Are you one of the 7.14% of Americans who have a carry license? If so, does your significant other know what to do if they get that dreaded call? You know, the one that goes like this, "Honey, was attacked and I had to shoot someone. I'm at the police station. Get me an attorney, ASAP!"
The sooner you start your legal defense, the sooner you get to go home.
A few days ago, while opening the mail, I happened onto the renewal membership cards from the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. One for me and one for my bride. I signed my spouse up a year or two ago when she got her license to carry.
She's taken classes and knows what to do if she ever gets that dreaded call from me. But today, while we put the cards into our respective wallets, I made sure she also had the emergency phone number for my favored law firm.
Years ago, when I started carrying a gun, I had a couple of attorneys I'd call. One practiced in my hometown, and the other in Cook County. Age eventually got the better of both of them and they're no longer practicing.
My search for replacement attorneys took a couple of years, but I found some. Because of my unique job, I have a chance to meet all sorts of great people, including some very good attorneys.
If fortune has not favored you similarly, don't panic. Ask friends you might have who work as cops who they would call to represent themselves or their spouses if they were involved in an off-duty shooting. Cops tend to know the better attorneys in their area.
Or you can ask me when you see me if you live in Central Illinois.
Failing that, retired judges and prosecutors usually make better criminal defense attorneys. Shop around and when you find a good one, ask for an after-hours phone number. You really don't want to cool your jets in jail over a holiday weekend waiting to speak to your lawyer.
Still striking out on attorney referrals? Sign up for a legal defense insurance policy. Virtually all of the companies out there should provide attorney referrals. Not only is this important for picking a good one where you live, but should circumstances force you to shoot in self-defense while on vacation, you'll want the services of a good attorney there, away from home, as well.
Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, US Law Shield, US Concealed Carry Association, Second Call Defense, SPRISKA, NRA Carry Guard…lots of services provide this kind of coverage. They vary in their terms and conditions. I have written about the pros and cons of several in the past, but some of that information has become dated.
Unfortunately, lots of people don't really have a good idea who to call for help. Even people without carry licenses should consider who they would like to represent them before a real need comes along. For instance, a farmer in rural Knox County Illinois probably never dreamed he would have to shoot an attacker a couple of hundred yards outside his front door. But he did.
Even worse, the farmer probably never thought he might face an aggressive prosecutor playing politics with his case. But once again, he did.
No, sitting in a jail cell thumbing through a Yellow Pages is a poor strategy for finding good legal representation. Ditto for the friend or family member you called who's trying to help you out. After all, if you choose wrong, you can lose your freedom and liberty in addition to lots of hard-earned cash.
And public defenders, while skilled in the criminal justice system, won't make good attorneys. They simply have too many clients in their caseload. And frankly, they work day in and day out representing guilty clients. You're not their typical client. And you don't want their typical defense strategies.
In a nutshell, take the time to communicate with your family now. Identify a good local attorney or law firm you'd use for criminal defense work. Not only that, but make sure you've got a way to contact them after hours.
Lastly, make sure you've got a way to come up with a $10,000 or $20,000 retainer to fund the start of your criminal defense. It does not matter if that comes from your home equity line of credit, cash under the mattress or in a savings account, or some sort of CCW insurance policy.
You'll thank me for this if you have to pull the trigger someday.