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Legal ramifications of "worked on" trigger

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by gilfo, Sep 7, 2008.

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  1. gilfo

    gilfo Member

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    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.
     
  2. kwelz

    kwelz Member

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    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.
     
  3. freakshow10mm

    freakshow10mm member

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    I'd love to see a case where a custom gun was the deciding factor in the case. I've yet to see one.
     
  4. jaysouth

    jaysouth Member

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    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.
     
  5. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    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.
     
  6. jaysouth

    jaysouth Member

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    cosmoline,

    Can you post a cite?

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

    SoCalShooter Member

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    That's for me to know and not you!
    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.
     
  8. jaysouth

    jaysouth Member

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    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.
     
  9. KyJim

    KyJim Member

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    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.
     
  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    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.
     
  11. Kindrox

    Kindrox Member

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    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?
     
  12. Exmasonite

    Exmasonite Member

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    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.
     
  13. TAB

    TAB Member

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    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)
     
  14. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    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.
     
  15. Disaster

    Disaster Member

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    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.
     
  16. jaysouth

    jaysouth Member

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    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.
     
  17. GZOh_Jr

    GZOh_Jr Member

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    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.
     
  18. GRB

    GRB member

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    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
     
  19. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    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??? :)
     
  20. Storm

    Storm Member

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

    Steve C Member

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    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.
     
  22. Burt Blade

    Burt Blade Member

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    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?
     
  23. ZeSpectre

    ZeSpectre Member

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    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
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2008
  24. tinygnat219

    tinygnat219 Member

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    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.
     
  25. Storm

    Storm Member

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    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.
     
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