How To Talk To Police After A Defensive Gun Use

How To Talk To Police After A Defensive Gun Use

The echoes of your last gunshot haven’t even finished reverberating off the walls before a thought may ring out in your mind: your situation has come from a defensive gun use to a post-defensive gun use.

A “defensive gun use” is whenever you use a firearm to defend your life from another person or animal. We talk a lot about what to do before or even during but rarely about what happens afterwards. What happens afterwards can easily affect your life as much as the event itself.

Notify Law Enforcement

This is the first big step. The second you are safe and able to use a cell phone, call the police. Focus on the facts and keep your statements to a minimum until you’re able to consult with an attorney. The reason behind this is because post-defensive gun use, your body is literally high on hormones.

You just saved your own life. Your brain is flooded with a specific hormone called Cortisol. It’s the main hormone kicked out in “fight or flight” scenarios. This hormone changes the way you remember events, details of those events, and actually see. Yes, that’s right, Cortisol changes the reflective lens in your eyes so that you are more visually acute at farther ranges. This can result in you messing up your recollection to police or how you even view threats in the first place.

Read More: General Legal Considerations for Use of Firearms in Self-Defense

Comply With All Legal Requests

When interacting with law enforcement, it is important to always comply with all legal requests. This can include an officer taking custody of your handgun temporarily.

In many cases where a defensive gun use scenario is in play, the police may keep that pistol until the investigation has been concluded.

Make sure to get a receipt for that firearm. It saved your life, you’ll probably want it back at some point.

You may also be questioned by multiple parties — including third ones such as journalists or outside agencies. You are under no compulsion to divulge any information to anyone other than your attorney and police. If you can, opt to say as little as humanly possible to anyone outside of those two entities.

An Investigation Doesn’t Mean You’re A Criminal

If the police appear to be withdrawn or seemingly cold in a post-defensive gun use situation, it’s generally because they have to be. It’s not that an officer or officers think you’re a bad guy, they have to be impartial when assessing a crime scene. And make no bones about it: after you shoot someone, it’s a crime scene.

An investigator will probably want to interview you. It would be best to have an attorney present during this phase because, again, your mind is overloaded and you may not be thinking clearly.

In general, if you can keep your statements short, to the point, and polite, you will go far in most of your interactions with law enforcement — and especially after a defensive gun use scenario.

Disruptions Will Be Normal For Awhile

While you are probably immensely glad you’re alive, the bad guy is neutralized, and life is proceeding onward, you will probably have to deal with intermittent interruptions to your normal everyday life associated with follow-up investigations, interviews, attorney-client conversations, court dates, and the occasional third party trying to hit you up. This will be the new norm for awhile — but it will end eventually.

Just because you saved your life doesn’t mean life goes back to the way it was. You may find you have a new outlook on life, a new way you view people, and probably a little anxiety associated with reliving parts of that event. This is okay and if you need to seek help, don’t be afraid to do so.

Read More: Self-Defense Shooting and Disparate Force

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  • FiveOhtoJD

    Great article, but I have one suggested edit; One of the steps in this article says “Comply With All Legal Requests”. I would modify that to “Comply With All Requests From Law Enforcement”. Although I agree that the requests should be legal, right after a volatile situation (yes, it was volatile if you were forced to discharge a weapon) is not the appropriate time to be a curbside internet educated legal scholar. If the situation needs correcting, correct it at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner. Call internal affairs, contact an attorney, call the chief of police or the sheriff… whatever you want, but don’t get yourself hurt, arrested or killed over being “right” at that moment. Just my 2 cents…

    • Answer the basics, but tell them you want to speak with an attorney before giving a full accounting of what happened.

  • Doni

    Good article. I agree with FiveOhtoJd, just cooperate! One other thing, in light of current politics and everyone trying to find some excuse for taking away our rights, I would hesitate to tell people to seek help if they are having “anxiety”. I believe any anxiety will fade with time, while your “mental record” is now government knowledge under Obamacare.

    • That may be only if you get help while on Obamacare. Not everyone is. Most aren’t. Yet.

      • Doni

        When Obamacare first got started several years ago, all doctors had to have new software. I virtually never go to the doctors, but I was taking a sick friend to the doctor on a regular basis at that time. We had to give all of her information to them all over again, even though she had been going to this doctor for years. They told us the reason was so that all information would be accessible. All information now goes to the government. That is also the reason they now ask if there are guns in the home. May sound like a conspiracy theory, but I know what I was told in that doctor’s office.

  • “You are under no compulsion to divulge any information to anyone other than your attorney and police.” Please explain how is anyone under compulsion to tell a cop anything? They can ask, but the choice to answer is up to the person being asked. Just pointing out the obvious. Remember, whatever you can and will be used against you, so my advice is to politely decline answering questions other than who you are until you speak with your attorney. Just tell the police you will give full account, you just want to confer with an attorney. It’s your right to and it’s probably best that you do.

