The moment comes… you defend your life and shoot another person. The legal system steps in and now you have potentially “double trouble”…and it’s a double-tap…perhaps on YOU.
The first issue is when you face criminal liability. Charges are filed against you by some government authority, probably a prosecutor. You face prison time, loss of certain rights, monetary penalties, and public outrage.
What if you are deemed “not guilty”? The alleged crime was not proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”. That’s good news for you…but it’s not over. It is only the first stage of potentially double trouble.
A second issue rears its ugly head…civil liability. You face the loss of some or all of your property – real estate, money, investments, and even tangible assets like your car or personal property.
Getting sued in civil court might involve the person you shot or one or more of their family members. A person claims a harm to be rectified by a money judgment. The harm alleged can be for violation of some legal duty owed by a negligent act or an act for which there is strict liability. The damages alleged could be either economic (loss of pay, medical bills, etc.) or non-economic (pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of companionship, etc.) The judge or jury generally only needs to say that you breached the duty that somehow led to the damages, “more likely than not”.
OJ Simpson comes to mind. Not guilty, criminal case. Found Liable, civil case.
What are the “Lessons Learned” and takeaway’s from all this?
- A gun owner who carries takes on a hefty responsibility.
- It makes sense to learn how to be situationally aware and to avoid trouble whenever possible.
- If you can’t avoid trouble, use the most reasonable amount of force you can.
- Learn the law involving use of force and self-defense.
- Look for training that develops muscle memory in defending and incorporates the law into the acts you take or do not take. This requires far more than just mastery of how to use a gun.
- If you use force…what will be your story? What kind of gun owner are you? What training have you had? Did you manage your scene by saying the right things to a responding officer? Did you preserve evidence and witnesses? Are you confident that you will be going home? Or will you leave in a squad car?
The 2nd Amendment gives all of us certain rights. But how you prepare to exercise those rights, and the way you do it will determine whether you go home and remain there or face the music in a criminal and/or civil trial.
I would challenge all of us as responsible gun owners to learn how to protect ourselves and our loved ones from either one of these areas of legal exposure.