Personal safety is paramount, so understanding the intricacies of self-defense is crucial. It's not just about stopping the attacker with well-aimed shots. I mean, of course, that comes first, but there is more, much, much more to consider.
One topic that we don't talk as much about is knowing what to do after the shooting. More specifically, should we talk to the police after a shooting, and if so, what should we say, and what shouldn't we say? This is a very important topic because we need to survive the physical attack by using justified, legal force, and do our best to stay out of court.
Let's look at some advice typically given on the subject and test it to see if it's actually good advice or not. Is there a hard-and-fast rule you can apply to govern how you speak to the police after every defensive gun use? Or is it more nuanced than that?
I hope thinking about these things now will help shed light on what you should, or shouldn't say to, the police after a self-defense shooting.
How to Navigate Self-Defense Shooting Police Questions:
The Importance of Post-Shooting Communication:
In the aftermath of a self-defense incident, emotions run high and adrenaline surges. It's hard to remember events exactly how they happened. You might not remember big chunks of the event, or your mind may even remember things differently than how they actually happened.
It's also easy to feel disoriented, but your actions and words can significantly impact the legal outcome.
When police arrive on the scene of a shooting, there are some basic things they will do. First, they want to secure the area and make it safe. Then they will start a preliminary investigation. Ultimately, police want to gather evidence of any crime, and eventually arrest the lawbreaker.
Since you're one of the parties involved in the incident, the police need to determine exactly what your involvement is. Are you the suspect, the victim, or a witness? And because their responsibility is also to secure the public's safety, police will ALWAYS ask questions.
Let's look at some of the typical recommendations given on how to deal with post-shooting police questions.
Don't Say a Word to Police:
It's quite common to hear someone say something like, “if you ever have to use your firearm, when the police arrive”:
Don't say a word.
Tell them to talk to your lawyer (assuming you even have one).
But is this the best advice?
Police Question to Expect:
When securing the scene, police will ask basic questions like; are you injured? Is the person you shot still here? If not, where did they go, what did they look like, were they alone, and which direction did you shoot? These questions are essentially designed to help them search for suspects, and check the area for anyone injured by errant shots.
If you choose not to anser any of the questions, you risk several things. First, you may be considered uncooperative by police who are trying to help. There is a big difference between an uncooperative subject, and someone who want's to give a detailed statement only after speaking with an attorney. Being uncooperative and refusing to answer even basic questions also makes it difficult for police to catch suspects, collect evidence or contact witnesses.
There is some validity to the advice of not saying a word, because in an emotional state, you may say too much. I think between saying too much and too little, it's probably better to say too little, but I don't think it has to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
Thinking about these things beforehand will go a long way in having greater command of your emotions at the moment.
This is also an appropriate time to mention that you should consider if carrying some self-defense legal protection. Here are some resources you can use to determine if any of the programs available are right for you.
- Do I Really Need Concealed Carry Insurance?
- The Importance of Having Self-Defense Insurance Just Went Up
- Gun and Self-Defense Insurance Companies Compared
Talk to The Police:
Within this camp, there are two general ideas. First, is to answer any and all questions. I think this is a very dangerous approach and would advise against it. The police may be your friends, and they also may not be. They may be diligent in how they investigate. They may just want to make an arrest. You don't get to choose which cop shows up. So it's best to protect yourself and not blab about the incident.
As a side note, taking care of what you say also applies to news reporters, or anyone else on scene. Don't speak to these people.
The second thought is to provide some information. This is the path I think would apply best in MOST situations. Here are some guidelines to help walk that fine line of providing just enough information without exposing yourself unnecessarily.
How Much Voluntary Information Should You Give?
Here are some basic guidelines on providing some information that helps police, but doesn't expose you legally.
Self-Defense, Not Vigilantism:
It is important to articulate you acted out of necessity for self-preservation, not a desire to mete out justice. Without providing details, clarify that the suspect forced you to act and protect your life or the lives of others.
Provide Basic Information:
After ensuring the immediate safety of all parties involved, it's essential to identify yourself and your intention to cooperate with the authorities. Offer your name, address, and any other relevant details upon request.
Invoke Your Right to Legal Representation:
As soon as the police probe for more details—and eventually they will—politely but firmly state that you wish to have an attorney present before providing a detailed statement. This ensures that you have proper legal guidance during the investigative process. Make sure what you say is direct and unambiguous. There is a difference between, “I think i should probably talk to an attorney” and ” I want to cooperate, but I don't want to answer questions before I speak with an attorney”. The first gives room for further investigative questions, the second protects you.
Offer a General Description of Events:
Provide a brief and factual account of what transpired, emphasizing the imminent threat you faced. Keep your statements concise and to the point. For instance, “I feared for my life when the intruder advanced towards me with the knife and said he was going to kill me.”
Highlight Evidence and Witnesses:
If there are any immediate pieces of evidence, such as a weapon wielded by the aggressor, or potential witnesses, mention them. This can bolster your case and corroborate your version of events. Point out if there are security cameras that would have captured events, or if the incident took place in multiple locations. This information can be helpful.
Avoid Speculation or Assumptions:
Refrain from offering conjectures about the intentions or background of the aggressor. Stick to the facts as you know them. Speculation can muddle the narrative and potentially harm your case. A good rule of thumb is that if the statement begins with “I think” consider not saying it, or phrasing it in a way that is strictly factual.
In the aftermath of a self-defense shooting, your words can make or break your legal standing. By heeding the guidance in this article, I hope you can navigate the post-shooting scenario with prudence and clarity.
Each incident is unique, and it's important to stress that these are guidelines or principles to follow. That means you'll have to apply what I presented to your individual circumstance. There may be incidents where an attorney is totally unnecessary, and others where you should be extremely tight-lipped. No one can give a single method that works perfectly in every incident.
Remember, self-defense is a fundamental right, not an act of aggression. By following these principles, you can ensure that you protect your rights, and that justice may be served in the aftermath of a harrowing incident.
So, in answer to the question, “What should I say to the police after a self-defense shooting?” — think, keep answers general, speak the truth, say it clearly, and remember your rights.
What do you think? Leave your comments below.