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It's one of those situations you hope never happens to you. You've been attacked by an armed criminal, and to defend your own life you've drawn your firearm and taken them down. But now comes what arguably is the scariest part of the whole ordeal. What happens next.

Because if you're not aware of what happens, and let the stress of the situation get to you, you may quickly find you're in big trouble. You could lose your freedom, and everything in your life you've been working so hard to achieve. All because you stood up to defend yourself.

Now before we get too far into this I just want to reiterate a point. I'm not a lawyer, and all the advice here I give is general, and is only meant to be informative to give you an idea of what will happen after a shooting. The actual steps may differ from state to state, and your own personal circumstances, my only advice is to do a little research beforehand so you know what you're getting into. It's all part of being a responsible gun owner.

Right, now here's what happens next.

The immediate aftermath

The first thing you need to do is ensure the threat is over. Make sure the bad guy is down, and take in everything else going on in the area. Are his friends scattered, or are they circling around to jump you from behind. Once you're in the clear re-holster your weapon and check for any injuries to yourself, or the people around you.

Making the 911 call

Now you're going to need help. But before you call take a breath. All 911 calls are recorded, and anything you say can actually be introduced as evidence in court. So, don't get caught up in a lengthy discussion of what happened. You can be brief. Tell the operator your location, your name, and a brief summary of what happened. "A man tried to rob me and I had to shoot him" is more than adequate. Ask for the police to be dispatched and to send an ambulance.

When the officers arrive

This is probably the riskiest part of the whole ordeal. The police are armed, and they are approaching a situation where they know someone has already been shot. They will be on edge, and very likely to shoot first if they feel even the slightest bit unsafe. Be calm, controlled and steady in your movements, and obey every instruction they give. I'd also like to remind you of the importance of being unarmed with your gun holstered, or even removing it completely and locking it in your car. You don't want to be mistaken for the attacker or a threat that needs to be taken out. Because remember, they don’t know the players or the details yet of what's happened. Their whole goal is to get the location safe, so you may even be handcuffed or taken down. The best course of action for you is to tell them you're the victim, and to cooperate fully with their commands. They will figure it out soon enough, so just be patient.

When it's time to give a statement

Eventually the police will come to you asking for a statement. You'll be read your constitutional rights, and they'll appear all friendly and tell you this is simply a formality. My advice here is to be very wary. Say the wrong thing now and you could incriminate yourself, even if you did nothing wrong. It's much better to remain polite, and tell the interviewing officer that you're upset, and a little stressed out, and that whilst you intend to cooperate fully, you'd like your attorney present before making any form of statement. This is well within your rights, and the officers cannot force you to do otherwise. So, make the call, and get your attorney to the scene asap. They’ll help you to avoid saying anything you may regret later, or that you could have explained clearer if you had a little time to replay the shooting in your head and remember all the facts.

It's not unreasonable to assume that you'll be taken down to the station for further questioning as the officers try to understand what happened, and your role in the shooting.

From here, there's far too many variables to explain what happens next. It'll vary from state to state, but be prepared for lots of delays. The officers can keep you in custody for up to 48 hours, while they figure out what to do next. You could be released after the prosecutor's office has reviewed the details of the case and decided not to press charges.

You could have a friend or a family member post your bail to get you out while it's all being investigated. Or you stay in jail until your arraignment hearing. This is where a criminal defense attorney is a valuable asset, as they will help navigate the legal system for you and make the process as painless as possible.

Shooting another person is a rather big deal, even if you've acted in self-defense. Because you've taken a life, it lengthy police process you must follow, to ensure, without a question of a doubt, that you had no other option but to pull the trigger. Before you even start carrying a firearm for self-defense, it's important to know what will happen if you were to use it on another person. So you can prepare, and understand the right way to handle it if you ever face a situation like this yourself.

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