New York Self Defense Law – I Used my Lawfully Possessed Weapon What Do I Do Now?

New York Self-Defense laws give a person broad authority to use physical force and even deadly physical force to defend themselves and to defend others from attack.  Article 35 of the New York Penal Law creates a defense to even the most serious criminal charges such as murder, attempted murder, assault and attempted assault.  The question is what do you do in the aftermath of a self defense shooting?  Who do you call?  What do you do?  What do you say?  Do I need an attorney?  How do I find the right attorney?  Will I be arrested?  Will I be charged with a crime?  Could I be charged with murder? Assault?  Attempted Murder? Reckless Endangerment?

The immediate aftermath of a New York self-defense incident are critical.  Some of the considerations are tactical and not legal such as what do I do with my weapon before the police arrive?  There are some excellent articles that you should read by the USSCA and the NRA about those issues.  It is important that your weapon be safeguarded and not hidden so that when the police arrive you do not appear to be a threat.  Remember, you are shaken up, in shock and not reasoning or thinking clearly.  If possible, someone else should call 911, which will be the first statement about the incident to law enforcement and will be recorded.  That recording may very well end up being played in Court either during proceedings brought against you or your attacker.  Make sure that medical help is requested either for you or your attacker or both.  If anyone asks are you ok the true answer to that question is that you don’t know.  Adrenalin will be pumping you may be physically injured or in shock.

It is important that you not touch or tamper with the crime scene and probably is better in most circumstances to stand away and not attempt to render aid to your attacker.  When the police arrive it is important that you not present as a threat.  Make sure that you are not displaying a weapon, even if its holstered.  As criminal defense attorneys we always recommend not speaking to the police but in the unique situation of a self defense shooting we recommend a small modification of that general rule.  Have a short, one or two sentence, statement ready for the police just to start their investigation on the right track and then invoke your right to counsel.

Something to the effect of “that man just attacked me and I want to press charges.”  Or “that man broke into my house and tried to kill my family.  I am willing to sign a complaint.”  Then invoke your right to counsel by saying something to the effect of “I will cooperate fully, I need to call my lawyer so that I can explain what happened.”  Do not make any further statements and do not consent to any searches.  Do not speak to the press.

Try to make a mental note of as many details as possible and write them down when you are not in police custody but before you meet with an attorney.  Make note of witnesses, positions of people weapons, lighting, evidence and other relevant items and anything that anyone said.

Find a lawyer experienced in self-defense shootings.  Pick a lawyer with a good reputation who you trust.  Be honest with your lawyer and give the lawyer all of the details that you have including the names of witnesses and any other details that will give the lawyer the full picture.

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