Even in the best of circumstances, going to court as a defendant is going to take a lot of time and money. Anything you can do to avoid this will save all kinds of hassle.
Sometimes, being involved in the criminal-justice system does not have the result that many honest citizens think it will have. Here is a good example of an incident that didn’t go the way an innocent man thought it should have.
My friend was driving home from work when he became the victim of a road-rage incident. The instigator was weaving in and out of traffic, bullying motorists out of his way. He ended up clipping my friend’s car and then losing control and crossing the median into oncoming traffic. This caused the instigator and two other vehicles to wreck and resulted in injuries to some of the drivers.
My friend called 911 and then returned to the scene, once he was assured that a police officer had arrived. Knowing that he wasn’t the cause of the accident, my friend was happy to cooperate with police investigators, even going to the station, later, to give a voluntary statement.
You can imagine this friend’s surprise when he was later notified that he had been charged with three cases of felony assault. At this point he did what he probably should have done in the first place and contacted an attorney to represent him and to post his bond.
In the state where this occurred, all felony charges must be referred to a grand jury to determine if they warrant prosecution. Instead of taking these assault charges to the grand jury, however, the district attorney kicked them back to the police for further investigation. One might assume the district attorney did not think that the facts, as they existed at that time, were strong enough to obtain an indictment and lead to a trial.
The police department did nothing, or could find nothing, that would satisfy the district attorney. This state sets the statute of limitations on felony assault at 3 years, which means that if, in 3 years, there hasn’t been an indictment, the case can no longer be prosecuted. For whatever reason, this is exactly what the district attorney allowed to happen.
Now, what this means is that my friend sat around for 3 years with the possibility of three felony convictions hanging over his head. Fortunately, his employer was sympathetic and my friend did not lose his job. At the end of the 3 years, my friend and his attorney went before a district court and had the cases dismissed. But, wait—there’s more.
Having felony cases dismissed due to the statute of limitations does not get the arrests off of one’s record. My friend and his attorney then had to go back into court and request that the court order the arrest records expunged—that is, removed from all records as if they never happened.
In summation, my friend spent $25,000 on an attorney—money he won’t recover. He sat for 3 years with felony charges hanging over his head. He also paid whatever the attorney charged for the expungement hearing. All of this for crimes that my friend did not commit.
Although I reviewed this case in depth, I did not interview the police investigator or the district attorney. I don’t know why they chose to go this route instead of just dismissing the charges for lack of evidence. As far as I can determine, however, they acted within the law by doing so.
The lesson for the armed citizen is that, even when justified or blameless, a person can get caught up in the criminal-justice system for quite some time and at quite significant expense. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $25,000 just sitting around ready to pay for attorney’s fees. And in some areas, it could cost a whole lot more.
It has been said that dealing with a criminal attack involves at least two different problems that a person will have to solve. The first is to survive the actual attack by doing whatever is necessary to stay alive. And the second problem is to survive the aftermath of that criminal attack, whatever that might be.
In these days of social unrest, we may be involved in all sorts of situations that make us fear for our safety. We may feel justified in producing defensive firearms in order to make others leave us alone. We may even fear for our lives and say as much to investigators.
Well, here’s the kicker—it doesn’t matter if we felt justified, what matters is if the criminal-justice system determines we were justified. What makes it even worse is when the criminal-justice system has other motives and may be pressured by special interests or even criminal elements. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.
This sort of thing is the reason that many of us suggest that avoidance is critically important. We get away from a criminal attack if at all possible. And we use deadly force, or the threat of deadly force, only when there is absolutely no other way to survive and/or protect our family. When you take the time to look at the big picture, it’s the smart thing to do.