The following is a video transcript.
Preparedness in self-defense requires training. We train by going to the range, talking to our family about what to do in an emergency, and keeping up to date with changes in the law.
But a blind spot for many responsible gun owners is preparing for the legal aftermath of a self-defense incident. This aftermath preparation starts with planning for a simple phone call that could mean the difference between going home after an incident, spending a lifetime behind bars, and everything in between.
This call is… to 911.
Before You Call
After you’ve neutralized a threat and the scene is safe, in almost every scenario, your first call should be to 911. But be aware everything you say is being recorded, even before the operator picks up the phone.
When it comes to a high-stress critical incident—whether it be anxiety, a physiological response, or misperception—what you say can have serious legal consequences. And often what you say may be misconstrued or used against you. If you give an inconsistent statement or if what you say on the 911 call does not line up perfectly with the physical evidence, police and prosecutors may try to paint you as a liar.
Imagine, you’ve just experienced the worst moment of your life. You’ve been attacked and were forced to shoot your attacker. Your entire body is shaking with adrenaline and you might have even been injured in the incident. You get on the phone with 911 and say, “He had it coming! He asked for it! I fired two shots, and I killed him.” The 911 operator keeps you on the line. The realization that you’ve killed a human being sets in. You start saying, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
The Victim Found Guilty
While many of us would agree that a perpetrator who wages a fierce attack on an innocent victim “has it coming” when the victim fights back and shoots them, this is exactly the kind of statement that piques a prosecutor’s interest when they’re deciding whether or not to charge you with murder. Add to that statement the fact that, in your adrenaline-filled state, you didn’t realize that you emptied your entire magazine. Well, law enforcement now has evidence to attempt to paint you as a liar and a cold-blooded killer. Your apologetic statements, though made innocently in your emotional state, will now be portrayed as consciousness of guilt in front of a jury and evidence that you knew your actions were wrong.
That’s why you must keep your call to 911 simple and concise.
Follow these five crucial steps during your call
- Provide your name.
- Give the location of your emergency.
- Inform the operator of the services needed, typically police and EMS.
- Make a very short statement about the defensive incident. For example, “I was just attacked and had to defend myself.” Or, “I was just the victim of a crime.”
- Finally, hang up the phone.
The operator will try to call you back, but you don’t have to answer. At this point, if you’ve followed these steps, you’ll be in a much better position if you’re later accused of wrongdoing.
Call your Independent Program Attorney
The next call you make should be to your Independent Program Attorney. Because every case is different, you should follow their advice for your set of circumstances. Most often, your Independent Program Attorney is going to help you avoid the use of “trigger words” with law enforcement, will aid you in giving them the right amount of information (but not so much that your statement is inconsistent with physical evidence), and will ask you the proper questions to obtain all the important facts regarding your specific situation.
The bottom line comes down to preparation. Part of protecting yourself and your family is being proactive and training for the before, during, and after a defense incident. Making the 911 call is just one part of the equation.
If you have any questions about the potential legal aftermath or how you can prepare, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.