We live in a free land in which we enjoy many freedoms and rights. In the land of the free, we legally own guns and can use them to defend ourselves. So far, that sounds “wow,” doesn’t it? However, all rights have a flipside—responsibility. Acting irresponsibly when and after shooting an armed attacker in self-defense could land you in avoidable legal problems.
That’s why I will walk you through the 13 lethal mistakes to avoid during and after a self-defense shooting. Keep on reading our informative post to learn more.
When Is It Legal to Shoot in Self-defense?
Let’s start by looking at the circumstances under which the law allows you to shoot an attacker without retreating or evading. The law allows you to “stand your ground” and shoot if a criminal attacks your homes and threatens human life. The “castle doctrine,” which forty-six states have adopted, anchors this right.
Moreover, twenty-two states have expanded the castle doctrine to other locations, like your legally occupied business premises. However, all states restrict how you should carry and use your gun in public. We can summarize your right to shoot in self-defense under the following circumstances:
- A fatal attack was looming or in progress;
- The onslaught was illegal;
- You were defending your life and physical well-being;
- You shot to protect your sexual dignity and sanctity against rape;
- The shooting prevented a life-threatening attack from escalating;
- You directed your self-defense against an assailant only.
Now you know your constitutional rights. Let’s proceed and discuss some of the blunders that could jeopardize these rights.
Here Are the Deadly Self-defense Shooting Mistakes
So far, we have looked at what the law allows you to do. Here are the top blunders many Americans make during and after a self-defense shooting.
1. Playing Vigilantism
Playing vigilantism is a fatal blunder. Some gun owners take their right to protect their lives and those of their beloved ones too far. For example, they assume that their right to conduct “citizen arrests” allows them to hunt down fleeing assailants in public.
Unfortunately, shooting a fleeing criminal in public could land you a murder trial and a possible jail sentence. Having the time to pursue the fleeing criminal means they were not threatening your life. Remember, you aren’t a police officer mandated to pursue and arrest criminals. Any such move amounts to vigilantism.
Wisdom dictates that violent crime should find you but don’t look for it. If armed criminals attack you or your home, you may stand your ground and shoot. Otherwise, reckless hooting could amount to the proverbially “shooting yourself in the foot!”
2. Shooting Without a Reasonable Ground
Shooting in self-defense without a reasonable ground is another mistake you should avoid. Even if a person is committing a violent crime before you, the law doesn’t automatically allow you to shoot them.
Rushing to pull the trigger could land you in trouble with the law. You have to provide what the law calls a reasonable ground to shoot. Legally, you must prove the following conditions to have a legally acceptable reasonable ground:
- Ability: The attacker could kill or cause bodily injury to you or the nearby person/s;
- Opportunity: The assailant had a real opportunity to kill/harm you or those around you;
- Manifest intent: The attacker’s actions or words clearly and reasonably proved they intended to kill or inflict physical harm on you or the people next to you;
- Preclusion: Shooting was the only reasonable last resort for protecting yourself or/and those around you from possible murder or bodily harm.
3. Shooting to Protect the Wrong Object
I already showed you that the law allows you to shoot a criminal to protect your life. Protecting your home (and business premise in some states) is the only other reasonable ground for shooting in self-defense.
However, you risk arrest and facing murder charges if you shoot a criminal for taking off with movable property. For example, if a criminal drives away with your car, you can’t shoot them. This provision also means that you may only shoot outside your home to protect human life, period.
4. Failing or Delaying to Report the Shooting
Failing or delaying to report a self-defense shooting is another deadly blunder that could land you in legal trouble. The reason is that someone else will report the matter to the police before you do. Unfortunately, the police arrive to act on the version of the story they heard and not what you know happened.
Remember, someone malicious could use the shooting incident to set you up for trouble. So, always be the first to report the accurate version of events. If you can’t, tell a trusted friend or family member to do it for you.
5. Talking to the Police While Panicking
Many people involved in self-defense shootings rush to call the police while still in a panic mode. Some assume they could get the police to sympathize with them. While some police officers may sympathize with you (but you don’t know which ones!), always avoid this trap. Why? Because most likely, you might say things you would regret later.
