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Liability of self defense shooting

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Impureclient, Feb 5, 2009.

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  1. Impureclient

    Impureclient Member

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    I'm mainly looking for an answer from a lawyer or LEO on this one as I've gotten mixed answers
    from my local police and here but anybody can chime in.

    If you shoot and kill a BG are you immediately considered at fault no matter what the situation
    may have been?

    I constantly hear on THR and other sites about having counsel and calling him/her immediately
    after the shooting. Well immediately calling after the police anyways. If you were defending your
    life or another life you are considered guilty until proven innocent? Or is that just to cover your
    butt in case you say something dumb to incriminate yourself?

    Does carrying a gun/weapon and possibly using it mean you should have tens of thousands in
    the bank in case you need this attorney before you even think about using a weapon for self
    defense?

    On a side note:
    When my dog was attacked in my front yard, by a stray, while I had him on a leash, the
    police later told me that I would have been justified to shoot the attacking stray as it may
    have attacked me also.
    So was that bad advice straight from the police to get me in a jam for another possible encounter?
     
  2. kingpin008

    kingpin008 Member

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    It varies greatly from state to state. Are you interested in Florida law, or elsewhere?
     
  3. Tamlin

    Tamlin Member

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    Laws vary state to state. I don't know what the self-defense laws are in Florida, but I'm positive the statutes are available online. Look to the Assault and Self-Defense Justification sections. The table of contents in your criminal code should point you where you want to look. Read it for yourself. In Arizona, you can match like force with like force in self-defense, meaning, if someone is attacking you with non-lethal force (he's trying to punch you), you can't respond with DEADLY force - you can only respond with non-deadly force (you can punch him back). If he attacks you with deadly force (eg, pulls a knife or other weapon), you can respond with deadly force, including using your gun. The grey area is what you PERCEIVE the force threat to be. Defense of third persons (or defense of property, such as dogs) are usually addressed in a related statute. Read your statutes - everyone should be aware of their own state's self-defense laws. You don't need a lawyer to explain them to you.
     
  4. Boba Fett

    Boba Fett Member

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    In Texas, from what my CCW instructor told us:

    Very likely. You are at fault for killing that person. Is it a crime? That will depend on what the officers and DA decide.

    This is always a good idea.

    Also If you have taken a CCW class, or at least in mine, they tell you how to talk to the police. Saying things like, "I killed the guy" or "I was so scared I don't really remember what happened" can get your burned. Use words and phrases like "stopped," "protected," "my/my family's life was in danger," etc. Don't use emotional words or phrases that tend to make people think that you weren't in control during the situation or that they can use to paint you as a murderer (that would be words like kill).

    Not in most cases. And I think the NRA has some defense setup for such situations...don't remember for sure...will some THR member check me on this?

    Regardless, if you aren't a member, you should be.
     
  5. John828

    John828 Member

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    Rest assured there will be a wrongful death civil suit. The PA may deem the shooting justifiable, but the civil side is a whole 'nother can of worms. Perhaps the good solicitor, Duke of Doubt, could enlighten us.

    The wrongful death suit is guaranteed though. Whether a jury will side with you or not, is a toss up. Generally speaking, if you have to use lethal force, you will be okay assuming you are a rational person, not a sheep dog, and are not roaming the streets randomly looking for "action."

    Here is the sad part: Even though you are not guilty, even though you protected yourself and your family from scum, and even though you did right by the eyes of the law, it will still cost you about $50,000 if it is drawn out for a year or two. Not an exaggeration!

    You will miss time at work which costs money. You will pay a qualified attorney what seems like an exorbitant amount of money, but you get what you pay for. You will feel stress and anxiety. Your family will feel these burdens.

    A light trigger pull is fine for target guns, but think wisely when pulling your trigger on the street or in the home.
     
