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Andrew Branca 00:09
Welcome, folks, to the Law of Self Defense Show for June 11, 2020. I am attorney Andrew Branca for Law of Self Defense, thank you very much. That’s always greatly appreciated.
Most of you are probably expecting our usual News and Q&A show which we air live every Thursday at 2pm Eastern time. In fact, this is not a live program today we have something very special for you. This program is pre-recorded, and it’s a conversation between myself and Attorney Don West on the topic of speaking with the police in the aftermath of a use of force event.
Don West is of course the National Trial Counsel for CCW Safe, which is one of our sponsors on law of self defense. So let me get that sponsorship commitment out of the way.
CCW Safe is a provider of legal service membership, what many people mistakenly call self-defense insurance. In effect CCW Safe promises to pay their members legal expenses if the members involved in the use of force event.
And those legal expenses start big and get bigger folks, they start in the 10s of thousands of dollars, they escalate to the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they can reach those levels pre-trial before you ever actually get to trial. So it’s great to have an entity with the financial resources to back you that you need to fight that legal battle appropriately.
Now, there are a number of companies that offer this kind of service. CCW safe is just one of those but in my experience, my well informed opinion it is the best fit for me personally, I’m a member of CCW safe my wife Emily is a member of CCW safe.
Whether they’re the best fit for you or something only you can decide but I do encourage you to take a look at what they have to offer at http://lawofselfdefense.com/ccwsafe, and if you do decide to become a member at webpage you can use the discount code LOSD10 to get 10% off your membership with CCW safe, just click on the image or link below:
This past SHOT Show I was invited to be a guest of CCW Safe , which I was very happy to do, and as part of my attendance ther, CCW Safe arranged for me and Don West to have a number of conversations about various use of force issues, which they of course recorded, and will be releasing the recordings of those conversations between me and Don, over the next several weeks or months.
As they’re released I’ll share those with you here and of course, for our members on the Law of Self Defense website (http://lawofselfdefense.com).
Don, as I mentioned, is the National trial counsel for CCW safe, but he of course came to our attention as the co-counsel along with Mark O’Mara for George Zimmerman in his trial for second degree malice murder over the killing of Trayvon Martin.
As all of you will know, Zimmerman was unanimously acquitted by the jury of all criminal charges. In fact, based on my experience watching every minute of that trial, there was literally zero evidence in that case inconsistent with self-defense, where the prosecution is obliged to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Zimmerman’s acquittal, although it shocked a nation misled by lies and propaganda was absolutely the appropriate outcome for that case.
Some months after that trial, Don became aware of my writings on the case, introduced himself, and since then we’ve become good friends. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to spend some time with Don at SHOT and engage in these conversations between us on these various use-of-force law topics.
The one we’ll share with you today is part one of speaking with the police in the aftermath of a use-of-force event. Without further ado, let’s jump right into that conversation.
Don West 04:04
My name is Don West. I am National Trial Counsel for CCW Safe and a practicing criminal defense trial lawyer.
I’m so pleased today to be talking with Andrew Branca. Andrew, in my opinion is the country’s foremost expert in the law of self-defense. Andrew, it’s a pleasure to see you in person and talk with you one on one.
Of course. Thank you.
So again, we’ll talk about some of the challenges that people face as concealed carriers when confronted in a potential self-defense situation. What do you want to talk about initially here for a few minutes? I get lots of questions. I imagine you do as well
When someone has been involved in a self defense situation, and they’re about to interact with the police shots were fired, maybe someone died, someone called the police. Hopefully, you did if you’re the one involved in the case, and then the police are on their way.
So what are your thoughts on that? I have my experiences and my thoughts as well. But I’d like to hear from you.
Andrew Branca 05:01
Well, I really see it from two different perspectives, I think, and many firearms instructors teach kind of a series of things that you should say to the police when they get to the scene. And I think in theory, there’s an optimal way of interacting with the police, very specific things you can say that will help your defense, not hurt your defense.
And I think if you could do just those things, and only those things, that might be the best-case scenario.