It’s no wonder legal experts caution against this reaction because you might talk too much or the wrong things. Results? Panic talk could land you in trouble because the police could use it against you!
At this time, you aren’t as fine as you may seem because you’re still traumatized. It’s no wonder many people get so traumatized that they can’t even remember the exact street they were on during the shooting. So, before talking, take enough time to:
- Sleep if the shooting happens at night;
- Rest and relax;
- Take a deep breath;
- Decompress your mind.
When calling the police, be brief enough to identify yourself as the victim. You may also identify any relevant pieces of evidence at the shooting scene.
6. Recording a Police Statement Before Consulting Your Attorney
Rushing to record a statement before consulting your lawyer is a deadly mistake you should avoid. When the police arrive at the scene, be very “economical” with your words because they could backfire on you. Don’t say or do much except the following:
- Show the police the gun you used to defend your endangered life or that of your loved ones;
- Tell the police that you’re still traumatized and wouldn’t love to talk much before consulting your attorney;
- Assure them that you are willing to cooperate with the investigations fully.
7. Leaving the Shooting Scene Before the Police Arrive
Never leave the shooting scene unless your life is in danger. Otherwise, the police could misinterpret your flight to mean you are guilty when you are the victim. So, don’t let your adrenaline or raw emotions dictate your moves. Instead, assess the situation using reason before making any move.
8. Holding Your Gun Before the Police
Did you shoot someone to defend your life? Safely put away your gun because the police will arrive at the shooting scene expecting to meet an armed citizen. On arrival, they won’t know who the criminal or “saint” is.
Remember, the police are human and still have a right to defend their lives too! Thus, their human instinct makes them perceive any gun-tottering civilian as a threat to their lives. So, stay smart and safe by keeping your gun away.
9. Assuming That Every Police Officer Is Your Friend or Foe
Are police officers your friends or foes? It’s hard to answer “yes” or “no” unless you are referring to an individual officer based on their actions or clear intentions. So, it’s smart to approach them as neutral law enforcers until you prove them otherwise.
Assuming the officers are your friends could tempt you to talk too much, expecting to win their sympathy. Inversely, don’t take them for your enemies and show resistance or a negative attitude. Just be smart enough to balance how you address them based on what we discussed in mistake number six.
10. Moving or Tampering With the Evidence
I know your human instinct could tempt you to clean up the messy shooting scene. Unfortunately, this reaction could be counterproductive. The rule of thumb is: leave everything where it’s and the way it’s. Also, advise your loved ones to do the same.
11. Lecturing the Police on Legal or Human Rights Matters
Never engage belligerency or superiority when dealing with the police. They are still humans in uniforms who won’t tolerate anyone challenging or belittling their intelligence and authority. Even if they act or speak wrongly, never lecture them on what “the law says about your rights.” Just leave everything to your defense team to challenge them in court. After all, the courts and not the police, have the final say over your case.
12. Explaining or Justifying Yourself Before the Police
Never plead your innocence before the police, no matter how pressured you feel you must. These uniformed guys have handled similar cases many times over. Therefore, they know how to provoke you into spilling the beans they want.
For example, they may challenge your use of deadly force in self-defense. And if they do, keep silent. Don’t forget that you’re dealing with strangers you can’t accurately categorize as your friends or enemies. So, enjoy your constitutional right to silence, as the 5th Amendment enshrines.
13. Failing to “Sir” or “Madam” the Police
This mistake might not look that deadly because no law compels you to avoid it. However, avoid it to your own advantage. Do you remember mistake number 11? The police are people in authority, and it’s prudent to understand “authority psychology.”
Simple “yes sir” or “no madam” responses can soothe and massage the police ego. Can you imagine how you feel when your juniors call you “boss” or “sir?” The police also feel that way when you (even if you don’t mean it!) address them as “sir” and “madam.”
There you go with the 13 most deadly mistakes to avoid during and after a self-defense shooting. I hope they have opened your eyes to know how to respond more responsibly to life-threatening situations. The ball is in your court to avoid them whenever you must defend yourself or loved ones by shooting. Happy holidays and a peaceful 2021 free from all gunshots!