911 emergency defensive gun use attorney lawyer call
courtesy seattletimes.com
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By A. Scrivener

Many articles have been written, and many concealed carry class attendees have been told that it’s important, after a defensive gun use, to contact your defense attorney prior to talking to police. For many, such advice seems like common sense. Others may see contacting an attorney after a shooting as opportunity for investigators to claim the defender was being “uncooperative.”

In any case, the debate seems to overlook something subtle, but potentially devastating to the defender who contacts an attorney at any point in the process: third-party exemptions to the attorney-client privilege.

Beginning at the beginning, actions following a self-defense shooting can either be helpful or damaging to you legally. Looking at the traditional “musts,” we see the rather familiar recommendations regarding what to say to the 9-1-1 dispatcher (remember, everything is recorded):

  • Give the 911 dispatcher only what is important to get help to your location (9-1-1 dispatchers are not police).
  • Report that you were the victim of a criminal attack.
  • Explain which type of response (EMS, police, fire) you need. This may be rather redundant and unnecessary as once you report you were attacked all three services will probably be called anyway.
  • Describe yourself so responders either know who you are in order to render medical assistance, or so police can distinguish the victim (you) from witnesses and attacker(s).

This is where it can get tricky; reporting that you used your firearm in self-defense, especially if you are holding the attacker at gunpoint. You should already know if you intend to reveal that information immediately. Which is why you should contact your self-defense lawyer at the earliest opportunity after a defensive gun use, perhaps even before calling 9-1-1 (an action that is not without future risk).

Now, about that call to your attorney…

It may seem obvious that you’d tell your attorney the same things you would relate to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. Planning ahead who you will call first, and what will be said is prudent. The 9-1-1 dispatch may be able to get aid to you expeditiously, but your attorney may get you the help you really need.

Calls to your attorney are not generally recorded, but may be monitored by non-electronic means. When contacting your attorney, be sure you can’t be overheard by anyone — anyone at all — even family members. Anything you say while another person is within earshot could be claimed as creating an exemption to the attorney-client privilege, and can be used against you.

The information you exchange with the 9-1-1 operator is risky enough. Be careful not to entangle family or friends as well when you talk to your attorney. And don’t forget that the attacker may still be at the scene, and overhearing what you say to everyone there.

As always, it’s best to have the self-defense scenario discussion with your attorney well before the need ever arises. And, as always, what you read here can’t be relied upon at legal advice.

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  1. Just goes to show you that you have to work daily against the Monday-morning-quarterbacking MFrs that claim to be standing up for Justice and the People. Trip a few down the stairs before your next run-in with infinity, so you might avoid their stupid shit later.

    Any questions from such MFrs is just a secondary attack.

  2. Call your lawyer before calling 911, because you need your lawyer’s help more than 911’s help? Seriously? And you don’t think the attacker’s lawyer will have a field day with this? This seems like a highly questionable suggestion.

    • Reminds me of the trigger-riding NYPD perp who negligently shot an innocent guy in a stairwell and called his union rep instead of calling for EMS.

      I don’t recall if anything actually happened to the perp as the result of his manslaughter, but his post shooting acts were held against the city in the lawsuit that followed.

      • Yep…. cops are required to give the following information in their “public safety statement” after they shoot their gun: Identify who was shot (not who THEY shot specifically but identify any suspects, bystanders, cops, etc who have been shot), what direction they discharged their weapon and (if possible) how many rounds they discharged, and lastly who the suspects are (in custody or outstanding) and what they are armed with. AND THAT IS ALL!!! Anything a cop says beyond that is done under Miranda and in the presence of his lawyer. However, the people who investigate police shootings (feds, IA, DA investigators, state investigators, Coroner investgators, etc) tend to have a lot of information from other sources other than the police officer. They can access the cop’s body camera, dispatch records, radio recordings, interview other cops who didn’t shoot their guns, witnesses, etc, so they really don’t need a lot of initial information from the cop being investigated.
        However, the basic “public safety statement” is a good starting place to taylor YOUR personal responses after YOU are involved in a shooting. That is what I would suggest but there are no “fool proof” answers. There is no absolute good advice. And, there are no consequence free decisions…., I live in a red area of the San Francisco Bay Area in California and travel (armed) all over the blue and purple areas, so your experiences and concerns may vary.

