Legal Issues

Legal Tip: What to Say—Or Not Say—at the Scene

Texas Law Shield Deadly Force Booklet

A guest post by Texas Law Shield In the U.S. Law Shield and Texas Law Shield Forums, a member asked the lawyers: Q: If you are ever in a situation in which deadly force has been used, is there anything at all other than your name that you should tell the LEO when he/she arrives?  In the Texas Law Shield booklet, it seems to advise taking the 5th all the time. If the LEO on the scene asks, “What happened here?”, should you offer any explanation, such as “He had a gun and tried to kill me,” or should you say nothing except, “I invoke the 5th amendment, and I want to call my lawyer”? I’m pretty sure that will get you arrested on the spot every time, so is this to be expected 100% of the time? Or suppose you are “restraining” a burglar by holding him/her at gunpoint until the police arrive, and they arrive finding you pointing a gun at a supposed burglar. If the LEO asks what happened, do you explain the burglar broke into your home, or should you say, “I take the 5th”? The bottom-line question is: Do you ever want to provide an explanation/reason on the spot to an LEO, or ever say anything at all? My assumption at this point is that the police have arrived too fast for you to have already called the hotline number, even if you could have.

Texas Law Shield Deadly Force BookletTexas Law Shield responds: That’s a great question. What you should say is what you would say in a 911 call. Just:

  1. Identify yourself as the victim.
  2. State what crime has been committed against you, for example, “I was robbed, I was carjacked” —whatever caused you to pull your gun.
  3. Identify the perpetrator.
  4. Tell them that you will provide more details later on.

Then call the lawyer hotline as soon as possible. Unless the police take you down immediately under the assumption that you are the perpetrator, they should let you talk. If the police do not allow you to have privacy to talk to your lawyer, that is a good indication that they believe you may be at fault. Therefore, in that case your best bet is to say nothing else.

If you want to ask a question of the U.S. Law Shield or Texas Law Shield lawyers, contact U.S. Law Shield or Texas Law Shield lawyers or post your question in our comment section.

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Comments (19)

  1. If you are in a situation that caused you to fear for your life,(I pray that none of you never are.) Enough to use your firearm, you should keep in mind , I shot to stop. NEVER say I shot to kill ! .

  2. As a former LEO, I would also add to your statement that you “feared for your life and/or safety” (if this is a true and verifiable statement).

    Do not lie or exadgerate what happened (perhaps thinking there is no way they will know the difference), as evidence will likely end up contradicting the statement and put that balance of your statement under a cloud of susicion. It would be better to remain silent until your attorney can reveiew all the facts in a controled setting to explain your actions. Inaccurate statements are frequently discredited by physical evidence and/or witness statements and they are difficult or impossible to be repeated exactly the same way in future interviews (even accurate ones can change as time passes).

    For your safety, cooperate to the best of your ability when the officers arrive and follow their instructions to the letter until the situation is stabilized. Cooperate does not necessarily mean “provide a statement”; just do everything in your power to allow the officers to regain control of the situation.

  3. As a retired LEO, the one statement I have not seen listed here is what I learned to be the most important:

    “I feared for my life so I defended myself with my gun. I had no other choice at the time that I could see.”

    After that, then all of the other recommended statements are good. Keep it to a minimum. Too many statements can be used against you later in a civil or criminal trial.

    Have an attorney already picked out or better yet, on a retainer. Talk to him/her frequently but especially when any CCW laws or other gun laws change. The more you know, the better prepared you will be to defend yourself AFTER you’ve defended youself.

  4. In addition…Like most law enforcement agencies require, you should provide any relevant safety information, such as how many shots were fired, in what direction, if there are outstanding suspects or other affected people. Basically, the arriving officers will want to know if any suspects are fleeing, or if anyone else might have been hit by your gunfire.

  5. Mas Ayoob recommends that, in the aftermath of a defensive shooting, you follow this formula when police arrive:

    1. “Officer, this man attacked me,
    2. “I will sign the complaint.”
    3. “The evidence is here.” (point)
    4. “The witnesses are there.” (point)
    5. “Officer, you’ll have my full cooperation within 24 hours after I have spoke with counsel.”