But here’s the problem—I’ve learned over many years that people will not limit themselves to those things, both in real life and really under almost any degree of stress.
Don West 05:42
Is it pretty well established that just the fact of being in a traumatic event like a self-defense shooting is going to have some consequences, some emotional effect on you and as a result, your ability to process information and maybe to communicate effectively [is impaired]?
Andrew Branca 05:59
Absolutely. Tway your brain captures and stores and recalls information under stress is completely different than the normal experience.
And I’ve seen this literally hundreds and hundreds of times, because in our live classes, we actually run people through a shooting simulator, we have a self-defense simulation system. It’s a very costly, very high-end $20,000 system, so very good.
But all it really does is show you a video of a prospective attacker, and you have to use essentially a toy gun and decide whether or not you’re going to quote unquote, shoot that attacker. There’s no actual threat, you can’t be harmed. It’s a totally artificial environment. And you’re only watching the threat video for maybe 30 seconds or so. So it’s a short term experience.
And yet after that 30 seconds when those students are done running through that simulator, their respiration is up, their heart rate is up and we ask them three simple questions. Turn your back to the screen tell the class what you saw what you did and why you did it. What was the legal rationale based on what you’ve learned over the day’s class.
And they can’t do it. They can’t remember what they saw. Or they say they saw things they didn’t see [that weren’t actually there].
They can’t remember what they did. And this is a classroom. And it just happened. I mean, they went through this experience only a minute ago. And either they can’t remember what they did, or if they do remember what they did, they don’t remember the timing correctly when they did things. And of course, that can be very, a very critical factor when you’re recounting what you did when you did it in terms of whether or not it was legally justified.
And I’ve just come to realize that for probably the large majority of people, learning some optimal strategy for what to say to the police, in a classroom setting, may not be very helpful and could be extremely damaging if you try to replicate that classroom instruction in a real-world real threat environment.
And I think it’s far more likely that people would mess up that approach and say things that could be harmful to their defense than it is that they’re likely to say things that are helpful.
Don West 08:04
In this situation, we’re talking about people that are doing their best to tell the truth. They intend to tell the truth. They’re not trying to come up with a story to convince the police of their innocence when they’re not. We’re talking about law abiding people that were in a self-defense event that are struggling with being able to effectively communicate in such a way that protects them as they move forward. I’m sure you’d be the first to say you certainly have no control, no direct control over whether you would be prosecuted regardless of how innocent legally you may be.
Andrew Branca 08:41
Right, so that touches upon a couple of issues. One is that one of the most common questions we get a lot regarding self-defense is, Hey, what can I say at the scene to the cops to keep from getting arrested?
And I’m like, you’re looking at completely the wrong problem. I couldn’t care less if you get arrested. Getting arrested is the least of your concerns.
Our concern is how can we keep you from spending the rest of your life in prison? I mean, that’s what you’re looking at. That’s what the real risk is.
And anything you might say in an effort to not get arrested in the moment is far more likely to damage rather than help your long term prospects you stand by saying something to try to stop from keep yourself from getting arrested. You may mean trying to convince law enforcement of your innocence trying to talk too much.
Don West 09:31
With that idea in mind, are there some basic rules or basic guidelines that you’ve gleaned from your experiences, teaching classes and reviewing cases that would be helpful for people to think about practice and such?
Andrew Branca 09:47
I think if people can limit themselves to very basic information, most of which they’ll have to tell anyway, so it’s going to be revealed, right, their name, for example, if you’re calling 911 your location, there’s no point calling 911 if you’re not going to come to your location, right, because they have to in response to your calling send resources someplace. So you have to tell them where to send the resources.
And by the way, when you’re doing even that much, you’re already talking to the police, right?
Often I hear people urge the advice of never talked to the police. Then I ask them, Well, are you telling people not to call 911, then, because once they call 911, they’re talking to the police.
So you can’t just tell people don’t talk to the police. You have to tell them, you know, what to say. I think is very basic information, like their name, their location, someone who’s been injured, so send police and an ambulance. And if you can, I had to defend myself.
The trick is, what you don’t want to do is then open up the door to some kind of extended explanation for what happened at the events.