      • I just checked. Mr “With no known threat in the vicinity, I like to stumble around in the dark with my gun drawn and several pounds of tension on the 14lb NYPD trigger” was convicted of manslaughter, which was the appropriate charge for the situation.


        Sentenced to five years probation and 800 hours community service:

        • Always believed he was only charged and brought to trial because of the publicity. Otherwise it would have been a very different outcome. A “tragic circumstance entirely of the victim’s making”. It was public outrage that pushed this thing beyond the ability of the union and the department to make it all go quietly away.

      • Carry six guns. Two main guns, two back ups, two spares. Spare mags/speed loaders for each. Make sure all six are in a different caliber to cover all your bases. Then make sure you carry 3 knives minimum plus a tactical tomahawk. Also carry a minimum of four phones. One for 911, one for lawyer, one to toss to a buddy, and one to throw away.

    • Yep, it’s absolute bullshit. That’s what you get when you get advise on something from someone who’s probably never had to do it.

  3. This is some pretty bad advice. You increase your chances of being eaten alive in court if you call your lawyer first. Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch gave the best advice for this situation. Tell the cops you were in fear for your life and your family’s lives. Then say you want him arrested. It’s a good way to show that you aren’t guilty and weren’t exactly trying to kill him. Then you lawyer up and shut up. Calling your lawyer first is pretty suspicious and may be the worst advice I’ve heard.

    • agree. this does nothing but make you look guilty or that you have been “waiting for this”. bad advice indeed.

    • Agreed, bad advice.
      You should also never say you were the victim of a crime; only say you were in fear for your or another’s life and that’s it.

      I do not smell a winning article here.

  4. Fine line here, and I see the argument for both sides.

    However, unless you’re in the middle of “No Where” it’s likely the sound of gunfire will alert many other bystanders to dial 911 with the report of “Shots Fired”.

  5. Two phones. A family member calls 911. The good guy calls his lawyer. The less you say to the government the better. Don’t talk to cops.

  6. Call 911 first and say I was attacked and defended myself because I was in fear for my life, send police and EMS, then describe yourself and comply with police instruction so they can secure the scene. Next I call USCCA and inform them I am in need of their services ASAP. Do not answer any question until your attorney is present other than your name, a brief statement that you were afraid for your life and used (insert weapon used here) to stop the attacker’s actions. Show police where evidence of the attack is, document with your own pics if allowed, agree to give a statement AFTER you speak with your attorney. I am a retired LEO and I know many of the people who might respond, do not talk to a “buddy” about the incident, do not let them ask you about the incident either on or off duty. Try to record your interactions with the police on scene. When you give your statement really drive home the fear you had that your or another’s life was in jeopardy unless you stopped the attackers action. Remember you were trying to stop the attacker not “kill” the attacker. Be sure the police document any and all injuries to you, no matter how slight. You want reasonable people to find that you acted reasonably to protect yourself. Do not call your lawyer before calling 911, it looks bad and is unnecessary as long as you stick to your promise to give no statement prior to having your attorney present. Don’t get suckered into saying to much or volunteering any info that is not necessary to properly secure and document the scene and evidence. Remember most Department allow cops involved in a shooting three days or more before they are interviewed so the cop can calm down, de stress, and give a coherent statement.

    Most cops aren’t out to get you and can readily see why what happened happened. This is not true of over zealous prosecutors who are looking to make a name for themselves and make an example out of you. Cops will report everything you say and do because that is their job and while they may appreciate you taking care of yourself and removing a crook from the streets, they will toe the company’s line and give you up in a NY minute.

    • This is why I pray my wife never has a DGU… that woman will tell the story of the past six months to the poor kid just trying to take her burger order…

      • Mine will not only tell the story three different ways, but in the midst of all the superfluous details will still manage to omit critical information.

        Another common error is believing constitutional protections on search & seizure can be invoked AFTER freely consenting to a police search. She has learned better on that one.

  7. I’ll bet that this has never happened, not once. If “I” call my lawyer, “I” was seeking legal advise both on my own behalf and on behalf of my family members. So the conversation is still privileged, even if my family member never hires the lawyer. What if a week later my friend and I go visit the lawyer in person- is he or she suggesting that that privilege would also be waived because a third party was present? Not hardly.

