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How to “Defend” Against Prosecution and/or Conviction After a Deadly Force Encounter

How to “Defend” Against Prosecution and/or Conviction After a Deadly Force Encounter

A. The right to use force and deadly force in Indiana.

Under Indiana’s use of force statute, a person is justified in using reasonable force against another person to protect the person or a third party from what the person believes to be the imminent use of unlawful force.  Further, a person is justified in using deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes the use of this level of force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person or in the commission of a forcible felony.

This blog post explores how to properly “defend” yourself and what you should do after exercising deadly force to minimize the chances of being charged with reckless homicide or a related crime because a police officer or prosecutor believes that a reasonable person would not believe you faced serious bodily injury or there was a forcible felony in play.

B. The way to respond after a deadly force encounter.

Few people really think through what they would do after a deadly force encounter.  As a standard response to any deadly force situation, the following is a generally accepted way to protect your person and legal rights.

First, make sure the aggressor is stopped and there are not other criminals involved in the activity.  Be aware that a stressful life-death situation like this creates tunnel vision phenomenon so you may not see others involved in the criminal act who are not immediately in front of you.

Second, it is not uncommon for someone who has been shot (if that is the tool used for deadly force) to have their blood pressure stabilize and re-engage in the fight.  It is also important to note that if the force was by a handgun, these are very poor man-stoppers.

Third, call 911 while maintaining situational awareness of the environment.  Identify yourself, but make no admissions, stating only your name, that there has been a shooting and the need for police and ambulance rescue at your location.

Fourth, render aid to the extent possible or retreat to a safe location and be aware of police and the fact you may be the person they see with a gun.  Incidentally, if the shooting was justified, then the Good Samaritan Act potentially protects against certain medical care provided.

Fifth, identify yourself to police and rescue personnel and then invoke your right to remain silent and request an attorney.

Read again.  Do not make any statements as to what occurred and “lawyer-up”.  The human desire to explain is sometimes overwhelming, but your statement may cause you to be charged. Avoid the notion that you have nothing to hide, were justified, and make a statement.  Why?  Because after a traumatic event you are not able to accurately make a statement, and if you leave out one important detail that may justify deadly force, it will not be deemed credible later.

Specifically, when faced with a life and death situation, your body releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that initiates adrenalin, a hormone, during the activation of the stress response.  This process floods the body with excess hormones, raises blood pressure and elevates blood sugar levels, creating a host of physical and psychological problems.  This is why you cannot make a statement.  Your brain and body chemistry are out of balance.

C. Making your statement or defense.

At some point, it may be you with your defense counsel make a statement about what occurred.  This must demonstrate there was a reasonable belief the use of this level of force—deadly force–was necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to you or a third person or commission of a forcible felony or to defend your home and curtilage.  Now with the luxury of time, you can “unpack” what happened and went into your decision to exercise deadly force.

For example, how about if someone steps into your running car at a gas station?  Is this carjacking, a forcible felony, or theft? It depends on very narrow facts and circumstances. What was your distance from the car?  Were there any weapons apparent?  Was someone else in the car? The difference in the facts matters: self-defense versus a serious felony and prison time.

Whatever the facts, you will not remember them at the time, and may not even be able to distill them without skilled defense counsel helping you.  This is the reason for the standard operating procedure outlined above.

We hope this blog post provides you with general educational information about the use of deadly force in Indiana.  Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates and handles a wide array of criminal defense cases in Indiana.  The firm has a strong focus on firearms-related cases.  This blog is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.


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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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