Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Some Legal Considerations For After A Self-Defense Incident

I'm currently representing a client in a self-defense case where he succeeded in defending himself in an incident but is now being charged by the prosecutor with felonious assault with a firearm, a 4-year felony. He did not discharge his firearm during the incident.

Without discussing the case further, as it is pending, and while it is a self-defense case, it has some "he said - he said" and conflicting witness accounts with grey areas that certainly let the prosecutor bring charges.

So Here's some Important Things to keep in mind in a self-defense incident:

1. Expect To Be Arrested.
You may have done it right, but the police and prosecutor may not agree or not even care to know at the time. My client had been arrested on the weekend, after the incident, and got to spend a night in jail as there was no judge available for Sunday arraignments. He did get a phone call, and he used it to contact me which was good. He also cooperated completely with the police and jail staff during his arrest and jail stay. This is important - don't do anything to increase any charges against you or make a court reluctant to grant you bail by acting out when under arrest. Instead, continue to behave as a law-abiding citizen at all times. Yes, it sucks, don't make it worse.

2. Have Bail Money.
At the arraignment, I was able to get the judge to see my client's perspective concerning the incident and presented an outline of the evidence to set the stage for it being a self-defense case. This was good and the judge actually told my client to thank me as based on the prosecutor's urging and the public defender, who I replaced at the arraignment, he was going to set bail at $50,000 (which my client did not have). But instead, based on my lawyering, he set it at a $2,000 / 10% down bond, meaning my client had to come up with $200 to get out of jail.
In short I did a nice job.

The problem was, my client didn't have $200 on him, nor did his family member who came to pick him up. This led to some interesting moments but it got worked out. Make sure whoever is coming to pick you up has money available for bail. Instead of buying your umpteenth firearm, have some money set aside in an envelope that your family member or trusted friend can get to for these ugly occasions. While item 3 below may help with bond, it can take time to get that arranged, so having cash easily available beats sitting in jail waiting to get bailed out. Trust me, you don't want to stay in jail any longer than you have to.

3. Concealed Carry Insurance Is Highly Recommended.
Good lawyers are not cheap, bail money isn't cheap, potential expert witnesses aren't cheap. The judicial process in a felony charge situation is not cheap. Having Concealed Carry Insurance is a darn good idea. I can say that the client has USCCA insurance and the USCAA is really stepping up and providing coverage for him which is vital. I have no experience as an attorney with other insurance programs for CPL holders, but based on my interactions with USCCA in this and prior incidents for clients, I can say their personnel, including their legal staff, are extremely responsive, on the ball, and do step in to get their member help. USCCA does get a retainer to the representing attorney, fast. Unless you have $5k-10k lying around just for a retainer for a felony case, you will want insurance, and an insurance program that pays up front.

4. Please be the one to call (or have someone on your side call) the police immediately and report the incident.
While no lawyer wants you making voluminous off-the-cuff statements where you may unknowingly be implicating yourself, any time you draw your firearm to protect yourself you're in a race to the phone. Not contacting the police immediately afterwards is very much not helpful. It is sufficient to state in the call that you were attacked; the attacker went that-away; you used a firearm to protect yourself; and you will happily stay where you are and wait for the police to arrive so you can report the incident (assuming that's safe to do, otherwise state you will drive or otherwise go direct to the police station); and yes, you do want to press charges if they catch the attacker.

Drawing your gun and preventing the attack is only the first stage in the encounter, winning the race to the phone is the next stage. Yes, bad guys do lie, call the police, and claim they're the victim and demand charges against you. It happens in real life.

5. Expect Not To Be Allowed To Own Firearms While The Case is Pending.
Most release terms for felony charges will include no alcohol, no drugs, and no possession of firearms. It's not a bad idea to have someone you can trust be ready to take possession of your firearms in such a situation.

In short, unless your self-defense incident was absolutely crystal clear, your protecting yourself and prevailing in the face of a violent attack is just the beginning.


Chuck Pergiel said...

I think you can delete "unless your self-defense incident was absolutely crystal clear" from your last line. Not everyone is blessed with crystal clear vision.

Aaron said...

Chuck: I've known of a few incidents where the self-defense facts were solid enough no criminal charges against the defender were pursued and it was crystal clear enough to the Prosecutor and police that no charges would occur as it was a clear case of self defense.

Beans said...

Aaron, there have been cases where, initially, all charges are dropped against the Self-Defense Artist. And then, mysteriously, some prosecutor will file charges...

Always expect the unexpected in a self-defense case. Always.

Unknown said...

This is a good post. Having monies earmarked for bail is something I hadn't thought of. So, on that point alone, this posting is good. And, as written by a self-defense attorney it avoids the FUD.


MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Aaron;

That was a very good post, and thank you. I have also heard that you don't have diarrhea of the mouth with the Police, you let the lawyer do the talking because of the Adrenalin of the moment, you might inadvertently give the police a wrong impression and some jail time.