  6. skwab

    skwab Member

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    When I took my CHL class the instructor said in a very serious way - no B.S., in the event you discharge your firearm you call your lawyer BEFORE you call 911 if you haven't called the police already - and his reasoning was that in an event you discharged your weapon, the BG should be dead because we're not taught to injure. Your adrenaline will be pumping, you will be in fear and in shock from what just took place, and just like Boba Fett said, what you say to the police can come back to haunt you, and you need someone to handle that for you. He said when you get your CHL you need to get a lawyer's card and keep it with you, just in case.

    The police, the DA are going to have to investigate to see if you were within your rights to take another life. At the very least the sleezebag family of the BG will try to sue you, so even if the DA decides you are not criminally negligent in any way, you can still be sued in civil courts. So again, anything that is said can come back to haunt you and even something as little as a single word can mean prison or hundreds of thousands of dollars versus nothing - it's that serious.
     
  7. Krazeehorse

    Krazeehorse Member

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    In our class we were taught the phrase " I shot to stop the threat". In Ohio you are obligated to avoid the confrontation if possible. Also in Ohio and other states as well the castle doctrine is becoming popular. If the shooting happens in your home (to an intruder, not a buddy or family member you got upset with) the BG is pretty much paid for and you likely won't have to deal with a civil suit.
     
  8. kingpin008

    kingpin008 Member

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    Not if you live in one of the states that disallows such suits from being filed by the deceased's family.



    See above.

    Agreed. In most cases, if you're in the right as far as the law goes, and you keep your mouth shut at the right times and don't say anything stupid when you do have to explain your side, you'll be fine.

    While I don't quite buy the $50k figure, this is a possibility as well, if you don't live in a state that precludes families filing wrongful death or similar suits. Defending one's choice to shoot can indeed get very pricey, if they're forced to defend it at length in court. Then again, any drawn-out court action will do that.
     
  9. kingpin008

    kingpin008 Member

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    IMHO, that sounds like terrible advice. if I were on the jury, I'd be a bit taken aback if I heard testimony that the defendant called his mouthpiece before the cops.

    An individual calling the police immediately after makes sense. You've just been involved in a terrible situation, and were attacked. You were forced to shoot someone, and now you're calling for help. Getting on the phone with your lawyer makes you look like you're trying to spin something, to CYA. Which of course you are, but there's time for that later. You don't have to talk to the cops until you have a lawyer present, so why not call them first and get the lawyer on the horn after they've arrived?
     
  10. Impureclient

    Impureclient Member

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    The $50,000 estimation for a BG family filing wrongful death thing was what I was looking for.
    So it appears it can happen.
    What I don't want to hear if I have to defend myself is I will be treated as the criminal
    and have to defend myself all over again but with piles of money this time...

    I believe in Florida we have the no retreat law in effect but it seems that doesn't matter.

    Edited: I just reread Krazeehorse's post about the Castle Doctrine, so I guess in Florida I'm safe.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2009
  11. moooose102

    moooose102 Member

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    i dont know about your dog attac senario. it would probably vary state to state. as for shooting and killing a bg,no, you will not be guilty until you prove your inocece, but it is not going to be a 15 minute, take your statement deal either. if you have witnesses, it will go much better, at least if they saw what you did. if they say different, or there are none. then it will be up to the forensic team to figure out (the best they can) what happened. you know the old saying, dead men tell no tales, well, they can not talk, but between camera's, witnesses, and forensics, they usually can get a good idea what went down.
     
  12. John828

    John828 Member

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    It doesn't. Have a trusted lawyer's card in your wallet or purse (I have fat fingers.) Call him or her immediately, then call 911, it is "expainable" in court! In fact, it shows rationality.
     
  13. si vis pacem

    si vis pacem Member

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    Check your state's official code. Many states have a civil liability exemption for justified uses of deadly force. How these statutes are implemented largely depends on your state's case law. I know I say this often, but it may behoove you to consult an attorney for a more comprehensive explanation of your state's laws.

    Do not forget that statutes that may appear very simple can actually be quite complex and nuanced. It depends on how the courts interpret them. From there, it's a veritable trip down the rabbit hole. Having a good attorney can really make a world of difference.
     
