Quantcast

Reloads a legal nightmare?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by HisSoldier, Sep 27, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. HisSoldier

    HisSoldier Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2007
    Messages:
    1,190
    I just finished reading the following thread; http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=89289&highlight=reloads+self+defense+suit

    This was dated some time ago. I'm wondering if anyone since then has found any cases of anyone having lost his freedom or his fortune because he used reloaded ammo for self defense. The whole notion seem ludicrous to me, like saying "I will not leave this cave because a meteor might strike me".
     
  2. 45Badger

    45Badger Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2002
    Messages:
    1,201
    Location:
    Illinois, about 26 miles west of the cess-pool
    Urban legend and old wive's tale........Someone will be along shortly with proof that I am wrong.
     
  3. Spot77

    Spot77 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2003
    Messages:
    2,221
    Location:
    MD
    Any half wit lawyer could get that negated easily in court.

    Millions of U.S. citizens hand load / reload their own ammo every year. There's probably 100 books in print on the subject. This isn't some new, evil idea; it's an easily proven task that's been happening for 100 years.
     
  4. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2006
    Messages:
    11,654
    Location:
    California - San Francisco Bay Area
    Why bother with handloads for self defense if there's even the smallest risk. Commercial, quality JHP ammunition will work just fine, and I don't see that one gains anything material with handloads.

    I'm a lawyer and will use only factory ammunition in my self defense guns. But do as you wish. It's not my problem.
     
  5. Bubba613

    Bubba613 member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,953
    Why bother with handloads? Because you can tailor the round specifically to your gun and your shooting abilities.
    The defense for this is easy: I used handloads because I wanted to be certain the bullet would perform optimally in my gun and for my shooting style.
    In any case most handloads consist of factory powder, factory bullets, and factory primers, generally loaded within specs put out by factory manuals.
    I agree the whole "use factory only because of law suits" is dumb. You want to use factory, use factory. You want to use handloads, use handloads.
     
  6. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2006
    Messages:
    11,654
    Location:
    California - San Francisco Bay Area
    This has been done to death here, and on other boards.

    [1] I'm a lawyer (retired after over 30 years of practice), and I'm also a shooter and NRA certified instructor.

    [2] I don’t use handloads 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 Out" 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 “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? 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] At a trial, at the end of the presentation of evidence, each side gets to argue what the trier of fact should infer from the evidence. So a prosecutor might argue that a trier of fact should infer certain things about your character and disposition for violence from the evidence that you handloaded yourself the ammunition you used. Indeed, I'd expect a prosecutor to conjure up for the jury the image of you up late at night in your garage quietly assembling special super killer bullets.

    [6] So Suzy Soccermom now asks herself, as she sits on your jury deciding whether to believe your story about what happened when you shot that nice gang member, why store bought ammunition wasn’t lethal enough to satisfy your perverted blood lust. Remember, Suzi Soccermom and her friends are going to be deciding if the shoot was good.

    [7] 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 likely 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.

    [8] Of course, if one is unlucky enough to be on trial, whether or not he used handloads would be only a 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.

    [9] And most of the explanations we might have for using handloads are just too “inside baseball” for people who aren’t shooting hobbyists or gun aficionados to pay attention to or care about. And if you’re on trial, it’s most likely that most of your jury won’t know much about guns, will have no, or little, experience with guns, and may perhaps have doubts about whether private citizens ought to even have guns. So if you make an argument like, “I used handloads because I wanted to be certain the bullet would perform optimally in my gun and for my shooting style”, you’ll see their eyes glaze over like the Easter ham.

    [10] I don’t see that I gain anything using handloads for self defense compared with quality, commercial ammunition. If I have to use my gun to defend myself, it is a certainty that my conduct will be subject to intense investigation by the police and the district attorney. It is very likely that my conduct will come before the grand jury. It is a distinct possibility that I will be required to answer criminal charges and also defend my conduct against a civil claim for damages. My freedom and property will be at risk. I will have to spend at least tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly a hundred thousand dollars or more, to defend myself. So it strikes me as prudent to do what I reasonably can do ahead of time to lay as good a foundation as possible for a good result for me.

    [11] 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.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2008
  7. TAB

    TAB Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Messages:
    2,475
    pretty much says it all.
     
  8. Defensory

    Defensory Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2008
    Messages:
    871
    I use only factory ammo myself.

    But for people who shoot a lot, they can save a lot of money by reloading. The average person who reloads, does it for that reason.

    Can anybody present some documented case histories of people whose use of handloads played a key role in their conviction? I haven't heard of any, but I'm not saying it has never happened. I'd just like to see credible documentation.

    Harold Fish of Arizona went to prison, and he used standard factory ammo in his 10mm.

    If a prosecutor wants you bad enough, and can hornswoggle a jury into believing his arguments, you'll get "sent up the river" even if you're shooting factory ammo through an "evil .32 ACP Saturday Night Special".
     
