One of the most common questions I receive in firearms classes is if someone can keep my cell phone number in their wallet in case they ever need to use their firearm in self-defense. When we discuss keeping a lawyer’s number handy, someone in class has inevitably “heard” of an insurance company that purports to provide coverage in the event the insured uses deadly force, and the discussion turns to whether those insurance policies are valid and if the attorneys listed as possible defense are good choices. Such insurance companies have been cropping up “like daffodils in springtime” over the last few years. However, the first organization to provide assistance to citizens who use deadly force, not just in funding, but through education and expert witnesses, is the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network.
In Episode 003 of the Gun Law Podcast, I speak with Marty Hayes, founder of the ACLDN about his organization, what YOU need to know about defending a deadly force case, and how to choose your team of experts. Marty is a former police officer, the director and president of the Seattle Firearms Academy, and a host of the Outdoor Channel’s television series “The Best Defense”.
We cover a range of topics in this podcast, and here are a few of the important points:
1. Your first step should be education – you need to know when and how you can use your firearm to defend yourself or your family. Self-defense laws differ from state to state. This training should go well beyond the training necessary to obtain a concealed carry permit. You need to engage with your instructor in active negotiation scenarios that will make you decide when and if you pull the trigger. You need to understand reaction times to help you determine when your life is in jeopardy. You need to consider if you will actually be able to shoot another person. And, if the situation occurs and you shoot, what do you do next? Calling an attorney is only one small part of that picture.
2. Along with your training, you should explore how you will continue your education, and whether any of the insurance type products will meet your needs. One of the things I love about Marty’s organization is the educational aspect they provide to their members. Marty has a law degree and serves as an expert witness, and he understands that while the attorney is important, it takes a team to protect and defend someone who has used their firearm in self-defense. Some organizations have attorneys listed on their “affiliated attorneys” page who have never tried a case. This is not the person you should choose. You need to seek out an attorney who understands the criminal justice system, is a successful trial attorney, a Second Amendment advocate, and who has the experience through prior homicide trials to defend you. A non gun owner is probably not your best choice if you have the option. If you can find an attorney with all these prerequisites, and who has a team of professionals ready to step in, that person may be a good choice.
3. I and other qualified defense attorneys do not work alone. Defending a deadly force case takes a team. Self-defense cases are extremely complex. Ballistics, crime scene investigation, witness interviews, examination of weapons, and other physical artifacts, autopsy results and /or medical reports, review of law enforcement offense and arrest reports, analysis of the physical abilities and limitations of the client and the attacker, as well as background investigations on everyone involved in the incident are key.
4. Here is my short list of questions to ask your potential attorney:
How many cases have you tried as the lead attorney?
How many homicide / self-defense cases have you tried?
What education do you have that qualifies you to defend me if I shoot someone?
What death investigation training do you have?
Who is on your team?
What is your firearms experience?
What is your position on the Second Amendment?