Police Officers Aren’t Lawyers

I must confess that I made a poor decision last night. Needless to say I’m not proud of myself. Although I would like to blame a shortage of newsworthy events to write about that is hardly an excuse. Last night I broke down and visited the Star Tribune’s opinion section, which is known to have some of the lowest hanging fruit in existence.

Not surprisingly I found something stupid. This stupidity comes in the form of mistaking police for lawyers. The author, after running down and tackling a woman who broke into his home, called the police. After they took the suspect into custody the author asked what they could do to prevent future burglaries:

In stunned amazement, we asked the police what we could do to prevent future burglaries. A friendly female cop replied: “You can either get a burglar alarm or a gun …. But if you get a gun, shoot to kill, because the wounded, breathing burglar will claim, ‘I was just looking for a warm place to sleep for the night.’ And you, sir, will be charged with attempted manslaughter.”

You know what that was? Really shitty advice, that’s what. If you’ve taken a Minnesota permit to carry class (which I’m betting most of my readers have) the legalities of self-defense were likely explained to you (and if they weren’t your instructor sucked). You don’t shoot to kill, you shoot to stop. It doesn’t matter if the aggressor is dead or just incapacitated. Once the threat of immediate death or great bodily harm is no longer present you stop using deadly force. Any lawyer versed in Minnesota’s self-defense laws will tell you this. And this is why you ask lawyers for legal advice not people who have a badge that allows them to break the law without consequence.

The author goes on to point out that Byron Smith followed the officer’s advice:

Byron Smith did what the cops recommended, except that he also produced evidence against himself with the tape recordings. Was this self-incrimination?

Byron Smith isn’t in prison because he produced evidence against himself. He’s in prison because he followed the officer’s advice. In other words, Smith’s case is proof that the officer’s advice was shitty. If the author asked a lawyer he would have been informed that shooting home invaders to the point of incapacitation, dragging their bodies to another part of the house, and finishing them off is not allowed under Minnesota’s self-defense laws (nor, in my opinion, is it allowed under common decency).

So we’ve learned to valuable lesson today: don’t go to the Star Tribune’s opinion section and don’t ask a police officer for legal advice.