  14. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

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    Impureclient,

    I don't think you can afford to 'guess you're safe.' You need to know, insofar as it's possible to know anything at all where something so tortuously involved as the law is concerned.

    'The law' is not a homogenous thing, across the country or even across a single state. It differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Case law and 'blackletter' law may differ also. Some cheap advice- talk to a good criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction. If I needed a good lawyer in a place where I didn't know who to ask about finding one, I'd call two or three local bail bondsmen and ask who they would use if they needed an attorney. Usually the first appointment/interview with the attorney is free... .

    If you're serious about learning more, take a look at http://www.teddytactical.com/archive/MonthlyStudy/2006/02_StudyDay.htm . That's a good rundown on what happens most times in most places when self defense becomes a legal issue.

    hth,

    lpl
     
  15. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    Not in Ok. If it is a righteous shoot the perp and his family are not allowed to sue in civil court. The prosecutor in OK is not required to take a righteous shooting case to a grand jury. In the past two years our prosecutor has declined to take three self defense cases to the grand jury. The family of the dead perp could petition for a grand jury but that is going nowhere in OK.

    There is a reason the Brady bunch rates OK dead last.
     
  16. kingpin008

    kingpin008 Member

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    It's neither explainable nor rational. Calling an officer makes sense - he can take a statement, he can call for an ambulance if you or the BG needs one, he can arrest the badguy if he's still in arrestable shape, he can take witness statements and begin crowd control if necessary, and he can contain the scene and start making sense of things. A lawyer can tell you to shut the hell up until he meets you at the station - something you should already know to do.
     
  17. CTPistol

    CTPistol Member

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    calling your lawyer before 911? - wow...thats gotta be about as bad advice as I have ever heard! - amazing internet advice....

    You just shot someone, you are picking up the phone? - obviously the immediate threat is over - your thoughts should be for the safety of you and yours and for help for the guy you just shot....not on calling your crack mouthpiece. Call 911 and simply state "I need help at xxxx" and hang up. They will come. Dont explain anything. You are not in rational mind. Or just dial and leave off hook, again - they will come.

    Im a huge pro 2a guy and am all for home defense, but I'd be pretty taken back as a juror on the "call the lawyer before 911" defense. Imagine how neutral or antis think?
     
  18. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

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    The optimum line is "I shot until he ceased to be a threat."

    In Atlanta recently that was 6 times point blank into the chest cavity with a 40 cal. The victim was released without charges after repeating that. The perp was piled into a body bag at the scene.
     
  19. DHJenkins

    DHJenkins Member

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    Boba Fett - your CCW instructor was just trying to reinforce that shooting should be the last option.

    Google Joe Horn. Our (TX) indictment rates for personal or property defense shootings are very, very low.
     
  20. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    I'm taking the long way to law school, for whatever that's worth,

    I won't say you are immediately considered 'at fault' no matter what. Most defensive situations will be obvious. Understand, the incident will be investigated until everyone is satisfied. Just like if there is a homicide in a family, all of the family members and friends are going to be grilled as if they are suspects, because the detectives have to be able to eliminate them as suspects. Don't confuse the police running you through their checklist with them actually believing you did it.

    HAVING SAID THAT, SHUT YOUR PIEHOLE AND CALL YOUR LAWYER. They are NOT your friends. If it is obvious that it was a good shoot, YOU DON'T NEED TO TALK TO THEM. They will figure it out. If they are considering you as a suspect, because the circumstances are fuzzy, they are trying to get you to incriminate yourself, in which case, YOU DON'T NEED TO TALK TO THEM. You are innocent until proven guilty, even if they try to convince you otherwise. Another reason to.....(wait for it,)....shut up and call your lawyer. You don't have to say something dumb. They will use your smart remarks against you too.

    You should save tens of thousands of dollars anyway. (Read Clark Howard's "Complete Money Makeover".) But for this, on your renter's/homeowner's insurance, you need umbrella liability coverage. You should consult a lawyer in advance, who is qualified in this kind of law, and if you can't afford to keep him on retainer, you need to make sure he is ok with using your insurance as his primary source of payment.

