In the movies, when an innocent homeowner shoots an intruder or the good guy prevents the bad guy from harming his victim, there's one thing that you don't often see – the homeowner or hero being led away in handcuffs by the police. But in real life, there's a very real possibility that you could be arrested for shooting someone in self-defense, either at the scene or at some later point, especially if the circumstances aren't as clear to the police as they are to you. Sure, you have the right to defend yourself, but you might need to prove that defending yourself is what you were doing. Take a look at some things that you can do to protect yourself and your rights should you ever be involved in a self-defense shooting.
Know Your State Laws
First thing's first – before you bring a gun into your home for self-defense, make sure that you check the laws in your state concerning legal gun ownership in your area. Some states, like Hawaii, require all firearms to be registered; others, like New York, require only some firearms, like handguns, to be registered. If you're a new resident in California or Maryland, you'll need to report any firearms you brought with you. Making sure that you're following the legal requirements for gun ownership in your state is important – otherwise, you could end up being arrested for illegally possessing a firearm, even if your use of it was justified.
You'll also want to look up your state's self-defense laws. Chances are that you've heard of Stand Your Ground laws, and the surrounding controversies. Stand your Ground laws remove your duty to retreat – basically, that means that even if you can avoid violence by leaving the area, you don't have to do that. In some states, Stand Your Ground applies only in cases where you use non-lethal means to defend yourself, in others, Stand Your Ground includes lethal measures. In states with these laws, you have a very good chance of avoiding trial if you claim self-defense. Other states have what's known as the Castle Doctrine, which is similar to Stand Your Ground in that you are not required to retreat, but the Castle Doctrine applies only to your own property, so you're not as protected when if you're defending yourself on the sidewalk.
To be clear, self-defense is a right that you always have when you reasonably believe that you're being threatened. Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws help protect you from prosecution, but even in a state that doesn't have these laws, you can still defend yourself – you just may need to make your case to the court.
Once You're Out of Danger, Disarm Yourself
You have a legal firearm, and you know your rights. Now, what do you do to protect yourself once you actually have to use a gun to defend yourself? First of all, as soon as the intruder is subdued and it's safe to do so, put down your weapon.
This is important because police responding to the scene will be walking into unknown territory. They don't know who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. Remember that even if you have not yet called the police, they may be responding to a report of shots being fired. It's safer for you if you're not holding a gun when they arrive on the scene – they could assume that you're the intruder or attacker. If you are still holding your weapon when the police arrive, follow their instructions to the letter and don't make sudden movements. You don't want to be mistaken for an armed attacker.
Avoid Moving the Evidence or Leaving the Scene
Most people don't have to defend themselves every day, and when it does happen, it's easy to panic. You may feel the urge to clean up – especially if you're in your own home – or your fear response might compel you to get as far away from the scene as possible. However, both of these are bad moves.
The police will need to make sure that the evidence lines up with your explanation of what happened. If you move or clean anything, or if you run away, you're liable to look less like a victim and more like a suspect trying to hide something. Leave the evidence where it is, stay put if it's safe to do so, and let the scene back up your story of the shooting.
Finally, before you give a statement to the police, contact a defense attorney. You may or may not be arrested – either way, you should be polite and cooperative with the police. However, when you talk to them without legal representation, you give up some of your rights, and what you say may be used against you later if they have any reason to doubt your story. A defense attorney will understand the legal process of a self-defense case and can help guide you through it while ensuring that your rights are protected.
Visit a site like http://www.jdlarsonlaw.com for more information.