    The author is really considering whether or not my family member or friend can be compelled to testify as to what I told my lawyer in a confidential communication, and all that person has to say is “I also wanted legal advise, we didn’t know what was going to happen.” And presto, the privileged conversation was not waived.

    • Family members? Probably. Your friend who comes to the appointment? Unless he is interested in the communication, Ii.e. is there for a purpose of your defense, the privilege is waived. You , your spouse, the attorney and his/her staff, and the persons the attorney hires to assist in your case are all within the privilege. Your mother is not, nor your best friend, nor the next door neighbor.

  8. its just getting to where you just can NOT take the advice from this website, unless its a gun/gear review. MORE REVIEWS, LESS PERSONAL VIEWS PLLLEEEEEAAASSEE!!!

  9. If this is a serious concern that merits prior planning anyway, then brief your lawyer on your plan, and set up a 3-way call with 911 and your lawyer. Someone enterprising could probably even set up an app that could handle that all with a single touch.

    Then the lawyer can interject as necessary.

    • Attempting to report a crime to 911 in which your life was threatened is NOT the time to have a ‘three way call’ to ANYONE. ONE THING AT A TIME!

  10. If the situation has ended, i.e., there is no further threat from the intruders, there really is no reason to stay on the line with 911 until the police get there.

    Never tell a cop any more than the basics if your attorney is not present. There is a great video by a defense attorney on this subject that’s been around for a number of years. Always remember that “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” If you think the cop is going to accurately quote what you said when you were under the great adrenaline strain of the moment–or that you will accurately remember it either–is slim to none.

    • If you watch the video you will know you don’t even tell them the basics without your lawyer present. Don’t talk to the police.

      • Then expect to spend some time in jail. The police have no idea if the caller was the good guy or the bad guy and your silence does not show you were the good guy.

  11. (9-1-1 dispatchers are not police). Irrelevant nonsense

    Many/most PSAP/911 centers are organized under the command of the Sheriff or Chief d Popo. Same as the Jail. The Sheriff is directly in their chain of command above the PSAP Supervisor and he PAYS them. He owns the PSAP equipment including the data recorders.

    • 9-1-1 workers may or may not be LE.

      I can remember at least one time I dialed 9-1-1 and a sworn deputy answered the phone.

    • More importantly, that 911 call WILL be recorded and anything you say or don’t say in the heat of the moment will be used in court. If someone else is there, have them call 911.

  12. “Which is why you should contact your self-defense lawyer at the earliest opportunity after a defensive gun use, perhaps even before calling 9-1-1 (an action that is not without future risk)…”

    Wow. This is some of the dumbest “advice” I’ve ever read here, and it has a lot of company.

    -If you are holding someone at gunpoint and calling your lawyer, you are an idiot, for obvious reasons.
    -If you just shot someone and they require medical attention but you call your lawyer, first you are an idiot that is going to end up sued to oblivion.
    -If you just shot someone to death and you call your lawyer your phone records will almost certainly be subpoenaed (standard practice in a homicide investigation) and the fact that you called anyone before 911 will be used against you, particularly if your delay in calling for assistance may have led to their death.

    If you don’t want to talk to the police for fear that they will mistake your innocence for guilt, fine, but anyone dumb enough to try and call a lawyer in the above situations is more than one standard deviation away from the norm.

    The ONLY circumstance I could imagine that being a viable option is if you had a self-defense situation where you did not injure anyone and the suspect got away (i.e. you pointed your gun at someone and they ran) in which case you are still almost certainly making a huge legal mistake by not calling the police if you were in the right- because the other guy can call them first otherwise.

  13. “Anything you say while another person is within earshot could be claimed as creating an exemption to the attorney-client privilege, and can be used against you.”

    That’s gonna be problematic if you the bad guy is alive and being held by you at gunpoint, no?

    Does that apply to the bad guy you are holding at gunpoint?

  14. 1. “The 10 Commandants….
    2. The tablets of Hammurabi…
    3. Magna Carta
    4. All US citizens should certificated Junior Law partners before they graduate H.S. …Just for basic survival within our overzealous system of freedom killing legalese….

