Criminal Defense Liability – What You Don’t Know Can Incarcerate You!

It is critical for individuals who own firearms for self-defense to have a solid understanding of criminal defense liability. The right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution but exercising that right comes with significant responsibilities, especially if a person finds themselves in a self-defense situation. Knowledge of self-defense laws, and concealed carry laws help gun owners navigate and avoid potential legal implications that may arise from using a weapon for self-defense.

Self-defense liability insurance (legal defense plan) is a great tool for mitigating the potential legal consequences associated with using a firearm—or for that matter any deadly weapon—for self-defense. This insurance-like product provides financial protection by covering legal fees and related expenses in the event of a self-defense incident. It is particularly relevant to criminal defense for gun owners, as it ensures that individuals are not burdened with exorbitant legal costs in the aftermath of a self-defense situation.  

Concealed Carry and Liability

As of this writing, 27 states allow some form of permit-less, concealed carry also known as “constitutional carry” while 21 states have instituted a “shall issue” permit system. Shall issue means that if an applicant meets the permit criteria, the jurisdiction of the state “shall issue” the permit. Only two states remain as in a “may issue” CCW format which means they may issue the permit depending on a person meeting certain criteria.  

Regardless of the permitting (or lack of) system, legal concealed carry holders have a responsibility to understand and adhere to laws and regulations in the jurisdiction in which they live or travel. The legal responsibility encompasses not only the mere act of carrying a firearm but also the potential use of lethal force. No state has a specific law requiring a citizen to intervene in any situation (“no duty to act”) – just because a person can act doesn’t mean they should act. The person carrying the gun is responsible for every round they fire.

Straying from the bounds of the law could result in severe consequences, ranging from fines to imprisonment. This underscores the importance of education and training for those choosing to carry concealed weapons. Understanding the laws and responsibilities of concealed carry is just as crucial as proper firearms training.  

Most incidents of using a gun for self-defense do not involve discharging a round. In many cases, simply showing a would-be attacker that you are armed is enough to make them think twice and look for a less prepared victim. Displaying a firearm, however, carries its own risks. Not to be confused with lawful open carry, “brandishing” a concealed weapon, is the unlawful display of a firearm with intent to intimidate, coerce or threaten someone. Brandishing can lead to serious legal troubles and heightens the risk of escalating conflicts unnecessarily. Laws differ by state, but brandishing could result in misdemeanor or even felony charges if charged and convicted. You may have dissuaded a potential attacker by revealing your gun, but will the District Attorney see it that way or charge you with Brandishing?

Below are some examples of people who were lawfully carrying a firearm when the use of it resulted in legal troubles for the carrier even if acquitted. 


Home Defense, Castle Doctrine and Stand your Ground.

The same as with carrying a firearm outside the home, incorporating a firearm into a home defense strategy involves significant responsibility, training and understanding of legality. In the U.S., the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws play pivotal roles in defining the legal boundaries of using deadly force in self-defense situations.

The Castle Doctrine (rooted in the idea that a man’s home is his castle) provides legal justification for the use of force, including deadly force, to defend oneself and others within their home against intruders. In states with Castle Doctrine laws, there is generally no duty to retreat before using force, offering a legal shield to those who act in self-defense within the confines of their residence. There are limitations of course, primarily the distinction between the threat of an attacker trying to enter a home vs. lurking outside like a “peeping Tom.”

Stand Your Ground laws extend the right to use deadly force beyond the home to any location where an individual has a legal right to be. These laws remove the obligation to retreat before using force if faced with a perceived threat, emphasizing the right to stand firm and defend oneself.

While they seem like similar legal concepts, Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground are different legal concepts. Castle Doctrine applies to home defense while Stand Your Ground extends beyond the home.  At times, they are mutually exclusive.

Here is a good guide to each state but the responsibility is on each individual to research the laws in their state.

Below are a few case studies of home self-defense situations that resulted in legal problems for the defender.


Understanding Self-Defense Laws, Valid Self Defense Claim and Misconceptions

Understanding self-defense laws is crucial for anyone who owns or may use a firearm for protection: in the home, while carrying them outside the home or at one’s work or business. Using firearms for self-defense comes with a lot of responsibility and hence, the potential for liability.

A valid self-defense claim typically revolves around key elements such as the reasonable belief in an imminent threat of serious harm or death, the necessity of using force and proportionality—the idea that the force used must be commensurate with the perceived threat. Keep in mind, the use of self-defense may involve the use of force to protect a third person from harm. The same key elements will apply to those situations as well.

Misconceptions in self-defense cases often involve a misunderstanding of what constitutes a genuine threat or a failure to retreat when required by law. Additionally, the perception of imminent danger varies, and individuals may wrongly assume that the use of force is justified but a jury may disagree.

Mitigating Risks

Mitigating criminal defense liability demands a multifaceted approach including a thorough understanding of self-defense laws, legal defenses, firearm handling, etc. Staying informed about legal updates and attending regular self-defense training sessions not only sharpens one’s skills but also reinforces a responsible mindset.

Situational awareness is another key element—being attuned to the environment and recognizing potential threats allows for proactive decision-making. Avoiding a bad situation is preferable to putting yourself or others in a vulnerable position.

Equally important are de-escalation techniques, empowering individuals to defuse tense situations before resorting to force. By honing these skills, individuals not only enhance their ability to protect themselves but also reduce the risk of legal complications by demonstrating a commitment to avoiding unnecessary confrontations and using force judiciously.

Self-defense Liability Insurance and Second Call Defense

Preparing to exercise self-defense involves inherent liability. This liability exists regardless of how justified a situation may be. Self-defense liability insurance is crucial for mitigating liability that may come from exercising self-defense. Self-defense liability insurance serves as an important safeguard for individuals who prioritize self-defense protection using firearms.

While some CCW insurance policies may claim to cover legal expenses in self-defense cases, others might exclude intentional acts or criminal conduct, leaving individuals potentially exposed to significant financial burdens even when they did nothing more than defend themselves. The value lies in providing financial protection and legal support in the event of a self-defense incident.

Second Call Defense Membership

Second Call Defense provides members with the most comprehensive legal protection for armed self-defense anywhere, with nothing to repay. Key benefits include:

  • Up to $100,000 criminal defense protection
  • Up to $300,000 accidental shooting protection
  • Up to unlimited civil suit defense protection
  • Up to $300,000 civil suite damages protection
  • Online lethal force seminar
  • Online training videos
  • 24/7 emergency legal hotline
  • Personal crisis manager
  • Local attorney referral within 24 hours
  • Gun retrieval or replacement


People that utilize firearms for self-defense have a responsibility to know the laws and regulations pertaining to self-defense in their jurisdictions, in and outside the home. Failing to know and understand the laws could result in serious legal ramifications if a self-defense situation arises.

We Got Your Back! Join Second Call Defense today and get our rapid response team with 24-hour emergency legal hotline on your side. Upon receiving your membership, you have access to immediate financial support, immediate bond to get you out of jail as quickly as possible, immediate attorney retainer, so you have your attorney working by your side when you need it most, psychological support and so much more.

Second Call Defense provides immediate up-front self-defense legal protection with nothing out of pocket, nothing to repay ever. The most comprehensive Self-Defense Protection available. You are not alone!

*Second Call Defense is not insurance and does not sell or promote insurance products.  Second Call Defense is a membership organization that provides its members access to the “Second Amendment Support Foundation, Inc.,” which provides the means necessary to protect Second Call Defense members from the legal aftermath of exercising their right to self-defense. For an overview of the differences between Second Call Defense Member Benefits and traditional insurance, click here