In the world of carry there are always two or more schools of thought on each subject. Right now I want to talk about the two schools of though pertaining to the potential court case after a self defense shooting. It seems to me not enough people take this into consideration. Everybody can talk ages about what type of ammunition is best, what is the best carry gun, what is the best holster, but very seldom do I hear a conversation about what are the best practices to avoid getting yourself thrown in jail afterwards.
The two schools of thought are generally those who believe worrying about a court case isn’t something you should waste time at. The idea is in a self defense situation you do anything you have to do in order to preserve you life regardless of the legalities and potential court case afterwards. The other school of thought is to based almost everything you do on what would reflect best in a court case.
I’m certainly of the second school of thought. I avoid carrying reloaded ammunition because a lawyer could jump on that, I don’t make any non-factory approved trigger modifications to a carry gun, etc. So I’m going to talk a little bit about such things and why I think what I think.
First of all let’s talk about carrying reloaded ammunition. I’ve not heard of a court case where somebody has been nailed to the wall for carrying reloaded ammunition but it certainly is something that could be used. The idea is a prosecutor could say you intended to kill your target by loading specially craft ammunition that exceed the performance capabilities of commercial ammunition. It’s stupid but then again prosecutors live to my the jury feel resent towards the accused. The best defense you can have is ask what you local police department use and use it. At least that way if the persecutor asks you why you carry what you carry you can clearly state because that’s what the police department carries. More or less carrying commercial self defense ammunition is an easy way to avoid a potential avenue of attack.
Next up trigger. This argument has been used before in court to prosecute people. See many people like to do trigger work on their guns to make the trigger lighter. This is especially common when the person learned to shoot on a single action platform like the 1911 where the trigger weight is very light. There is nothing wrong with wanting a lighter trigger, unless you’re sitting in court. Prosecutors love to nail people to the wall for whatever they can get. They might not be able to say you murdered a person but they certainly can say you made a mistake and get you with a manslaughter charge. The mistake? Accidentally pulling the trigger. In a stress situation fine motor skills go out the door. You become less aware of things. The prosecutor’s idea here is that your trigger was so light that you pulled it without realizing it while aiming at the attacker, thus firing accidentally. To further add frustration to the case the prosecutor can bring in an engineer from the pistol manufacturer who will state they advise against having such a light trigger. For instance Glock clearly states that their 3.5 pound connector is for competition and target use only (Although I think they make an exception if you pair it with a NY1 spring). The only trigger modification you should make to a carry gun are ones approved by the factory for defensive uses. Likewise if you carry a revolver carry one that is double action online. You don’t want to allow the prosecutor to claim you pulled the hammer back setting the stage for a negligent shooting.
Next potential legal battlefield you could be facing is around your caliber. A poor Arizona man was nailed this way because he was carrying a 10mm. The charge was crap but the prosecutor was able to connivence the jury the accused intended to kill and that is the only reason he carried such a powerful round. My advice to to carry a round that some police department has issue. 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 Auto, .38 Special, .357 magnum, and .357 SIG would all be safe choices.
What else do you have to watch out for? What you post online. Make no mistake nothing you post online is private. A smart prosecution team will do searches on your names and try to find websites you visit and post on. If they find a Facebook posting made by you stating something like, “I plan to kill anybody who attacks me” rest assured they will use it against you. Be careful with your words online. What you may think is harmless could come back and bite you in the ass later. Never advocate violence against somebody. If somebody asks for ideas on the best caliber to kill an attacker don’t post a reply. Make it clear that in a self defense situation you want to stop the attacker, not kill them. Just remember there is nothing confidential on the Internet.
A way to help yourself out in court is how you hand a self defense situation. Don’t risk your life for this but if there is any possibility loudly (Yelling voice here) tell your attacker to back off. Why? Because this way you will most likely attract the gaze of anybody around which means witnesses. The more witnesses your have the better in this case. They can come before the court and say you told the attacker to back off, drop their weapon, get away, whatever. In other words you attempted to resolve the situation without resorting to legal force. This is just something to help you out.
Finally have the name and number of a lawyer who has knowledge in the field of self defense shooting. Of course establish a dialog with the lawyer first so they know who you are. Not knowing who to call after a self defense situation is not a good thing. You should know who you are going to call beforehand.
So don’t just plan for a self defense situation, also plan for the aftermath. The court case could very well be worse than the self defense situation itself if you get tossed in prison for the remainder of your life.