When Is It Legal to Go Lethal? 8 Tips on the Limits of Self-Defense

6. You can use lethal force to defend others.

You may use lethal force to defend others if they would have had the right to defend themselves. In other words, if you see some people attacking some little old man or woman, you can legally use lethal force to stop their attack. I would hope that simply drawing my pistol and ordering them to the ground would make them stop and/or run away.

But, if you shoot, you must shoot accurately. You are responsible for every bullet that exits your gun. If one of your bullets hits an innocent person, you are responsible. You had better be a very good shot.

7. Do NOT become a vigilante.

The law discourages vigilantism. Unless you are trained in law enforcement, and part of a department, you are NOT a police officer! You could very well stumble upon a situation and accidentally shoot the innocent person and help out the bad guy! If so, you will be held responsible for your actions.

8. You must be prepared for the police when they come.

Lastly, be prepared when the police arrive. If you have to use lethal force, remember that the police may not know whether you are the good guy or the bad guy when they show up! All they will see is a body (or bodies) on the ground, and you with a smoking gun in your hand.

As the police are arriving, immediately put the gun down, get on your knees and put your hands on your head. If you are in your home, tell the dispatcher where you are in your home, describe yourself, and have the gun down and your hands in plain sight when the police arrive.

When the police show up they will ask you numerous questions. Other than answering a few common sense questions ("What is your name? Where do you live? Where did the perpetrators go?") you have a right to an attorney, and I would get a hold of one ASAP. (Not a bad idea to have your lawyer's phone number on your speed dial.) Of course, "anything you say can be held against you in a court of law," so consult with an attorney at your first opportunity.

It may not be clear to the police who is at fault, and you may have the cuffs put on you. You could even spend several hours (or days) before they get things sorted out.

Now is the time to consult your state's laws about using lethal force. Not after the incident. Read up. And train.