That’s another thing I see a piece of advice I see given that I really think is mistaken. And a lot of frankly, very high-profile self defense instructors tell their students to tell the responding officers that you want to press charges against that person, the person who you just defended yourself against, I want to press charges against that person.
Well, in theory, they’ve committed a crime, right? If you acted unlawful self-defense it was because they were committing a criminal act of violence against you. So in theory, wanting to press charges against them makes sense.
But if you’re the responding officer, and you’re talking to the person claiming self-defense, and they say, I want to press charges against that person, what are you going to say, as a responding officer?
You’re going to say, okay, for what sure what’s happened, right? Explain what happened. And now you’re getting into a long, detailed explanation that’s almost certain to not [exactly] match other evidence, not match other witnesses testimony about what happened, because we all know, for example, if there’s five witnesses to an event, and you separate them and you get their statements, you don’t get one recounting of what happened, you get five different versions of what happened.
So there is no single reality of what happened. And your version is not going to be correct, either. Because of the stress, as we’ve already talked about, the way your brain captures, stores, and recalls information is grossly defective and different than the normal experience.
Don West 12:12
So when you know the police are coming while you’re on the phone with 911, assuming you are the one [to call], if not, you may be relaying some information to the person on the phone to tell them, You, of course, want to include that identifying information. But of course, you’re the guy with the gun, and you know, the police are coming.
So you may think it’s helpful, I certainly would, to describe what you look like or maybe what you’re wearing so that when the police get there, they know that you’re the person that called, especially if there’s some confusion, because the last thing you want is to get shot when the police show up, and they don’t know what’s going on.
Andrew Branca 12:49
Right. I think the best way to avoid getting shot is to not have the gun in your hand. When they show up having the gun in your hand is an excellent way to get shot by responding officers.
In terms of describing what you look like, frankly, if the system worked efficiently, that would be great.
And by that, I mean, if we can assume that the communications person on the other end of the phone line is hearing you correctly, understands that you’re describing yourself and not some kind of suspect, that they then pass on that information accurately to the responding officers sSo they know it’s a description of the purportedly innocent person and not the description of a suspect they’re looking for. [but] I see a lot of points like the game of telephone where that communication can be imperfect.
And the cops may arrive thinking, Oh, that’s the description of the suspect. Right. That’s the description I got of the dangerous person.
Don West 13:46
I hadn’t thought of it that way. Yeah, you could actually contribute to some confusion right away. And I think most
Andrew Branca 13:52
Most street cops, the kind of cops who would be responding to this kind of event, they know that communication is imperfect. So they’re going to show up prepared to use force to defend themselves and other innocent persons and secure the scene.
Don West 14:07
So the first officer on the scene would be called the responding officer rather than the investigating officer or the detective, there’s likely to be someone to whom the investigation is assigned, whose role is to sort of assemble the case package that would be submitted at a later date to the prosecution, but you will likely encounter the responding officer or law enforcement officer.
And what are your suggestions as to how you interact there, you’ve talked about some of the things you would say. How about when the officer says, tell me what happened.
So that raises another excellent point, and that is that there’s not one single police interaction, there’s at least three distinct police interactions you’re likely to have.
One is your interaction with 911 which is going to be different than [second] your interaction with the responding officers because they’re physically present and of course, 911 wasn’t
And then [third] your interaction with the investigators that in most cases will follow the first responders. Generally the first responder, outside of really rural areas, will not be the investigative officer.
You’ve already made it clear and for good reason why you don’t talk in great detail to the responding officer, certainly not on the scene. You do communicate, I take it that you intend to be cooperative, that you’re there to be helpful to the extent that you can. However, my suggestion has been when people ask me, What do I say specifically when they want me to give a statement at the scene?
My advice typically is, I’ll be glad to cooperate with you, but before I give a detailed statement, I’d like to consult with counsel. And in fact, at that point, declined to give a further statement, but communicate that you’re willing, you just want to be under slightly different circumstances.
Andrew Branca 15:58
So, yeah, there’s some subtlety here as well.
