My Spouse Defended Another. Now What?

            Defending another individual is not an easy decision to make. Hearing that your spouse or family member made that decision and is now being charged with a crime is difficult to handle although from having to make the decision to defend another individual. Three seconds from arriving on the scene is not a long time to decide to pull a firearm and get involved. Your loved one would have had to assess the situations, determine who was the aggressor and who needed his assistance, decide to get involved, determine what level of force was appropriate, and act.

            But as the family member, you are left with a lot of questions that the public and the media will be asking. You will hear the stories that claim your loved one is the type of person to shoot whenever he wants just because he carries a firearm. The media will be calling, if not showing up, at your residence. You will not be able to have questions answered directly from your loved one without his statements to you being used against him. Here are some tips to help you through the process.

            Privilege for spouses is not preserved on telephone calls from the jail. You may receive the news initially from your loved one who is calling from a jail. These calls are recorded, and nothing said during the call is privileged. Do not ask for details about what happened. The statements made by your loved one will be used against him in a court hearing. Ask who you need to contact for legal representation. Even better is to have these conversations ahead of time in the privacy of your home. Come out with a word or phrase that seems innocent that will activate a plan that the two of you have. It could be something as simple as “I need avocados at the Livingston County Jail.” To those listening, this might cause some alarm as inmates would not be allowed outside produce, but for your family the meaning is unique. You would have predetermined the actions steps that would be needed when you hear these words. It came be the same phrase or sentence that you would hear for a self-defense shooting.

            Determine who will speak to the media ahead of time. If any member of your family carries a firearm for defensive purposes, determine from the moment a concealed pistol license has been issued, or the firearm is openly carried, if the family will speak to the media, who will be the spokesperson, and what information will be conveyed. Do not speak about the incident. Determining what information to reveal in interviews may be done with the assistance of an attorney. This decision needs to be personal to your family and after you have considered the pros and cons of speaking with the media. This list may be generated after having a meeting with a preferred attorney to represent your family in such event and considers the advice given by the attorney.

            Have a support network around you. Develop a close support network of family and friends that can be there to support you throughout the process. Your loved one may not be granted bail if someone died. In Michigan, magistrates and judges have the discretion to deny bail for crimes involving murder. Can your support network help you with chores around your home if bail is denied? Are they willing to take you in for a few days to avoid the media? Asking these tough questions now before you need the assistance can give you the time to plan for what you will need.

            Obtain a durable power of attorney. If your loved one is denied bail, you may need to handle his affairs throughout the criminal defense. Do you have the legal authority to act on his behalf? Creditors, insurance adjusters, and others may not speak with you, even if you are a spouse, without proof that you have been granted legal authority. If you have an estate plan, update it now to ensure that you have current legal power to act on behalf of the loved one with his financial affairs. Keep a copy of this document handy, you may need it if your loved is involved a non-shooting incident and is unable to handle his financial affairs for a few months. A reputable estate planning attorney in your area can help you be prepared with the Durable Power of Attorney.

            Finally, if you receive that dreaded telephone call that your loved one stepped in to help another and is now facing criminal charges, do not hesitate. Call an attorney that practices in criminal defense and is knowledgeable about firearms law immediately after hanging up. Michigan Gun law is here to help you when your loved one decides to defend another person.

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