  9. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2006
    Messages:
    11,654
    Location:
    California - San Francisco Bay Area
    Whatever else, economy should not be a factor. Shoot enough of the factory self defense ammunition to assure that your gun functions properly. Then handload practice ammunition that is the ballistic equivalent.

    You overstate the case. If that were actually true, no prosecutor would ever lose a case.

    If the prosecutor didn't want you, and think he could get you, you wouldn't be on trial. And if you're on trial, the prosecutor wants badly to win. No prosecutor ever built his reputation or furthered his career by losing cases. A prosecutor is just not going to waste his time and risk his reputation on cases that he doesn't think he has a good chance to win, and he is going to work hard to win every trial.

    But prosecutors don't always win. Sometimes the prosecutor loses. So the question for us is what sorts of things can we do to stack the deck in our favor as much as possible and help our case be one of the ones the prosecutor loses.
     
  10. Defensory

    Defensory Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2008
    Messages:
    871
    I overstated NOTHING.

    I said IF the prosecutor can "hornswoggle", i.e. DUPE, the jury into believing his arguments, then you'll get "sent up the river".

    Fortunately, many criminal juries are often comprised of 12 jurors, and since there are still SOME Americans with common sense, it's difficult to dupe that many people all the time.

    Which is why prosecutors don't always win their cases, which I'm quite aware of, thank you! :p

    And I'm still waiting on some examples of documented cases where use of handloads played a key role in gaining a conviction. ;)
     
  11. Soldiersurfs

    Soldiersurfs Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    93
    Even if it never has , there is a first for everything ...... not a risk I find worth taking
     
  12. Defensory

    Defensory Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2008
    Messages:
    871
    Sorry, but I don't waste time worrying about things that rarely or never happen.

    Many innocent people who were unjustly sent to jail for using their firearms for legitimate self-defense, were using FACTORY AMMO. Like Harold Fish of Arizona, as just one example.

    Nobody in this thread has posted even a shred of hard evidence to support the dubious hypothesis that reloads are a "legal nightmare".
     
  13. Soldiersurfs

    Soldiersurfs Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    93
    I understand , I didnt mean it in an argumentative way
     
  14. Defensory

    Defensory Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2008
    Messages:
    871
    No problem. I wasn't trying to get on your case or anything.

    If you don't think reloading is a smart thing to do, by all means don't do it. :)
     
  15. Loosedhorse

    Loosedhorse member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Messages:
    3,454
    Location:
    eastern Massachusetts
    Pretty complete info by fiddletown. Again.

    I would only add that forensic testing may be done to see if your claims about the shooting can be supported or refuted.

    That's why (whether you're using factory or handloaded ammo) you should have some clearly labeled exemplars (ammo that is identical to what you're carrying; same lot number of ammo or powder&primer) stored safely. At a minimum you should have the make/load/lot number of the ammo so that the manufacturer MAY be able to provide exemplars.

    If exact exemplar ammo is NOT available, you may risk the inexact testing ammo suggesting you were in fact at a different distance than you claimed (through different powder pattern on target). This may not change whether or not you were in danger, but it may hurt your credibility if you say 3 ft, and CSI-Miami says "no closer than 10 ft."

    And your credibility will be the crux of the case.

    IANAL (obviously) and I do not know if on-point case law exists. Even if you are a careful handloader and keep accurate exemplars stored, that may not eliminate this danger. And the points that fiddletown raises remain.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2008
  16. uneasy_rider

    uneasy_rider Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2007
    Messages:
    285
    Defensory sez:

    But I believe that issue was already addressed when Fiddletown stated:

     
  17. rc109a

    rc109a Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2006
    Messages:
    705
    Location:
    Tidewater, VA
    If you want to set presidence, then carry reloads. If you ever have to use them, then you might get to be the first to defend them in court. My family is not worth that. I want to protect my family before and after the shooting. I decided long ago when I started CC that I would find me a lawyer to handle any legal matters that may arise (I use them for property, wills, and anything else that a lawyer might assist me in doing). when I became a LEO I kept him as my lawyer just in case. He keeps all my important records and training information up to date. He keeps all my certificates and documents any cases that I participate in. I do all this just in case. I also go by his advice to onlly carry factory loaded ammo in my off duty weapon and any cc weapon. He hs advised me to not modify my cc weapon just in case. I am takign his advice. I don't want to be the example set forth in a ruling of presidence. My family is not worth the risk in todays society. I only wish that it did not have to be like this. I am not taking the chance, and if you do then I wish you all the best of luck. Fiddletown has said it best...
     
  18. ZeSpectre

    ZeSpectre Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2006
    Messages:
    5,503
    Location:
    Deep in the valley
    So just because I'm curious. How is anyone to know that you had handloads/reloads in your gun?