  • David Blakeman

    All of my experiences with the law was in the late sixty’s and early seventies. But I learned the four rules then. These have been some what modified for current times.

    If you shoot someone, remember these four things.

    1. When the police come. Stand still. DO NOT HAVE YOUR GUN IN YOUR HAND or within reach.
    2. Give your name. And say “I was in fear for my life. I want a Lawyer.”
    3. DO NOT! DO NOT! Talk with the police without a lawyer with you. Not one word.
    Just give your name & say. “I was in fear for my life. I want a lawyer.”
    Keep in mind. The police come after the fact. And they are going to try and find a way
    to put you away. You are the shooter.
    The Public Prosecutor will try to put you away, you are the shooter, and it will look
    good on his record. Your lawyer will be the only ally you will have.
    4. Just say “No Comment” to the news media. All they are looking for is a story, the more
    they can color it the better. Their job is to sell the NEWS. Remember “NO COMMENT”.
    Know your rights & use them

    • Steven

      If I even have to make that call, I intend to request the responding officers arrive as LOUDLY as possible so I know when to set the gun down (until they arrive, I may need to have it in case the attacker had friends.) Once they know where I am, and that I was forced to defend myself with a gun, the call will drop and I will speed dial my attorney. By the time the police arrive, the attorney will already know more than they do.

    • glm 3914

      I was in fear for my life, but I want an attorney to be present before I answer any questions….

    • Jeremiah Thompson

      #3a is rather horrible advice to give someone. What if there might be other shooters in the area? What if the badguy threw his stash or weapon into the bushes?

      There may be other vital pieces of extremely time sensitive evidence that you need to convey to the police which will in all likelihood make the difference in where you end up sleeping that night.

      Not to mention the fact that the more you cooperate with officers, the more favorable they will be towards you, and the higher an opinion they will hold for you word over others.

      Maintaining your right to remain silent is very often the worst thing you can do. Give officers the information they need which paints you in the best light, but don’t go getting verbal diarrhea.

      • www dot youtube dot com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

      • Jim Stabler

        Who cares whatsoever what the police think of you if you were well within your rights to defend yourself? The police don’t decide whether or not you will convicted, but they will try to use your words against you to convict you, the DA will take those words and try and send you to prison. You do want you want if ever put in this situation.

        • Further, who works for whom? Eventually, authority serves itself.

      • David Blakeman

        Like I said in the beginning, my experiences were in the late sixties and early seventies. In my brushes with the law at that time, they had only one thing on their minds, Bring in someone to put in jail, guilty or not someone has to go to jail. Because of this I served 60 days for something I did not have anything to do with. I was raised to respect the law and the police, but my experiences during this time proved to me that they were only out for themselves.

        Once they raided my home and took my legally owned pistol. When I went to the police department to recover my gun, they held me for 1 hour until the Feds got there saying that I had violated the 1968 gun act. When the Feds showed up, I proved that I was the legal owner of the legal gun. The gun was returned to me by the police, fully loaded, and I left the office, as I was making my way outside I field stripped the weapon and disposed of the ammo. As I stepped out the front door I was slammed up against the wall, and searched for a concealed weapon. But as I had stripped the gun and put the pieces in different pockets, also no ammo on me, I was not carrying a concealed weapon. By the way, the raid was thrown out of court as illegal, as they had no evidence of any wrong doing. Now days I am polite to the police and I do respect them. But if I ever have anything to do legally with them I will have a lawyer.

  • Cobrawing

    Good points all in the article and from those who have commented. The only thing I would add is consider the idea of prearranging for some kind of legal representation BEFORE an actual incident. There are services for us good guys out there like CCW Safe and USCCA. I personally have CCW Safe. I hope I never have to use it, but knowing that I have a professional legal advocate service that specializes in defending the good guys with firearms ahead of time makes a lot of sense. I carry their card with me at all times. We all spend many hundreds of dollars (thousands even) on our equipment. Well, spending a fraction of that amount yearly for good legal protection may well be the best piece of “equipment” you ever invested in!

    • Steven

      My CCW instructor advised everyone to select an attorney and have them on speed dial before carrying. He also advised requesting a medical exam for 2 reasons. As stated in the article, the hormones you are not accustomed to dealing with may actually warrant medical attention. Additionally, you are likely to be in custody until your attorney catches up with you, and the ER is more pleasant than a holding cell.

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    • G50AE

      Certainly much better “equipment” than a CCW Badge.

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  • Kenneth Aaron

    Thanks….! I would also say it is important to be the first to call. If anyone else does, the shooter is almost always approached as an aggressor. Not a defender.

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