Attorney Question Of The Month

With the generous help of our Network Affiliated Attorneys, this column helps our members understand the world our affiliated attorneys work in and demystifies various aspects of the legal system for our readers. We embarked on a new and interesting topic this month, when we asked our Affiliated Attorneys—

“What should a Network member do to protect his or her legal position in the event of widespread civil unrest if compelled to use deadly force to defend against presently threatened deadly force, but owing to loss of phone service or jammed 911 call centers is unable to report the incident to police?”

Bruce Finlay
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 3, Shelton, WA 98584
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The question is extremely difficult to answer due to the number of possible variations. But, the question suggests that the shooter’s first priority will have to be his or her own safety and the safety of accompanying family and friends, which may very well necessitate leaving the scene immediately. If so, I would advise contacting the Network and one of its affiliated attorneys as soon as possible for advice. If no one can be contacted, once a place of safety is reached, document the names and contact information for all known persons present at the scene, and obtain statements from them as to what they observed and why they needed to leave the scene.

Also document all attempts to contact law enforcement by whatever means are available, even if only in note form, including time, date and means of attempted contact and the result of the attempt, i.e., busy signal or no answer or no service available. It is important for any known witnesses to write down what they observed before memory fades; this also serves to defend against later claims of fabrication.

All statements should be signed and dated, noting the place and time as well, and be as detailed as possible. I would normally want to see all written statements signed under penalty of perjury to avoid later changes from pressure or manipulation.

Draw a diagram of the physical layout of the scene of the incident, noting the locations of buildings, streets, and all known witnesses and the shooter and the attacker(s). Note specifically what deadly force was used against you, in as much detail as possible, and why deadly force needed to be used in response to the attack.

Royce Ferguson
Attorney at Law
2931 Rockefeller, Everett, WA 98201
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Lack of ability to call 911 is just one more factor when considering whether or not the private use of force was reasonable (should civil unrest finally calm and the courts are back up and running and the shooter’s actions are being judged). The use of such force most likely will be judged on whether it was used to protect self or immediate others; its use to “protect society” probably would not work to exonerate the shooter (unless civil society is beyond unrest, as in beyond existence, in which instance it would not matter).

Kevin L. Jamison
Attorney at Law
2614 Northeast 56th Terrace, Gladstone, MO
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He can identify witnesses and get written statements if at all possible. Without cell phone service, the cell phone can still take pictures. Anything to document the event will help. Report the event as soon as possible.