    In Utah, animals are a strict liability. The owner is wrong for not making you did not feel threatened by his animal. Having said that, I don't know if I'm going to start throwing lead to protect another animal. To me, animals are posessions, not family members. I don't use deadly force to protect stuff.
     
  21. skwab

    skwab Member

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    CTPistol - you honestly think that calling 911 and then hanging up is any better? The prosecuting attorney isn't going to ask you why you hung up, why you didn't follow the instructions of the 911 operator, why you didn't initiate CPR?

    We're not talking about an accidental shooting - this person has just tried to kill you or someone in your vicinity, otherwise deadly force wasn't required - so personally I'm not going to try to resuscitate someone who is a threat.

    After seeing some of the comments I went and looked back at the notes from my CHL course to check and sure enough, I wrote it down and my wife did too - call a lawyer prior to calling 911, because anything and everything you say to them will be used against you if possible, and after an attack where you had to use deadly force, you are likely not in the right mind to consider every little word you say.

    And the CHL course I took was from a couple of very experienced former LEOs who are involved with security all over the state, so I trust what they say and there's a reason they said it. FWIW.

    I realize it sounds crazy, and I remember being surprised when they said it, but they were serious - essentially you still have to protect yourself even after the BG has been incapacitated, and they said that calling the lawyer first would not be frowned upon, at least in TX.
     
  22. Jiggle

    Jiggle Member

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    Florida Statute 776.032 says that a person who uses deadly force and is justified in using that force is immune from criminal and civil action. The only exception is if the person you used the force against is an LEO acting in the performance of his or her duties.

    Link
     
  23. Rush

    Rush Member

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    Good advice. But look at it this way - even if you spend $50,000 out of your pocket defending yourself, that is a hell of a lot cheaper than the hundreds of thousands or million or two your family will miss from you being dead and not earning a living for them anymore. $50,000 is a really good deal for your life. Do NOT let fear of lawsuits make you hesitate one instant to shoot a BG.
     
  24. ar10

    ar10 Member

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    In Ohio, INAL, but I did discuss the issue with my attorney who is not a criminal attorney and gave me the name of a good one in Columbus.
    The average cost in case of a self defense shooting, dead or alive and is clear you were in the "right" is $50,000.00, the retainer for a good criminal attorney is $75,000.00.
    All shootings are heard by the grand jury and you need an attorney to represent you during the hearings.
    Even though the Castle Doctrine is in effect in Ohio you still need an attorney to represent you.
    CCW'ers are not cops so be prepared to answer a lot of questions with your attorney present.
    On the arrival of LE say absolutely nothing requesting that you will speak only with your attorney present. The criminal attorney stated very clearly that even clearly justified police shooting the officers involved have a standard statement always prepared for IA.
    1. The plead the 5th amendment
    2. The politely stated they will not answer any further questions until their attorney (FOP) is present.

    Ironically, you can be found not guilty and perfectly justified in a shooting incident. The court will always inform the guilty party, (if they are still alive), they are financially responsible for all court costs and your attorney fees. That's pretty much trying to get "blood out of a turnip". In other words the attorney still has to get paid. :(
     
  25. Boba Fett

    Boba Fett Member

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    Yeah, that's pretty bad. You should always call 911 first. You can then call your lawyer. If it does go to court, it could look pretty bad depending on how they twist things.

    Also, and probably more important than the court element is the safety element. You never know if the BG is still alive or has friends that will be coming or any of a million variables...so call 911!

    Um...actually no...see they were trying to reinforce that when and if I do shoot a BG, the terms and phrases I use when giving my statement or in talking with the police could get my butt in trouble or at the least give ammunition to a lawsuit. So avoid certain words or phrases like "killed" "wasted him" "blew his head off" and so on. Use phrases that put the bad actions on the bad guy. Things like "he wouldn't stop" "I couldn't get him to stop any other way" "I had to protect my family" and so on. There is a big difference in the terms in how those words and terms playout in a court or in a lawsuit.
     
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