The Aftermath Of A Self-Defense Shooting
It’s all well and good to discuss guns, shooting techniques, concealed carry and so on, but what happens after a self defense shooting? What does the aftermath look like?
Well, it’s partially impossible to say. Every circumstance is different, so Instance A will be drastically different from Instance B. However, there will be a certain progression of events after the shooting that are common enough for a person to be able to get the general idea.
With that said, much of the aftermath depends upon the legal system. This isn’t intended to be legal advice in any way, shape or form, so don’t take it as such. Consult your state’s laws to learn the pertinent laws of your state and with qualified legal professionals for legal advice.
There are certain things that you should do in the wake of a defensive gun use and a certain process that will unfold. Here’s how that will work.
The 911 Call
The first thing you should do in the wake of a defensive shooting is call 911, if you hadn’t prior to that point. Alert the authorities to what happened and wait for them to arrive. When they’ll arrive depends entirely on response times and availability, but usually will only take a few minutes.
There are some best practices when comes to speaking to dispatch. Most importantly, stick to the facts. The line is recorded, so anything you say to them can (and/or will) be used later. Only state that what has happened, your name and location.
Interacting With Law Enforcement After A Self-Defense Shooting
After a self-defense shooting, you will be interacting with law enforcement. There are a few things to know.
Call the police right away, no matter what happens. If you shoot someone and they run away, you need to call 911 immediately. If you draw your gun and they run away, you need to call 911 immediately. If you shoot a home intruder and they are clearly dead, you need to call 911.
This is important. If your assailant is scared off or merely wounded, calling police first puts the narrative in your control. Police investigators are not omnipotent. They aren’t supernatural beings from the fifth dimension who are aware of all events in all timelines. They are humans and they can only work with the information they are given and first impressions are critical.
Therefore, it is imperative that the first impression they get, the first information they get, is from you.
As law enforcement arrives, they will need to know they are safe.
While waiting for authorities to arrive, you’ll want to disarm. Put your concealed carry gun back in your holster, place it in a gun safe or lay it on the ground. When police arrive, they don’t know who is who; people have been shot by police while they were holding a gun on a downed home invader.
Make sure to keep your hands where they can be seen and do not make sudden movements. Be calm, above all else. Take a breath, sit down, do whatever you can to achieve a more rational state. Obviously, that must not involve drugs or alcohol.
Try not to move or tamper with anything, as you don’t know what will be taken into evidence.
When officers arrive, they’ll take control of the scene. Anyone needing medical attention will likely be put in an ambulance and so on. You may be placed in handcuffs; don’t protest or fight it as that will not likely come to good. At this point, they’ll want to make sense of what happened and begin the investigative process.
Police Field Interviews
As control of the scene is established, the next step after a defensive shooting will be police field interviews after the self-defense shooting. It may be conducted by uniform officers, but will more likely be conducted by a supervisor, a detective or the county sheriff. Supervisory personnel will be there to ensure that the investigation is conducted properly, so don’t be intimidated.
Your concealed carry gun may be taken into evidence.
It depends heavily on the jurisdiction just what sort of personnel will be there, as not every police department has multiple detectives like a large urban police department. It may just be one or two uniform officers.
In some jurisdictions, a field interview after a defensive shooting may be conducted by the Assistant District Attorney or – in a small enough jurisdiction – the District Attorney themselves.
It is prudent to cooperate, but it is also advisable to decline to answer any questions until legal representation is present. At this point, you’ll want to call an attorney to represent you in the matter. Be as polite as humanly possible, but make sure that you don’t try to justify your actions to everyone that speaks to you. Police opinions are taken into account by district attorneys, but ultimately it is the DA that will decide whether or not to file charges.
During this process, you will likely feel more psychological stress than at any other time in your life. You could easily misportray events in interviews or misremember them. Having an attorney present not only guarantees that the correct legal procedures are being observed, but can also serve as a check against very real fears that you may have.
At this point, you may or may not be taken into custody for further questioning. The decision to do so depends on the police.
There is a possibility that you will be detained for questioning. This isn’t a sign that you are believed to be guilty; this is a formal process where an investigation has to be conducted, which includes questioning by investigators.
