Skip to main content

Could Self-Defense Send You to Prison?

Could Self-Defense Send You to Prison?

You've just been involved in a shooting. Justified or not, your life is changed forever.

Editor's note: The following is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. For legal advice, consult your attorney.

As producer of Personal Defense TV, I'm fortunate to be involved in a lot of training in preparation for a personal defense encounter. Situational awareness, avoidance, threat levels, front sight, press--all are key elements in avoiding, deescalating or winning an attempted attack.


This past season, while training with Marty and Gila Hayes at Firearms Academy of Seattle, I was reminded that there's another very important component to successful personal defense, and that's being prepared for what happens to you legally after being involved in a personal defense shooting.


Do you have any idea what will happen once the police arrive after you've defended yourself?

I wouldn't go so far as to say I had an epiphany on the subject; after all, legally armed citizens should have some awareness that if they're involved in any kind of shooting there will be an investigation. But after speaking with Marty and Gila, the indicator light came on in my head warning me that I really had no clue as to how precarious the legal landscape can be after a personal defense shooting.

Marty and Gila recognized the importance of educating armed citizens to the legal aftermath and formed the Armed Citizens' Legal Defense Network. The Network consists of like-minded armed citizens across the nation with a goal to educate members about the legalities of using deadly force for personal defense and how to interact with the legal system after a shooting.


A significant benefit of the Network is an inner network of attorneys and legal experts with experience in defending personal defense cases. Members also have potential eligibility for financial assistance if facing unmeritorious prosecution after a personal defense incident.


The Network reminded me a lot of a legal assistance benefit I had with a previous employer. There, employees paid a monthly fee and in return got assistance with such things as attorney referral, will preparation and adoption. Similarly with the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, members pay an annual fee and in return get an informational DVD set on the legal parameters governing deadly force, interaction with law enforcement after a shooting, and how attorneys mount a legal defense of one involved in a personal defense shooting.

Further, Network members can access a list of affiliated attorneys in their area who have access to the Network's court-recognized legal experts in the area of personal defense. Member's attorneys have access to case review and consultation about defense strategies and members are also eligible to request financial assistance to defray legal costs.

Justified or not, Castle Doctrine or not, you will have to deal with the legal system after a shooting incident.

I posted about the Armed Citizens' Legal Defense Network on the Guns & Ammo forum, and online users came back with some interesting points. Primary was the assumption that because their state had a "Castle Doctrine" (CD), they would be immune to any criminal charges after a rightful shooting. When asked about that, Marty pointed out some flaws in that assumption, not the least of which is that CD varies from state to state, and you have to be completely familiar with the one in your state. Furthermore, you also need to be familiar with your state's case law, as while you might not run afoul of your CD today, you might be against case law tomorrow.

Online users also played the CD card when it came to any civil lawsuits after a justified shooting. Again, Marty pointed out something that really concerns me. Depending on how your state's CD is written, you may not be protected from a civil suit. For instance, say your state prosecuting attorney decides it was a totally justified shooting or that there's not enough evidence to go to court. In that case, CD was never applied, so you may still be subject to a civil suit.

Another important point online users brought up was concern that by being a member of the Armed Citizens' Legal Defense Network, it could be perceived as some sort of "premeditation" of wanting to be involved in a shooting. I personally don't think that good education or training is ever a bad thing, and as Marty told me, taking a class or joining a group is no more premeditative than legally carrying your gun loaded.

Whether you keep a gun at your bedside, near the cash register in your store, or on your hip as you go about your business, it's important to get the training so you know how to use it effectively and safely if you ever need to. Beyond that, I believe it's your responsibility as an armed citizen to know the laws in your state about lethal force, and to know what can happen to you after a justified shooting. To that end, I truly believe the Armed Citizens' Legal Defense Network is a great place to start. Even if you never need to call on it for help, the Network will connect you with like-minded gun owners and legal experts.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Pistol Skills Drills - Hardball

Pistol Skills Drills - Hardball's Headache

The Hardball's Headache pistol drill is very similar to the El Presidente drill with a higher level of difficulty due to two added twists.

KelTec CMR30 22WMR Review - Compact, Versatile & Fun to Shoot

KelTec CMR30 22WMR Review - Compact, Versatile & Fun to Shoot

Designed for lightweight, low recoil accuracy, the CMR30 .22 WMR features a nice, single-action trigger, ambidextrous dual non-reciprocating operating handles, ambidextrous safety and heel catch magazine release. The KelTec CMR30 is a .22 Magnum carbine that holds 30 rounds in each of its two flush-fit magazines. That's a lot of firepower for a 3.8-pound, semi-auto, collapsible truck gun. It comes out of the box as you see it, including Magpul sights and ambidextrous, non-reciprocating dual operating handles. She's a straight blow-back tack driver that delivers a ton of fun.

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

Speer's Jared Hinton shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun load.

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

If you're in the market for a 17-round, compact .22LR pistol that's feature packed, then the P17 is definitely an option for you.KelTec P17 22LR Pistol – Feature Packed, Accurate & Fun to Shoot Rimfire

KelTec P17 22LR Pistol – Feature Packed, Accurate & Fun to Shoot

Handguns Staff - August 14, 2020

If you're in the market for a 17-round, compact .22LR pistol that's feature packed, then the...

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most parts in just minutes.
Instead, the curtain-rod engineer with a8 Popular Drop-In Glock Mods Accessories

8 Popular Drop-In Glock Mods

Dusty Gibson - July 17, 2013

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most...

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhatPro Tips For Controlling Recoil Training

Pro Tips For Controlling Recoil

Richard Nance - April 11, 2017

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols.10 Cheap Guns Under $250 Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

See More Trending Articles

More Training

Vicker's Leatham Drill is great for good shooters to do after some time away from the range or from a particular gun to reacquaint themselves with the trigger. Handgun Skill Drill: Vicker's Leatham Drill Training

Handgun Skill Drill: Vicker's Leatham Drill

Eve Flanigan - July 19, 2018

Vicker's Leatham Drill is great for good shooters to do after some time away from the range or...

When training with your concealed carry gun, train for how you conduct your daily life.Concealed Carry Training: Practice for Your Reality Training

Concealed Carry Training: Practice for Your Reality

Richard Nance - November 13, 2020

When training with your concealed carry gun, train for how you conduct your daily life.

Dry fire training is a great way to keep your skills sharp.Dry Fire Training Training

Dry Fire Training

Richard Nance - September 18, 2019

Dry fire training is a great way to keep your skills sharp.

The Keepers' Test comes to us from Spencer Keepers of Keepers Concealment Holsters, and it's all about draw speed from concealment and pinpoint accuracy.Shooting Drills – Keepers' Test Training

Shooting Drills – Keepers' Test

J. Scott Rupp - January 30, 2020

The Keepers' Test comes to us from Spencer Keepers of Keepers Concealment Holsters, and it's...

See More Training

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now