Concealed Carry: What Happens After You Pull the Trigger? Considering the Fallout of Using Deadly Force as a Concealed Carry Permit Holder

Concealed Carry: What Happens After You Pull the Trigger? Considering the Fallout of Using Deadly Force as a Concealed Carry Permit Holder

The following article is by one of our longtime customers, Gunnar Anderson. Enjoy!

- Justin 


Have you ever taken the time to consider what happens after you use deadly force? Most people who exercise their Second Amendment rights spend significant time selecting a firearm, holster, ammunition and clothing to conceal those items. These are important considerations, but responsibly-armed citizens need to also think about what happens after using deadly force.

In the short term, you will find yourself in handcuffs. Law enforcement needs to freeze the scene to figure out what happened, and that means you will be arrested or detained. If a dead body is involved, it will take a while for them to determine whether it was justified or not. You need to make peace with that fact and not rush the process - which brings us to the next point. 

STOP TALKING! This is universal advice while law enforcement is in the early stages of determining what happened. Your first instinct is going to be to explain yourself and attempt to talk your way to freedom. Your instinct is wrong. The First Congress introduced the Bill of Rights in 1789, which was ratified by the states in 1791. We all know about the First Amendment and the Second Amendment, but this is the time to exercise your constitutional right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. Many people wrongfully assume that the Fifth Amendment is just for the guilty. That misconception is one reason not enough people exercise this fundamental right.  Again, fight your instinct to talk and explain yourself. When people start talking about a significant or traumatic event, they tend to shade the truth, leave out key facts, or not accurately recall everything that led up to the use of deadly force. You do not want to risk getting caught in a lie, no matter how small, because that makes you look like a liar. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and jurors are less likely to believe you when you claim self defense if you were not completely honest from the beginning.

Take the time to get an attorney before talking to law enforcement or the prosecutor. If you feel compelled to talk to law enforcement, only do so through your attorney. If you do not yet have an attorney or have one in mind, start researching criminal defense attorneys in your area now. Get a recommendation from someone you trust. Do not base a decision that could decide the rest of your life on a billboard or internet advertisement. I already know exactly which attorney I will be calling if I ever have to use deadly force. You need to figure that out, too.

Criminal decision: If you use deadly force against someone, a prosecutor will exercise broad discretion in determining whether to charge you with some form of murder or manslaughter. Some prosecutors are terrible at exercising this discretion and take the approach of making you prove it was self defense at trial no matter how obvious the evidence. Despite prosecutors bearing the burden of proof, self defense is typically an affirmative defense - meaning that you have to prove it at trial. If you are charged, expect the following:

  • bail set at around $1,000,000
  • up to a year to get to trial
  • attorney fees and related expenses well in excess of $100,000
  • a potential prison sentence of up to life

Civil lawsuit: Regardless of whether you are charged with a crime or are found not guilty after a trial, expect the family of the deceased to file a civil lawsuit against you. Civil cases can be just as expensive as criminal cases and usually take several years to work their way through the courts. According to the American Bar Association, there are over 1.3 million attorneys in the United States. Even if you were clearly in the right and not charged with a crime, grieving and angry family members will be able to find an attorney to file a civil suit against you. If the civil case goes against you, you could be forced into bankruptcy by a multi-million dollar judgment.

This article only touches on the criminal and civil considerations of using deadly force and is not long enough to address the emotional and psychological toll of taking another’s life. Life is not like the action movies of the 80’s and 90’s where there was zero aftermath post-shooting, legal or otherwise. If you think that there is ever a possibility of using deadly force against another person, then you need to give serious thought to all of these considerations.

If you have already planned ahead as to how you would handle yourself after using deadly force, my hope is that I either reinforced your ideas or passed along a new idea or two. If you have not yet planned ahead, start now.

Gunnar Anderson is a former EMT, rescue diver, and prosecutor who now trains and advises both law enforcement and emergency management. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice - it is meant to encourage discussion and advance planning.


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