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You Used Lethal Force, Now What Happens?
Experiencing the Legal Machine Personally.
The main objective of this Florida Gun & Self-Defense article is to educate gun owners about Florida self-defense law and use of force law. Ignorance of the state and federal laws is not an excuse for unintentionally breaking those laws. It is gun owners’ responsibility to learn and abide by the law and practice safe gun handling accordingly. I am not a lawyer; if you need legal counsel secure a lawyer in your relevant jurisdiction. The following content is my opinion and interpretation derived from twelve years of online and self-education in Florida Self-Defense and Use-of-Force Law.
Memorize the Four Rules for Safe Firearms Handling. Mistakes will not occur by doing so. One, treat all guns as if they are always loaded with a round in the chamber, even when the gun is empty. Two, never point the muzzle at anything you ‘don’t’ want to destroy. Three, keep your finger off the trigger until your gun sights are on the intended target. Four, always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
In addition, when you pull the trigger, think of all bullets as having a prosecutor and a very expensive lawyer attached to them. If you are unsure of any situations regarding gun usage or handling or what is lawful or unlawful, please refrain from carrying your firearm concealed until you have proper training and education. One unlawful act by mistake could ruin your life and the lives of others. Contact me, and I’ll point you in the right direction to give you the confidence to safely and legally operate your firearm.
Today’s firearms focus will be on what takes place after using deadly force to stop a deadly threat against your life. The following is a general overview of what you’ll experience and what your actions should be when the legal machine starts to be fully involved in your deadly force self-defense act.
After having just killed a person in lawful self-defense, look around for potential additional threats and identify any witnesses, and if anyone of them were using phones to record the event. When the area appears to be safe, holster your pistol. Then observe the person you shot, locate the weapon and keep it under observation until the police arrive.
Call 911 and give the operator your name, location, and make your first statement which should be similar to this one, “Someone tried to kill me with a knife, so I defended myself by using my gun, I shot them and need officers and an ambulance asap, please hurry I don’t want them to die.” Due to the extreme duress of the moment, it is perfectly reasonable that you answer all other 911 operator questions with, “I don’t know I think I need to go to the ER please hurry”, then hang up. Most people experiencing this type of event do need to visit the E.R. to be evaluated, the sooner the better.
Ask witnesses to remain there to speak with responding officers. Use your phone to record the victim and weapon, then all witnesses, to preserve evidence for officers to process when they arrive. Remain silent, keep verbal interaction with witnesses to a minimum and if you’re asked if you’re ok, your answer should be truthful, “no I’m not ok, I didn’t want to shoot them, what’s taking the ambulance so long?"
When the police arrive, you identify yourself as the shooter. Then inform the officers where your pistol is and ask them how to proceed in the voluntary surrender of your firearm. Perform the instructions exactly as told, very slowly. Don’t mess this part up, listen, comply, act as instructed perfectly.
Ask officers how long it will be before the ambulance arrives to help the wounded person. Inform them you’re not feeling well and would like to go to the ER asap. I recommend making one statement regarding what happened, something like this statement, “I shot them because they tried to kill me with a knife” Point to the knife. Whatever you decide to say remember to keep it short and simple and don’t discuss details of the killing. Name, address, conceal carry license, phone number, and point out the witnesses. Then inform them you’re going to remain silent until you speak with your lawyer.
And if officers ask more questions, inform them that you are getting weak, everything is becoming a fog, but you will be happy to speak to them after medical attention and after you call your lawyer. The main thing to remember is that you want to remain silent until you speak to a lawyer. Ask for some water and a place to sit. Don’t be surprised when you’re handcuffed and placed into the cruiser. It’s all part of the process so be mentally prepared and remain compliant.
During the ride to the hospital and or jail, officers often attempt to engage in conversation as if they’re on your side. Respond with, “I can’t think clearly enough to speak right now I need some time, sorry”. And when you’re being processed into jail, state, “Because of the serious nature of what happened I would like the assistance of my lawyer, can I call my lawyer now please”. Again, keep it simple, concise, and directly state politely that you want your lawyer and additional time before providing the facts. And do NOT talk to detectives but instead have your lawyer handle them. You will be detained in jail until your lawyer arrives.
In my estimation the most important aspect of carrying a concealed firearm on a daily basis, is to know which lawyer you’ll use to represent you should the need occur. This research should be done before you begin to carry your gun concealed in public. If you’re going to have a public defender inquire about their experience with Use-of-Force Florida Law. Insist on a public defender who has this experience.
If you thought the act of having to use deadly force to save your life was traumatic, experiencing the legal machine is also very traumatic, especially without competent legal representation. The likelihood of significant prison time is more likely than not without competent legal counsel. If the prosecution decides after its preliminary investigation to bring charges, then they believe the evidence disproves your claim of self-defense. Odds are they’ll win because they seldom lose a case they decide to take because they only take cases, they are certain they can win.
Therefore, you need excellent legal representation. The better the experience level of your defense attorney, the better the odds of disproving the charges. But defense attorneys cost a lot of money. In most cases $250,000 is required just to post bail and get through a pretrial immunity hearing, let alone a full-blown trial court proceeding. And should that happen you’ll need at least one million hard-earned dollars for the attorney to see you through to the end. And after all the money and time you could still lose.
Therefore, it is imperative that you provide your lawyer with good evidence which proves you acted in accordance with the elements of lawful self-defense. The odds of winning go up exponentially with the exculpatory evidence provided.