Make sure to have an attorney present. Again, ask to have an attorney present before you are detained. If you are taken into custody prior to calling an attorney, state early and often that you wish to have representation present for any questioning.
The process up to this point will usually take place inside of the first 48 hours after the incident, though it may be longer. That 48 hours doesn’t necessarily include evenings and weekends; you may be held during that time.
Again, this time is likely to be very stressful, even after enduring the stress of a home invasion or vicious assault. Do your best to keep calm. Remember that you are innocent; the police just haven’t learned it yet and are just doing their job. Yours is to communicate the facts in collaboration with your lawyer.
After the interviews are concluded, the next step resides with the district attorney’s office.
The police will make their findings known to the district attorney and give the DA their opinions on the defensive shooting that has occurred. The DA will then decide whether or not to pursue charges.
That determination may not be made for days or even weeks after a defensive shooting. You may be interviewed again if there is a point that needs to be clarified before a decision is made. Have an attorney present during any subsequent questioning. Again, be polite and cooperative but also make sure to have representation.
The district attorney will ultimately decide to file charges or not to file charges. If no charges are to be filed, you will then be free to go and the incident will be concluded as far as any criminal suits are concerned. You may, however, face a civil suit over the incident.
Civil suits can be for pain and damages or even wrongful death, if you killed an assailant or home invader. The legal standards for civil trials and criminal trials are totally different, so the fact that no criminal charges were filed will not grant you civil immunity, except for certain states where a Stand Your Ground or Castle Doctrine law grants immunity from civil suit to people who shoot in defense of themselves or others.
However, if the DA elects to file charges, you will then face arrest and arraignment for the crime and ultimately go through the trial process.
The Trial Process
Criminal trials do not happen overnight. It is a lengthy process and typically very expensive.
You will be notified of the prosecuting attorney’s intentions to pursue a criminal case. Charges will be filed either by a bill of information or via grand jury indictment. In the former instance, a criminal suit is entered into the court system and a trial begins. In the latter, the prosecutor submits evidence to a body of 12 to 24 grand jurors, people drawn from the community at large. They may subpoena witnesses to hear testimony before delivering a verdict. Typically, grand juries have 23 members, 12 of whom must agree that a good case exists (which is a voting majority; 12 being more than 50 percent of 23) otherwise known as a “true bill.”
If the grand jury returns a true bill, then the trial process begins. If not, the accused is free to go.
The accused is arrested, arraigned and a plea entered. At this point, a bail arrangement may also be made. If you can arrange for bail, you may be free until your trial date.
The defense may request a courtroom trial (meaning decided by the judge) rather than a jury trial. If the trial is to be by jury, a selection will be made from the available jury pool (a process called “voir dire) ahead of the trial itself. After all preliminary hearings and jury selection have concluded, the criminal trial begins.
If convicted of a crime, the defendant is remanded into custody if they had been freed on bail. Additional bail can granted during the pre-sentencing period, but if not granted or secured then the defendant remains in custody until the sentence is passed. After sentencing, the accused can either be given a date to surrender themselves to begin serving the sentence or is taken to prison right away.
The appeals process can begin as soon as a verdict has been reached at trial, though there are a number of deadlines and procedures required in making an appeal.
The trial process can take a very long time, depending on the nature and severity of the offense. It isn’t unheard of for the process to last a year before the trial concludes.
Civil trials don’t involve arrests, but may involve a jury. There will be preliminary hearings and then a courtroom trial. The judge – or jury, if a civil jury is called for – renders a verdict and damages are assessed against the defendant if the case is decided for the plaintiff.
The Personal Aftermath
After a self-defense shooting, there may also be costs beyond mere money.
The psychological stresses of the incident such as a home itself, dealing with the legal system and the personal turmoil that can come from shooting or killing another human being can be very trying. Some people have found personal relationships altered as a result of such incidents, even if totally exonerated by the legal system. The media and public can also flay a person in print, on the air and online. That is also very stressful.
Police officers can suffer post-traumatic stress from shootings they are involved in, no matter how justified. Civilian shooters can and do as well. Psychological treatment should be sought if needed as untreated PTSD and other mental health disorders can lead to much worse problems down the road.
After the process has been concluded, and you’re seeking help if needed, you’ll want to do what you can to get back to normal in a healthy manner.