So, you were attacked and you shot someone to defend yourself. Fair enough. But what happens after that? Will you automatically be let off scot-free if you tell the police everything you can think of to say the minute they arrive? Also, will you be in full control of your faculties when talking to the police?
Well, the answer to these queries is “maybe, but quite possibly not.” Here’s why.
First, You’ll Be a Wreck
The media—both news and entertainment—does a very poor job of depicting what it’s actually like to have to shoot someone in self-defense. For the vast majority of people, it’s tremendously emotional and upsetting all on its own. Add in the tremendous adrenaline response and its aftermath, and chances are very good that you’ll be an emotional wreck for quite some time afterwards. This is not a great time to be answering questions that could affect you for the rest of your life.
Second, Your Perceptions Will Be Off
That adrenaline response we mentioned above can and does alter your perception of the passage of time, any physical damage you may have sustained, other things that were going on at the time, and so on. It’s called “tachy psyche,” and it happens to trained professionals as well as civilians. For example, some defensive shooters don’t realize that their gun actually fired every time they pulled the trigger since the adrenaline kept them from feeling the recoil or hearing the report. This can result in the shooter emptying out his or her magazine without realizing it.
Third, The Burden Of Proof Will Be On You
If you kill someone while defending yourself against a criminal attack, that’s called “justifiable homicide.” What makes it different from any other situation is that you’re admitting right out of the gate that you committed homicide—you’re just saying that you had a legally defensible reason to do it. This shifts the burden of proof from the state—where it normally is—to you.
Fourth, Your Words Will Be Used Against You
Although police procedural TV shows have a lot to answer for in terms of promoting misperceptions of defensive gun use, they do get one thing right: “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” This includes things you say that you don’t really mean because you’re upset (“He had it coming”), things you say that aren’t accurate because you genuinely don’t know better thanks to tachy psyche (“I only fired twice, not all seven rounds”), and things you probably shouldn’t say with a mouth you also use to kiss your mom (“@#!%^!”).
Finally, Who You Should Talk To First
So what’s the takeaway for you, the law-abiding citizen? If, God forbid, you ever have to use your gun to defend yourself, first call the police. Then call your attorney. When the police arrive, be polite and let them know that you will cooperate with them, but that you’re very upset and would like to calm down and confer with your lawyer before you do so.
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