  15. Since we are not reviewing the merits of my I guess limited production Sig 220 Legion in 10mm vs. the 2×4 plank known as a Glock how about this scenario for consideration.
    Hello 911? I was just attacked (insert where) and felt in fear for myself and kid because the guy kept coming with something in his hand. He said he was going to rob us and kill my kid if I didn’t do what he wanted so I felt I had to shoot him with my legally carried handgun. I’m at….. please get an ambulance over here for him, I know a little first aid, I’m going to try and help him… then disconnect. You can give a variety of reasons why you didn’t stay on the phone as they often ask, from you simply beat them before they could say anything. Then call your lawyer or the US Concealed Carry people/lawyers and follow their advice. Up to you if you want to actually render aid to an attacker or not. You certainly don’t want to do mouth to mouth or touch blood ” because you don’t know what to do if you don’t have the training or if you do and don’t have your protective gear with you.
    Police and ambulance will come because when you call 911, even with a blocked phone, they see the number…. it’s all part of the 911 thing. They are generally not there with an instaneous response but make the call with your lawyer short, preferably on a second burn phone.
    34 years fire/ambulance/cardiac medic and years of various Acting Police Chief duty.
    Is this a fair compromise… remembering to be concerned about the perp first?
    Let me know what y’all think.

  16. From my personal experience in writing and reviewing reports and witnessing testimony where reports are referenced I can attest police, particularly patrol officers, are notoriously bad at writing reports, critical details are often omitted or portrayed inaccurately if not attributed to someone else entirely. Recent law enforcement retirees I know, all supervising officers of the rank of Sgt and above, have expressed their growing dissatisfaction with both some new hires and seasoned officers and the manner in which they write reports, this deficiency among the ranks affects how cases are handled, whether charges are filed, which charges are levied in addition to the outcome of cases for both the victims of a crime and the defendant.

    The best advice is NEVER, NEVER EVER, talk save to say “I’m injured”, “I want my injuries documented”, “I require/need medical treatment/assistance” or “Is my wife/family OK”. NEVER EVER under ANY circumstances sign anything presented to you by law enforcement unless it a receipt for “property” ie. shoes/clothes/wallet/cash/watch etc. no matter how great the pressure, let your attorneys handle “statements” (in some cases it could take hours, other times days).

    As one who has at one time been facing a serious trumped-up charge by a crooked police lieutenant who was protecting criminals among his family and friends I can attest the level of pressure some in LE will exert will be great, threats of significant jail/prison time is common (in my case the lieutenant & prosecutor offered 3 years threatening me with 7). I went to trial and won which is when it really became “interesting” (“dangerous”, “attempted assassination” dangerous). The lieutenant went bonkers committed even more serious offenses against me literally the night after I was exonerated then fled the USA, returned by crossing the border and was NOT detained despite warrants in the system, was arrested, charged, incarcerated until trial, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to prison) and a dishonest prosecutor (removed but not disbarred). Had I not had experience in law enforcement and had not known the process something many “civilians” don’t my goose would’ve been cooked

    Don’t budge! Don’t talk! If detained/arrested just sit in your cell and ONLY, I repeat ONLY speak to your attorney about your case, NO ONE ELSE, NOT cellmates, NOT guards, NO ONE, NOT even family who may come and visit you. This applies to being held at the local police headquarters/sheriff’s department and if you’ve been unlucky enough to have been brought to the county correction facility for processing before bail if any and/or indictable complaints are levied by a judge

    Be forewarned your silence WILL will piss off certain LE officers to no end but it’s YOUR welfare you’re concerned about not their feelings.

    Never bow! Never break!

  17. Sometimes 911 dispatch operators are sworn law enforcement officers,
    they may be working overtime or covering another non LEO.

  18. This almost sounds like you should have a lawyer on retainer. I live in an extremely rural area and I do not know of any lawyer within about 50 miles that would be experienced in handling a self-defense case. Our county has a population of less than 3,000. The county seat has a population of about 1,200. It is close to 50 miles to get to a town with a population of over 5,000. You have to go about 70 miles to get to a town with a population over 7,000 and it is in another state. What do you recommend in this type of situation.


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