    I tend to load my brass in lots (same mfg brass). I also tend to put my reloads into those nice cardboard boxes with holders that were originally supplied by the manufacturers.

    yeah I suppose some crack forensics team -could- determine something from powder residue or something but I have yet to see a police force with "CSI" funds, time, manpower, or equipment.
     
  19. Bubba613

    Bubba613 member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,953
    The whole "we've never seen one but there's a first time for everything" is just a non argument.
    On that basis no one should carry .357magnums because prosecutors can argue that shooting someone with a magnum round implies wanting to kill them.
    And I am personally aware of at least one case where the insinuation was made using the word "magnum" to emphasize its lethality.
    But I carry a .357magnum. My first concern is neutralizing the threat. I have a lot of confidence in my gun and my ability to use it. I will not sacrifice that by going to something I have little confidence in.
    I think handloads would fall into this same category.
     
  20. Loosedhorse

    Loosedhorse member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Messages:
    3,454
    Location:
    eastern Massachusetts
    Because the police will ask, and you will tell them?

    I'm not sure, but I would think that the investigators of a homicide, especially one in which they have the suspect in hand, will decide to investigate thoroughly, and may ask for such details.

    Of course, you may decide to lie--but I'm not sure that will jive with your counsel's advice. Or to remain silent at trial--like Harold Fish.

    There is a long history of police using .357 rounds. Yes, a prosecutor or plaintiff's attorney could try that argument, but it would be easily defeated unless the jury accepts that police want to kill suspects.

    No police department issues handloads--so handloads represent a bigger burden for your lawyer. Not insurmountable, just bigger. Do you want that bigger burden?
     
  21. contenderman

    contenderman Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2008
    Messages:
    114
    Location:
    Northern, OH
    In many (most) situations there are 2 hurdles to clear.

    First is the criminal ... easier to do because it takes a unanimous vote to convict.

    Second ... is civil, and there it only takes a majority. Thus, in this round you can bet that the plaintiff's attorney will work very hard to trash character, intent, etc.

    Defending one's self costs thousands of dollars. Compared to legal fees the cost of commercially mfg. ammo is insignificant.

    Your not shooting for super accuracy, and in a defensive situation the distance is close. "Bangers" that will split a gnat's rear end are not needed. Safest bet is to use the same ammo type that is used by your local PD, or highway patrol, etc. Second safest move is to use commercial personal defense loads as the plaintiff's attorney would have to then attack the mfg. and they not only have an amazing amount of documentation to support their design(s) ... they have a lot more money than you do and some top notch lawyers on their payroll (retainer).
     
  22. massad ayoob

    massad ayoob Member

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Messages:
    369
    The cases are there, and in-depth discussion can be found in the archives here, on TFL, and a current one in the Ammunition section at www.smith-wessonforum.com.

    In NJ v. Daniel Bias, defendant went to prison for manslaughter because court would not accept his word for what was in the reloads. Issue turned on GSR (gunshot residue) on the deceased. Light loads in +P cases, so crime lab testing was done with factory +P which deposited GSR much farther from the muzzle.

    In NH v. James Kennedy, a pivotal argument of the prosecution to show malice in an Aggravated Assault case was that "regular ammunition wasn't deadly enough for this defendant!" He was ultimately acquitted, but cost of trial was ruinous.

    Simply loading with a street-proven factory round, and practicing with handloaded duplicates for cost-effective training, seems to be a perfect compromise.
     
  23. everallm

    everallm Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2007
    Messages:
    1,504
    In a CRIMINAL suit the handload v manufactured round concerns will be at most a single and not particularly important issue. The standard is "Beyond a reasonable doubt" and as such, in practice, little to worry about.

    If however it the goes to a CIVIL suit by the individual/family/estate of the shooted, then the issue will be a much more problematic one as the standard is "Balance of probabilities" and driven much more as an emotional or gut issues by a jury.

    The easiest example to imagine yourself in would be the murder trial of OJ Simpson where he was found not guilty in criminal court and guilty in a civil action.
     
  24. ZeSpectre

    ZeSpectre Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2006
    Messages:
    5,503
    Location:
    Deep in the valley
    Thanks Mas.
     
  25. NCsmitty

    NCsmitty Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Messages:
    5,325
    Location:
    North Carolina
    The average reloader chooses to do it for more reasons than economics. The challenge of producing high quality ammunition that consistently shoots better than all factory versions is my goal. You certainly do not see bonafide target shooters shooting factory ammunition in competition.

    fiddletown, I applaud you being a shooter and an NRA instructor in Socialist California. As a lawyer, I'm sure you question the state's dysfunctional ideology at times too. I can even understand why you feel as you do about reloads, and the cautions that you extend, and I feel sorry for you. So many liberals :barf: cluster there in your state and are truly anti-second amendment. They, as you know, are ready to sue at the drop of a hat, especially anything to discourage firearms ownership or anything related. They stomp on the so-called "law-abiding citizens" rights while criminals run rampant. You know exactly what I mean. I wish you luck.

    NCsmitty
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice