Marty-eJournal column pix

by Marty Hayes, J.D.
President, Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc.

Three Different Types of Programs

In the self defense aftermath support industry, there are three types of programs. There is the insurance model, where the benefits are underwritten by an insurance carrier/underwriter. There are legal services plans, where you sign an agreement with a law firm or a company that will hire attorneys for you to provide your legal defense. And then there is the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, which is a membership program, through which members are afforded member benefits that focus on legal defense after self defense. I will explain each type in its own separate category.

 

Membership Organization:
Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network

Criminal and Civil Defense

The Network pays its members’ legal expenses after self defense up front – when the attorneys, bail bonds, and other expenses need to be paid. The maximum available for any single member is one half of the total amount in the Legal Defense Fund. Currently the Fund’s balance is over $1,125,000. Consequently, the Network has no arbitrary limit on how much it will assist its members, just the practical limit of one-half of the Fund, which we will discuss a bit later.

Mbr Benes

Our dues rates are:
$135.00 first year ($95 per year renewal)
$295.00 for 3-year membership
$790.00 for 10-year membership

Options Offered by the Network's Competitors

Insurance (Criminal Defense)

There are three major players in the insurance game. They are USCCA, Second Call Defense and the NRA Carry Guard program. In a nutshell, the insurance programs each have limits on how much they will pay out for criminal defense costs, either in an up-front payment (as USCCA and Second Call Defense claim to do) or primarily as a reimbursement scheme as is the case with 80% of the NRA Carry Guard program. In all insurance models, there are limits to the amount available for your criminal defense. The more money you are willing to pay out each year, the higher your insurance limit will be. Those limits/costs are as follows:

USCCA
$50,000 coverage for $147.00 per year (Silver)
$75,000 coverage for $247.00 per year (Gold)
$125,000 coverage for $347.00 per year (Platinum)

Second Call Defense
$10,000 coverage for $119.00 per year (Basic)
$50,000 coverage for $239.00 per year (Defender)
$50,000 coverage for $439.00 per year (Ultimate)
$100,000 coverage for $539.00 per year (Ultimate Plus)

NRA Carry Guard
$50,000* for $154.95 per year (Bronze)
$100,000* for $254.95 per year (Silver)
$150,000* for $359.95 per year (Gold)

*The NRA Carry Guard criminal defense program will only pay 20% of the above limits up front, and that money can only be spent for ancillary items such as bail, investigation and court costs. The remaining 80% will be on a reimbursement scheme, where the individual will need to pay their own legal fees up front, and then if acquitted or the charges dropped, will be reimbursed. This means you will need to pre-fund your legal defense, and await reimbursement.

Insurance (Civil Suit)

The USCCA, Second Call Defense and NRA Carry Guard all have as part of their offering, a civil suit insurance component. In all three programs, since the insurance carrier/underwriter will be on the hook for the civil damages, the insurance company will provide the legal defense. The insurance carrier/underwriter will choose the attorneys and defend the suit. The “insured” has no say as far as the civil case goes, and if the award at trial exceeds the limits of the policy which is reduced by the actual defense/attorney costs, then you are on the hook for that excess award. Here are the breakdown of the civil liability limits of the insurance plans.

USCCA
$250,000 coverage for $147.00 per year (Silver)
$500,000 coverage for $247.00 per year (Gold)
$1,000,000 coverage for $347.00 per year (Platinum)

Second Call Defense
$0 coverage for $119.00 per year (Basic)
$50,000 coverage for $239.00 per year (Defender)
$250,000 coverage for $439.00 per year (Ultimate)
$250,000 coverage for $539.00 per year (Ultimate Plus)

NRA Carry Guard
$250,000 coverage for $154.95 per year (Bronze)
$500,000 coverage for $254.95 per year (Silver)
$1,000,000 coverage for $359.95 per year (Gold)


Legal Services Plans (Criminal and Civil Defense)

While there are a multitude of prepaid legal service plans now available, there are really two major ones that operation on a national scope. They are U.S. Law Shield and CCW Safe. For this reason, I will limit my analysis to these two plans.

U.S. Law Shield

$131.40 per year (for your home state) 
$166.80 per year for (multiple states)

Unlimited legal fees covered for both criminal and civil defense, but no money for experts, investigations, court costs or bail. The plan participant must use the attorney they select. They also have additional optional “add-on” programs for additional fees, which would provide bail assistance and pay for expert witnesses.

CCW Safe

$129.00 per year

The client does not pay any out-of-pocket costs associated with defense for either criminal or civil defense. The client must use the attorney CCWSafe selects.

Ancillary Benefits

The above outlines the major benefits and coverages of all the listed plans/programs. There are a multitude of additional benefits each program claims to offer, from bail assistance to clean up of your home after a shooting. It is up to the individual consumer to check the fine print of each plan to determine exactly what is included and decide whether or not that is important to you.

People Who Are Considering Joining the Network Frequently Ask Us...

How solvent is the Network?

We have never operated in the red and have never incurred debt. Instead, we started the Network conservatively and always maintained a positive bank balance, with no liabilities. Since starting at zero in 2008, we have built up our Legal Defense Fund (at the time of this update, August 2017) to over $1,080,000 having drawn on it to pay in excess of $175,000 in attorney fees on behalf of fifteen members.

The Legal Defense Fund grows regularly because the Network deposits 25% of all dues into a separate account, our Legal Defense Fund, which we reserve exclusively for the legal defense of Network members. We also receive contributions to build up the Fund, and of course, 100% of these donations go into the Fund so it continues to increase, despite drawing from it on occasion to pay a member’s legal fees after a self-defense incident. Knowing how vital the Legal Defense Fund is to fulfilling our obligations to Network members, we are always happy to answer questions from our members or prospective members about the Legal Defense Fund.

How does a Network member receive financial assistance after a self-defense incident?

It all starts with a phone call, telling us that you have been involved in an incident and need immediate assistance. Since at the time of your call we do not know the particulars of the incident, on your word alone and upon request from you or your attorney we will forward up to $25,000 to the attorney of your choice to start your legal representation. If you don’t yet have an attorney, we will get to work immediately and help you find one.

Please understand that the attorney’s fee deposit is not yours. It is still the Network’s money and we expect any unused portion to be repaid to the Legal Defense Fund for the defense of other members. The reason we immediately pay a substantial retainer is to make sure our members are represented by a good, competent attorney as early as possible and throughout their interactions with the criminal justice system.

Will you help bail me out of jail?

The Network will pay a bail bond agent up to $25,000 to post bail on behalf of a member who has used force in self defense, which typically would cover a $250,000 bond. The member and his or her attorney must provide facts of the case to show the Network that their use of force had cognizable elements of self defense.

Don’t be fooled by these numbers, or a competitors’ bail numbers, either. A bail bondsman, in addition to requiring the 10% fee to guarantee that you show up to court, will ALSO require collateral to write the bond. If the judge sets bail at $250,000, you will also likely have to pledge your house, your parents’ house, your gun collection and perhaps your boat for the bail bondsman to feel comfortable writing a bond. When studying all of the post-incident support programs marketed, take the bail claims with a grain of salt, and be prepared to pledge additional collateral if you need to get bailed out of jail. Typically, the 10% fee alone will not, by it by itself, suffice.

This subject is more complex than a paragraph in benefits synopsis, so please review our full description at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/october-2015-presidents-message.

What if I’m charged with a crime?

After the initial fee deposit and the bail assistance, if you are charged with a crime and additional money is needed to pay for your legal defense, then the Network will ask your attorney for the facts of the case. We view these facts in the light most favorable to the member, of course, and if there is a reasonable self-defense component to the incident, then we grant additional money to fund that member’s legal defense. That amount of money is subject to the attorney’s estimate of the cost of the legal defense because each case is different.

How much will you pay for legal defense of a member?

The Network commits to disburse up to one half the Legal Defense Fund at any given time for the legal defense of any member charged with a crime after a legitimate act of self defense. Thus, the answer to that question is conditioned entirely upon the size of the Legal Defense Fund. Since the fund is now over $1,125,000, we could conceivably pay over $500,000 to protect your legal rights after self defense. This is higher than any insurance reimbursement that I know of, and of course, we will pay your attorney up front.

Will you pay for experts, investigators and jury consultants?

We place no restrictions on whom your attorney can hire to assist your legal defense, and so, yes, if needed, the money can be spent on expert witnesses, investigators, jury consultants or any other reasonable service a trial team needs to put on a vigorous defense of your act of self defense. Each case is unique, and the Network will not interfere with how your attorney handles your case.

Do you assign me an attorney, and if so, whom?

One of the best parts of membership in the Network is that you get to hire your own legal team. You have complete control over your defense. We would not want it any other way. Still, a surprising number of armed citizens do not know attorneys they trust to represent them after self defense, so the Network also has a list of over 400 Network Affiliated Attorneys across the country who are willing to help our members. Additionally, we have identified experienced self-defense attorneys who can do a great job defending a member at trial. If needed, one of these experienced heavy-hitters could be hired to argue the case alongside the member’s local attorney. The bottom line? The member is free to choose whatever attorney(s) they want; that lawyer does not have to be a Network Affiliated Attorney.

Does the Network have an emergency response plan?

Yes. We call it “Boots on the Ground.” If you are a member and are involved in a self-defense incident, have been arrested and have yet to obtain counsel, the Network will immediately dispatch a representative to your location, if needed, to work with you and your family to obtain legal representation. The “Boots on the Ground” emergency contact number is my personal cell phone number. You call it and I will answer, or if I am not immediately available, I will call back as soon as I get the message. This number is on the back of all Network membership cards. It is for use outside of office hours. If you are a member and your need arises between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Pacific time zone), you should call the Network office at 360-978-5200.

Will you work cooperatively with other companies?

Having an insurance policy or a pre-paid legal plan does not affect the member benefits and support we extend. If you have a pre-paid legal program and choose to use them for your defense, your attorney fees will be covered by the pre-paid legal plan. We can provide money for experts, consultants, and other costs of putting on a vigorous defense.

We make one request of members: If we assist you in paying for your criminal defense, and upon acquittal, an insurance company reimburses you the money we fronted for your defense, then we expect that money to be returned to the Legal Defense Fund. We want it available to defend the next member facing charges. Any award of money to help pay for your legal defense will be conditioned upon being paid back from any insurance settlements.

I hope I never need to go to court! What other benefits come with Network membership?

First and foremost, we believe the Network’s educational component is second to none. We send all new members a 235-page book and eight educational DVDs bearing on the many facets of use of deadly force in self defense. The book and DVDs serve two important purposes. First, the Network is strongest when each member understands his or her rights and responsibilities before using deadly force in self defense.

Secondly, the tangible book and DVD disks comprise a real, permanent part of your training history, documented so that if you need to prove in court that you understood a particular concept, they can be introduced into evidence for that purpose. Listening to a podcast, or watching a presentation on the Internet is fine, but it is hard to document and is not replicable in court.

The Network also distributes a monthly online journal focused on legal issues related to self defense. It includes interviews with leading trainers, a regular column to which Network Affiliated Attorneys contribute, thought-provoking commentary by Network leadership and more. In addition to the web page version, a PDF format is also provided should the member wish to print, initial and file away any part of it to document their studies.

Closing Thoughts

The Network was formed and developed by self-defense trainers and legal experts who know and understand what exactly are the issues in self-defense legal cases. For example, Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Tom Givens and Dennis Tueller are all part of the Network Advisory Board, as well as Attorneys James Fleming and Emanuel Kapelsohn. We are not simply a business wanting to cash in on the growing number of armed citizens, nor are we hyper-marketers who send e-mail after e-mail to prospective members with the intention of scaring them into buying their program or frivolously enticing them into joining with the offer of free guns and ammo. Nor are we the NRA or another gun rights group who view this industry as a cash cow, offering insurance to uneducated participants to bolster their bottom line. Instead, the Network is a group of conservative armed citizens, who take armed self defense with all its responsibilities very seriously. This we will continue to do as long as we are in business.

Links to competitors

We supply these links for the individual who wants to research these plans on their own, as we recommend. The Network believes that when you consider all the information available on these programs, you will make the wise consumer choice and decide to join the Network.

USCCA https://www.usconcealedcarry.com
Second Call Defense http://www.secondcalldefense.org
NRA Carry Guard https://www.nracarryguard.com/
U.S. Law Shield https://www.uslawshield.com
CCW Safe https://ccwsafe.com

__________

May 22, 2017: This version of the comparison article replaces our original Buyer's Guide, first published on August 15, 2014. Much has changed in the post-incident support industry since that time. We will update this version as changes occur, as well. We update this article occasionally. Last update: Legal Defense Fund balance updated Aug. 28, 2017; Fund balance updated Oct. 10, 2017.