by Greg Hopkins
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
Practicing criminal law from both sides over 19 years led me to hate certain truisms often thrown around on social media. These truisms aren’t only false, but dangerous. There are several that make me cringe when folks use them in regard to self-defense. Many regard them as “words to live by”, but in fact, they can get you thrown in prison.
The first is, “I’d rather be tried by twelve than carried out by six.” It’s stated by folks who can’t be bothered to take legal training in self-defense law or even consult a lawyer on their state’s self-defense statute. They tend to have a self-righteous and somewhat devil-may-care attitude of those who have taken too many cowboy movies too seriously. I assure you that they have never been the complainant or defendant in an actual criminal trial, or they would not be so anxious to take their worse-than-Vegas-chances on a jury trial.
Consider the cost of a homicide defense: it starts at $50,000 and that’s getting off cheap. Planning on a second mortgage is more realistic. The prosecutor will strike all gun dealers, hunters and NRA members off the jury. Your lawyer is ill-prepared 99% of the time because: 1.) They don’t teach self-defense law in law school criminal law classes; 2.) Your lawyer and the judge have never studied it. They mostly read the law and a few relevant cases before trial. (After all, they’ve got divorces, lawsuits, and a big criminal docket to clear). 3.) Your lawyer may not know that experts like me are available to enlighten the jury, or, if so, he doesn’t know how to use the expert effectively.
I’ve had a wife, a sister and the mother of a man convicted of manslaughter in my office. They hired their family business lawyer to represent him on a murder case. This is like asking your podiatrist to perform neurosurgery! Having legally carried a gun for eight years, the defendant joined in a fight at his mom’s house with his brother against the brother’s ex-wife’s husband. They got the victim face down on the floor, both sitting on him, and the cops were on their way. The victim kept screaming threats, so the defendant pulled his revolver and put it to back of the victim’s head and cocked the hammer. Told to shut up, the victim cursed and jerked his head back, causing the cocked gun to send a bullet into his brain.
By the time the weeping family saw me, the defendant’s conviction had been affirmed by the state court of criminal appeals. They asked if I could do an appeal to the state Supreme Court. F. Lee Bailey couldn’t have helped this guy. All states hold that a firearm is “an inherently dangerous instrument”. That means whether it goes off accidentally or you miss your robber and hit an innocent bystander, you are criminally and civilly liable in every state under “the doctrine of transferred intent”. In short, every punch you throw, every bullet you fire, has a lawyer riding on it. Get the law wrong, and you will pay with your wallet and/or your freedom.
So maybe instead of relying on something “my uncle’s friend” or “this cop I know” said, before you even think about using force, maybe you should sell you third AR-15 and get in a good legal force training school. Start by reading In the Gravest Extreme by Massad Ayoob and The Law of Self Defense by Andrew Branca. Do that and you’ll know more about the law of self-defense than 99% of lawyers and judges. As a city prosecutor, I tried thousands of assault cases. Despite the mistaken contention of the defense lawyers, not one was justifiable!
If you choose to go legally armed, don’t gamble your life and freedom on worn out myths. Get educated. Remember, self-defense is a thinking person’s activity.
Greg Hopkins is a recovering lawyer, city prosecutor, police Use-of-Force law instructor, former city judge in two towns and criminal defense lawyer. He’s been teaching the Bible to teens and adults for 40 years. He now trains CCP holders and armed church security teams in self defense law. He also does expert witnessing in firearms and self defense cases. His book is A Time To Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism, on the Bible and self defense.