In my training I emphasize our desire to keep our students out of prison. This can be translated to mean, hard to convict. To be hard to convict we must operate within the law. To operate within the law, we must know the law. This is where the challenge comes it.
We shouldn’t have to be lawyers to protect ourselves, our families and others who are under the threat of death or great/grave bodily harm. However, I just threw in a legal concept we must understand; threat of death or great/grave bodily harm. This concept is one of five elements that must all be met for a use of deadly force to be considered justifiable.
Now that I have started talking about legal concepts, I need to make the following statement: I am not a lawyer and therefore cannot give legal advice. I am familiar with use of force law, but if you are facing prison you don’t want to get advice from someone who is familiar. You want a lawyer with a deep working knowledge of the law and courtroom procedures.
Over the next period of time, I am going to post articles addressing these five concepts:
Like most of you, I am, relying upon the wisdom and knowledge of others who can be considered experts on the subject. The text I use for my concealed carry training both in Illinois and Utah is the USCCA book Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals by Michael Martin. I have taken several online and DVD e-Learning courses. Another resource is The Law of Self Defense Principles by Andrew F. Branca. He is endorsed by Massad Ayoob in the forward of that book. Mr. Branca is a lawyer as well as a certified firearms instructor, Mr. Ayoob is one of the premier self-defense instructors in the nation and has an extensive background in law enforcement training and was a prosecutor for the police department.
By learning the materials these sources present we don’t have to be a lawyer to make ourselves hard to convict. If the situation arises where we have used deadly force we need to rely upon a very critical resource, a lawyer. We must not rely upon ourselves and the knowledge we have gained for our defense. The knowledge we have gained, especially that which comes from such noteworthy sources, should be used to ensure we are acting within the use of force guidelines. At that point we should rely upon our lawyer’s knowledge and experience.
I am going to address general principles of the use of force. While this is a good foundation it cannot be considered the whole picture. Each state, and sometimes municipalities, have unique laws governing the use of force withing their boundaries. For example, in most states it is not legal to use deadly force to defend property. In Texas it is wise to not mess with someone’s truck or dog. Deadly for is authorized to protect property in Texas. When we travel armed it is critical that we know the laws of the lands we travel through. If I were from Texas and traveling in Wyoming, I need to know that Wyoming prohibits the use of deadly force to protect property.
This example is another reason we need a lawyer for our defense. Your lawyer should be fully intimate with the laws of the land where you had to use deadly force. Your actions up to and during the incident should help the lawyer in your defense. Your complete compliance with his advice will solidify your defense.
In the next posting I will address what it means to be the innocent party. It is not as obvious as it seems.