    This way, you give the responding LEO enough information to establish your role as the victim. Giving them any less could be problematic.

  6. I just attended a Concealed Carry seminar sponsored by my state representative Stan Saylor here in PA and the attorney directing the seminar made it a point to notify us to provide a minimal information at the scene. As questions came up he referenced the two participating police officers to confirm that if they are involved in a shooting they are by law allowed two full sleep cycles until they are required to give a full statement “with their attorney present and advising”. This time is not just to get legal advise but also for you to properly remember everything that happened and settle the nerves down a bit. If it is in LEO’s best interest to take two full sleep cycles then it is also in mine.

    Steve

  7. One thing to remember is not all states have the same laws. In CA simply saying I’m excersizing my 5th amendment rights will get you cuffed and booked as uncooriperative. Now remember you do have rights and you have a right to your attorney. Again, at least in the state of CA the best thing you can do is first call 911 and state that you just STOPPED an attacker from killing you and if he lives you want to press charges for attempted murder, give your description, and location and wait for the police to arrive. Once they arrive on scene give a public safety statement (with 100% accuracy!): Number of rounds fired, direction those rounds were fired, any outstanding accomplices or witnesses. Once that has been established and the “why’d you feel you had to shoot,” question comes up the guard must come up too and ask for your lawyer before any further questioning.

    Again, this is in California. This process will vary from state to state so, do yor homework and keep whatever it is your state requires fresh on the brain. Muscle memory wins gun fights, and pre-scripting keeps you out of jail for defending yourself.

  8. I was trained by a retired police officer, who is now a lawyer, to say …….

    1- I was in fear for my life.
    2- I thought I was going to die.
    3- I was a victim of a violent crime and I want to file criminal charges against them.
    $- Respectfully officer, I would like to talk to an attorney now,

  9. I was a cop for 24 years, arrested thousands of people, and I swear to God this is true…… not one, ever asked for a lawyer, even when I said, you really should talk to a lawyer, nope, spilled their guts and WENT TO JAIL, sometime for life. you can lead a horse to water!!!!!!! NEVER TALK TO THE POLICE< they are NOT YOUR FRIENDS after to shoot someone.

  10. Greetings:
    I was wondering…
    If marijuana is already illegal under federal law, then how can individual states ‘legalize’ it under state law which was already ‘trumped’ by the federal law under the U. S. Constitution?
    Likewise, if allowed by the few states, how long before it will be FORCED upon all of the other states by an ‘equal protection’ clause?

    1. Yeah… FORCED freedom for adults to make their own decisions about what goes in their body. Sounds awful.

  11. I had never thought of that. What do you say? I am a retired LEO and live in the same jurisdiction I worked in so the officers know me. Colorado has the “Make My Day” law concerning self-defense and and the use of deadly physical force. It might be a good idea that people check with their local jurisdiction as laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

  12. Years ago, a friend was involved in a shooting and it shook him badly, I believe he was on the verge of going into shock. When questioned by the police immediately after the shooting, he made a minor statement which would later hang him, but I know it was made because of the effect on him.

    So, in my experience, make no statements until you are in control of your full faculties and are cognizant of what you are actually saying.

  13. #5 I would add that you should be to clearly state that the perpetrators actions when you were attacked made you to be in fear for your life.

  14. Never admit anything, Always deny everything, Just tell them your name and that is it. Make them prove everything against you with solid evidence. That is called “Street smarts”. Many highly educated but stupid perps give themselves up the first few minutes of questioning. If you are not a lawyer, find one.

  15. “I have been advised that if I have been in an incident where I am questioned by a law enforcement officer, it is in my best interest to speak to an attorney before issuing my statement. On that advice, I am now requesting to speak to my attorney,” and give them the contact info for your lawyer. Nothing more, nothing less. They legally cannot proceed with questioning until they provide you a lawyer. Repeat the statement as necessary, until said lawyer shows up and consults with you.

    1. just so you know there is a difference between an ‘Attorney’ and a ‘Lawyer”, If I remember right one writes law and the other applies it.

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