And therefore, it is also imperative that you take the time to learn Florida self-defense laws, and train to implement those laws perfectly when you use your gun in self-defense. The judge and or jury must be persuaded by the evidence that there was no error nor ambiguity in any of the five elements required for a legal use of deadly force.
To have a legal claim of self-defense the defense needs to produce and persuade by evidence, that there were reasons which prove the defendant was innocent of starting the conflict, and that the threat was in progress when lethal force was brought to bear, and that the deadly force was necessary to save the defendant’s life because avoidance was not an option. Therefore, your actions were justified per Florida Law because you acted within the four underlying self-defense elements within the overall realm of Reasonableness.
Here again I’ll state how I understand and implement the five elements of self-defense in my mind as I train with my firearms in preparation for a deadly force encounter. The mental foundation is my reasoning must align with Florida’s legal reasoning as provided by Use-of-Force Self-Defense Laws. And within the legal reasoning there are four underlying conditions or reasonings, which must be present during the use of deadly force for that deadly act to be legally justified.
The first underlying element is Avoidance. However, this element is only introduced if the element of Imminence was disproven due to improper or irrational reasoning. The condition of reasonable avoidance can be imposed on the defendant even though Florida law imposes ‘no duty to retreat’ but instead provides a Stand Your Ground law. But if Imminence is disproven Avoidance comes into play through the reasoning that any reasonable person would have chosen not to use deadly force if a way of avoidance was truly present.
Therefore, if you ‘stand your ground’ in deadly self-defense, the threat of death or serious bodily harm better be backed by evidence which clearly proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the threat was in fact happening or beginning to happen, within a two or three-second time frame. And there was no safe way of avoidance. This is the legal definition of Imminence in Florida.
Next underlying element of reasonableness is the evidence must prove you did not instigate, provoke or start the conflict. Having the first element of Imminence serves to help establish Innocence. But additional evidence such as, backing away attempting to break contact, not going to the fight, shouting commands to stay away etc., all help in the establishment of Innocence and conversely also help you determine or reason when Imminence is happening.
And finally, Proportionality is the element that proves you only used a level of force that you were faced with. In other words, deadly force to meet deadly threats, and non-deadly force to meet non-deadly threats. Also evaluated, will be your physical abilities in comparison to the threat’s abilities. Your reasons for using a gun against a knife will be scrutinized through the evidence provided in court.
Are you educated in the five elements of self-defense law? Have you practiced using lethal force within the confines of those laws? Perhaps you’re not sure if you do know if you’ll conduct yourself legally if the day comes when you must use deadly force to save yourself from death or grave harm. In either case I would strongly encourage you to consider more education and training for the purpose of reducing the odds of conviction.
When you carry a gun, it is imperative that you use your gun in complete accordance with Florida Law. If you have not worked hard to learn the law and to learn to run a gun under duress, the odds of you getting everything correct in the eyes of the law are very low. Do you positively know beyond a reasonable doubt that you could bring deadly force to bear on a lethal threat while remaining within the confines of the five elements of a legal self-defense situation?
It is very possible that you could win the physical battle and still lose the legal battle if you do four elements lawfully but were judged unreasonable on one of the four underlying elements of reasonableness. Error and mistakes occur all the time in these types of cases. Good people become felons due to ignorance of the law all the time. They get one part of the required reasoning wrong because they were either unfamiliar with that requirement, mis reasoned it, or misinterpreted it when under extreme duress, which will result in a justified conviction against them.
Training in deadly force encounters under duress by an experienced instructor will greatly increase your odds of getting the legal elements firmly ingrained within your mental muscle memory when you must go to the gun to save your life or the lives of your loved ones.
I can provide the assistance you need to greatly increase your odds of winning both the physical and legal conflicts. And make no mistake, the legal conflict is just as serious as the physical conflict. But if you learn to run your gun legally and understand how to make sure the evidence required to prove good legal reasoning, is in place before and while you go to the gun, the chances of having a successful pretrial Immunity Hearing before judge are greatly increased. And should you still have to endure a criminal trial, the end result will be far better.
You must know and implement the legal reasoning of self-defense law to prove that a legal defense of self-defense should be granted to you.
Article Information Sources: Andrew Branca’s Publications, Joh H. Gutmacher, Massad Ayoob, Steve Gosney. All three men have published excellent work for Florida gun owners. I use all their publications in my classes and implement their teachings in my advanced training modules.
This article’s purpose is to incentivize the reader to learn the laws required for lawful gun usage. My hope is that all conceal carry gun owners will become legally proficient and physically capable to “Aim to Win the Physical and Legal Battles” should a self-defense situation occur.” Know the Law, Learn to Shoot.”
Today’s article is published online here at FloridaGunSelfDefense.net hosted by Substack.com and FloridaGunSelfDefense.com is my business website hosted by Godaddy.com.
Florida Gun & Self-Defense offers firearms and self-defense training and education. Single or group classes or customized training are available. Visit FloridaGunSelfDefense.com for more information. Or call Dave Douglass at 863-381-8474
Dave has been a firearms instructor and trainer since 2012. He is skilled in advanced tactical-gun and self-defense gun operation, in accordance with Florida gun law and use-of-force self-defense law. He is not a lawyer but has studied Florida Use-of-Force Law and Gun Law for the last twelve years. Dave’s articles are his interpretation and opinion and do not constitute legal advice. If you need legal advice, secure legal counsel in your relevant jurisdiction. Dave is an adamant supporter of an original historical literal interpretation of the Second Amendment. You can contact him at email@example.com