Many students, enrolled in a bona fide Personal Protection Class, are usually surprised to learn that they are being taught to not make any statements to police officers – without consulting with an attorney – in the aftermath of a self-defense encounter.
From a student’s perspective, he is an innocent actor in an unscripted scene of violence in a horror film. Accordingly, he believes that in his role of law-abiding citizen, he should be fully cooperative with the law enforcement officers who were summoned on-location to investigate the defensive shooting. However, he couldn’t be more wrong, as it is probably the worse thing he could possibly do.
Police Officers Are Not Your Friend At The Scene Of A Crime
When law enforcement officers arrive at the scene of a self-defense encounter, their job is not to calm and comfort victims. Nor is it to protect the Constitutionally protected rights of the person, who just moments before, was in a life-or-death battle. Professional police officers have a job to do and will perform it admirably: secure the scene, protect evidence, interview witnesses, and arrest suspects.
In all likelihood, if a citizen is involved in a self-defense encounter he will be arrested. Since many law-abiding folks have not had that experience and don’t wish to readily acquire it, they may wish to fully cooperate with the investigating officers to prevent that from happening. The dirty little secret, that the police won’t tell you when they show up, is that no matter what the victims say, he is probably going to be arrested anyway as a formality. Thus, cooperation offers no benefit to the victim.
Furthermore, providing a statement to the police is in many cases not needed for them to figure out what transpired before they arrived. There are a variety of clues present that should provide a working theory: broken windows, pry marks, kicked in doors, cartridge casing locations, blood splatter marks, and etc. The police are experts at deducing what happened. For all practical purposes, they don’t need a statement from the victim to do their job. Moreover, it doesn’t make the victim look guilty either.
Making A Statement Without An Attorney Is A Legal Suicide Attempt
Victims will be pressed by the attending police officers to make a statement about the encounter. A variety of approaches and tactics may be used to acquire it. It is completely legal for police officers to lie to victims, play psychological games, and make promises they can’t legitimately make and keep in an effort to get an official account of what transpired.
In the aftermath of a life threatening encounter, victims may experience a variety of scientifically proven mental and physiological effects: time distortion, memory suppression, auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, adrenaline rush, elevated blood pressure, and etc. This is not the optimum time for a victim to recover from his life-and-death battle and to provide an official report. In fact, a statement made at this point may not match up with the evidence at the scene, even if the victim behaved lawfully.
The police will not inform the victim of the legal boundaries for a self-defense case. So, if a victim provides a statement that does not mirror the law by touching upon all required elements in the law, the victim will be arrested and charged with a crime. Later, when the victim has recovered and has retained the services of an attorney to provide a revised version of the story that argues how he did act lawfully, the police will assert that the story has materially changed because of the possibility of jail time.
In essence, you only get one time to make a first statement to the authorities in the aftermath of a self-defense encounter. Do it correctly at the scene under almost impossible circumstances or take your time to document it within the framework of the law with the advice of a legal professional. The difference in the results could be as stark as spending only a weekend in jail awaiting bond or spending the rest of your life behind bars because you gambled on your future.