigger was doing, and for him, that heavy trigger resulted in safe control. When I get a chance, it'll get put back to stock. While you could now call it "difficult to discharge", I have control issues with it and a shark could make something out of that. Taking it back to stock (8#?) shouldn't be an issue.)

    The problem here is that in the absence of protection from civil liability, _anything_ can be used against you, including running away should the bad guy damage somebody else.... It is, however, and IMHO, best to keep the obvious red flags down.
     
  13. at-home-daddy

    at-home-daddy Member

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    "Even if this were an issue, wouldn't you rather have a better trigger and survive the gunfight to deal with legal problems rather have a crappy trigger and end up dead?"
    ----------------
    Agreed, but since a trigger job in this pistol is certainly more of a choice/option than a neccesity, I have to wonder about the value-gained vs. the risk potential for problems later on, the "hair trigger" issue as alluded to earlier. It's probably true that it's more of a potential issue in civil than criminal (though even there, the potentiality seems apparent), but I'd rather not lose my life savings nor my freedom over what is essentially a selective/optional fix -- one that will make my range time more enjoyable and, yes, my first DA pull on the gun more accomodating and accurate for defense purposes.

    Interesting there isn't a more clearcut consensus on this issue that would seem to touch on a great number of gun owners...
     
  14. 2nd Amendment

    2nd Amendment member

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    Since it seems all you are really talking about is cleaning the trigger action up a little who would notice if you don't mention it? As you said, we're not talking about a "hair trigger" here, just smoothing things out. Seems unlikely to be any issue at all, even in a civil case.
     
  15. Hkmp5sd

    Hkmp5sd Member

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    One thing I have heard specific cases of people getting in trouble is by disconnecting or bypassing safeties the gun was designed with. Civil lawyers in particular like this one because they can convince a jury the shooting was due to negligence or accidental.
     
  16. Paul "Fitz" Jones

    Paul "Fitz" Jones Moderator - Emeritus

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    Defense attorneys

    Defense attorneys will use any excuse or non standard item to try andmake you look bad. I knew several defense attorneys that bad things happened to. Jumping out a hospital window, not shutting up in a holdup got one murdered and another gay one was shot in his front yard by his gay client.

    Fitz
     
  17. El Rojo

    El Rojo Member

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    In your own home, I don't think it is going to matter one way or another.

    "I heard the intruder and the only gun I have is my competition Sig."

    or

    "I just grabbed the nearest weapon which happened to be my competition Sig."

    In your house, don't worry about it. You have a right to defend yourself with whatever you have available. If the only thing I have is my Remington 700 VS in .308 that I use for varmints and 1000 yard matches, I will use it. If the other lawyer asks, "Did you modify the trigger?" "Yes I did." "Did you modify the trigger with the intent of shooting my client?" "No I did not." Big deal. If you have a slight trigger job done on your Sig, no big deal. I would think it is more important for you to have a firearm that you feel confident with and that you can shoot your best with. If you have to shoot someone with it, then so be it. If a civil case goes the other way because of it, then you probably did more things wrong than this. Why worry about it?

    Now if you have a CCW and you carry, it might be a little different. They might be able to portray you as a guy who was out looking for it. Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. If having a tirgger job or using reloads is what throws the civil case the other direction, so be it. If we are talking criminal charges, you shouldn't have shot in the first place.

    I think there is only so much worrying you can do about these subjects until it becomes absolutely rediculous. I say urban legend. Now go get your trigger job. :D
     
  18. cracked butt

    cracked butt Member

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    (sarcasm on)Better not sharpen any of your knives either. If you were to use a knife that was modified fromthe factory sharpness the defense lawyer will claim that you turned an ordinary knife into a ninja death weapon(/sarcasm off)
     
  19. at-home-daddy

    at-home-daddy Member

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    Thanks, El Rojo...that was the best, most reasonsed response yet (but thanks to the others, too:) ) -- I like the way you think...puts the whole thing in perspective. Appreciate it.

    Now to get that trigger job (and, no, it's not a carry weapon)...
     
  20. Josh

    Josh Member

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    What I remember from my FAS II class is something like this:

    If you're justified using lethal force, it doesn't matter what tool you use to stop your assailant.

    But, like the other kids say, if I use a double sided axe, civil court will be a kick in the pants...

    Right in the front.

    Josh
     
  21. goalie

    goalie Member

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    Legally it has no relevance. Even the doom and gloom people point to civil suits as where such things come into play, as in a legal court, the only relevant question is "was the use of deadly force justified."

    On the civil side, well, here in Minnesota you cannot be sued in civil court for an act of self-defense that was legally justified. Period. We may have sucky "duty to retreat" laws, but we cannot be sued for the legal use of deadly force.


    Then again, legal advice on the internet is worth what you pay for it: nothing.
     
  22. TallPine

    TallPine Member

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    Irrelevant, my dear Watson :p

    There is no less to greater (good to bad) continuim with ammo. Sure, there is in our minds, but not in the mind of the attorney hired by the family of the late POS. Whatever YOU USED is the absolute most deadly terrifying ammo ever seen by man, even el cheapo 38 sp round nosed lead target ammo.

    OTOH, I would LOVE to see someone try to bring a civil suit like this in Montana. If it wasn't dismissed by the judge, the jury would probably have to be restrained from physically assaulting the plaintiffs :D
     
  23. hvengel

    hvengel Member

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    Besides you only had the gunsmith do mantainance on the gun to make sure that it operated in a safe and proper manner.
     
  24. Nestor

    Nestor Member

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    No.

    There is no exeption that I know of for "exessive leathal force"

    If a claim is made that it was an accident then MAYBE a 2.2 ounce trigger might be brought up in a CIVIL case.

    Thats my view.
     
  25. sumpnz

    sumpnz Member

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    We're talking a "good shoot" here right? Then any mods you do to the gun won't make a dang bit of difference in whether or not you face charges. A good shoot is a good shoot. If the gun is discharged accidently or negligently then the mods you do probably will make a difference.

    E.g. You catch a BG (with multiple rape convictions) in your daughter's bedroom naked and blow his head off. The gun you used has a 1/2 pound trigger pull. No charges will be filed unless they also would have been filed had you beaten him to death with a block of silly putty, or slashed his throat with a butter knife.

    If, on the other hand, you find yourself needing to use your SD pistol and in the process of drawing it it fires prematurely because of that ultra light pull and the bullet hits and kills an innocent bystander. That'll send you off to the pokey for at least something like negligent homicide, if not murder.

    Now, civil court is another monster altogether. One would think that if the shooting was entirely justified that the civil suit should be thrown out with extreme prejudice. But, often times it is not. But in the case that you find yourself staring down a lawsuit if you hire the best lawyer money can buy they can make you look like the knight in shining armor saving a damsel in distress. And make the perp look like Jeffery Dahmer. If you can't afford that good of an attorney then the perps family probably won't get that much out of you anyway even if you do lose.
     
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