I think really the only things I encourage people to tell responding officers are what they’ve already told 911.
So, your name, you don’t have to give your location obviously they’re [already] there, and that you acted in self-defense as a blanket statement, no details about what happened, and identify for those responding officers any evidence or witnesses that you want to make sure aren’t lost.
So the person who attacked you with a knife, and their knife went under a car, make sure the cop knows to look under the car, you need that knife recovered in evidence.
[With respect to witnesses, with] four patrol cars with flashing lights or maybe 100 people in a crowd looking to see what’s going on? But only two of them were actually there when you defended yourself? You want those two people identified as witnesses so statements can be taken.
But that’s really it. In fact I’m a little wishy washy even about suggesting to people that they tell the police I’ll be happy to cooperate later, after I’ve spoken with my lawyer, because what if after you speak with your lawyer, the lawyer says, You know what, we don’t want to cooperate anymore?
Don West 17:00
Well, let’s talk about that. But let’s do it the next time. Okay?
Don West 17:06
We didn’t really have a chance at the beginning, my fault, for you to identify yourself and talk a little bit about yourself, your publications and your videos and your website? Take a minute if you would now, and then we’ll end the segment and pick it up again.
Andrew Branca 17:21
Sure. So of course, I’m Attorney Andrew Branca, I always presume everybody knows who I am, because I’m all over the internet.
But I’m an attorney who specializes exclusively in use-of-force law. Our little slogan at my law practice Law of Self Defense LLC (http://lawofselfdefense.com) is you carry a gun to you’re hard to kill, know the law so you’re hard to convic.
When we say that we don’t mean learn legal tricks. We mean learn what the law actually is so that you can conform your conduct in self-defense to be lawful. If it’s lawful, it’s very difficult to get a conviction. Not impossible, but very difficult.
We do a lot of legal consulting on use-of-force cases. But I would say our core mission is more educational to teach people what they need to know, so that their conduct in self-defense is lawful, so they reduce the chances that they’ll get criminally charged get prosecuted, or heaven forbid get convicted.
Don West 18:10
Thanks, Andrew. pleasure talking with you.
Sure. Thank you.
I’m Don West, National Trial Counsel for CCW Safe. Thanks for watching.
Okay, folks, well, I hope you enjoy the conversation between myself and dawn on speaking with the police in the aftermath of use of force event. That was just part one of two of that conversation.
We also discussed at shot a number of other topics around use of force law that were recorded, and we’ll be released as videos over the next few weeks and months and as they’re released. I’ll share those with our members over at the Law of Self Defense website (http://lawofselfdefense.com).
Before I let you all go I do want to remind everyone that we are currently finalizing our newest course “Lawful Defense Against Rioters, Looters, and Arsonists”. This course will be available for free to Law of Self Defense Members, you’ll find it in your Member Area on the Law of Self Defense web site.
And if you’re not a member of Law of Self Defense, I frankly have to ask why that’s the case. Because membership is really inexpensive folks, the normal membership is less than $10 a month only about 33 cents a day for world-class self-defense law expertise, insight, education, explanation.
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So I urge you take advantage of that.
And when you do, by the way, as a member even during that two week trial membership, you will get free access to our newest course “Lawful Defense Against Rioters, Looters, and Arsonists”. So I encourage you to at least take a look at that trial membership. You can learn more about by clicking the image or link below:
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Okay, folks, I think that’s all I have for all of you today. I hope again, you enjoyed that conversation with myself and Don.
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In closing I’ll just remind all of you as always, that if you carry a gun, so you’re hard to kill, that’s why I carry a gun, so I’m hard to kill, so my family is hard to kill, well, then you also owe it to yourself and your family to make sure you know the law so that you’re hard to convict.
Not by knowing legal tricks, but by knowing where the legal boundaries actually are. And if you stay well within those legal boundaries, you do in fact become awfully hard to convict. That’s where we want you to be as well positioned to win the legal battle as you are to win the physical battle.
Alright, folks, until next time, I am attorney Andrew Branca for Law of Self Defense LLC. Stay safe.
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
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