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.

Recommended for You

The SIG SAUER P365 (model # 365-9-BXR3) may just be the subcompact 9mm against which all others will be judged. Compact

SIG P365 Review

James Tarr - October 31, 2018

The SIG SAUER P365 (model # 365-9-BXR3) may just be the subcompact 9mm against which all...

As you will learn in this detailed review, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 (manufacturer SKU # 180023) is an easy-racking, soft-shooting pistol. Compact

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 Review

James Tarr - November 06, 2018

As you will learn in this detailed review, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 (manufacturer...

Kahr's K9 9mm pistol is a quarter-century old, and to commemorate the milestone the company is producing a limited-edition 25th anniversary K9. Industry

Kahr 25th Anniversary K9

J. Scott Rupp - July 19, 2019

Kahr's K9 9mm pistol is a quarter-century old, and to commemorate the milestone the company is...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Dealing with Subcompacts

Dealing with Subcompacts

Jim and Rich cover the benefits and the challenges presented by very small pistols.

Teaching New Shooters

Teaching New Shooters

Julie Golob of Team Smith & Wesson guest stars, joining Jim and Scott for a discussion of how best to introduce new shooters to the sport.

Kyle Lamb and Eric Poole talk SIG pistols

Kyle Lamb and Eric Poole talk SIG pistols

G&A Editor Eric Poole and Viking Tacticals's Kyle Lamb talks about 2 new pistols from SIG Sauer and a Lipsey's Special of the P365.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

According to a recent report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a lawsuit against 2nd Amendment

Judge Postpones Oral Arguments to Stop California Microstamping Law

Handguns Online Staff - May 07, 2014

According to a recent report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a lawsuit...

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. 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...

In 1858 Beals invented and patented a spur-trigger, single-action, percussion revolver. The unique Revolvers

Remington Timeline: 1858 - Beals Revolver

Handguns Online Staff - September 09, 2016

In 1858 Beals invented and patented a spur-trigger, single-action, percussion revolver. The...

See More Stories

More Training

From arm position to thumb location, there are plenty of methods out there. Training

There's More Than One Way To Shoot A Gun

Richard Nance - December 27, 2018

From arm position to thumb location, there are plenty of methods out there.

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. 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...

The Hard Swing Drill will help you improve your draw speed and target transitions—along with reloading skills and sight picture and trigger control. Training

Hard Swing Drill

Josh Froelich - September 12, 2019

The Hard Swing Drill will help you improve your draw speed and target transitions—along with...

See More Training

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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