This week’s “Case of the Week” involves some perhaps non-obvious risks and uncertainties you incur if you’re involved in a use-of-force event that you now have to legally justify, specifically the risk that the folks investigating and judging your conduct may themselves be profoundly flawed individuals.

Most of you will recall Michael Drejka, the Florida “handicap parking spot shooter,” about whom we’ve written extensively here at Legal Insurrection. Drejka shot and killed Markeis McGlockton after McGlockton shoved Drejka to the ground upon seeing Drejka chastising McGlockton’s girlfriend for unlawfully parking in a handicap parking spot.

A notable facet of this case is that the responsible Florida sheriff initially declined to arrest Drejka, on the very weak ground that he was prohibited from doing so because of Florida’s self-defense immunity laws, but that Drejka was nevertheless charged with manslaughter after submitting to an interview without benefit of counsel by a Detective George Moffett, who then swore out a criminal complaint on that manslaughter charge.

A member of the Law of Self Defense community alerted me to a news story by the web site Law Enforcement Today (and confirmed by other more recognizable news sites), reporting that Detective Moffett was arrested last week for showing up to a crime scene intoxicated.

And Moffett showed up at the crime scene not just a little intoxicated, either:

[A]fter [Moffett] exited his unmarked detective unit, deputies noticed signs of impairment.

Field deputies noticed the detective smelled like alcohol, had bloodshot eyes and was slurring his speech, the Sheriff’s Office said.

As a result, deputies began a DUI investigation in tandem with the shooting investigation. Moffett performed poorly in field sobriety tests

A breath test taken several hours later indicated a blood-alcohol level of about 0.130, half-again above the 0.08 limit for driving impaired. Naturally this means that Moffett’s actual blood alcohol level at the scene was substantially greater than this measurement.

It is noteworthy that Moffett drove himself to the scene, and was armed at the time.

It is also noteworthy that Moffett has previously been convicted of DUI.

Why mention this at all? Not to criticize police generally, or even Moffett specifically, but rather as a cautionary tale about the risks of placing your fate, literally potentially the rest of your life, in the hands of strangers who now have the authority to determine your future as a result of your engaging in a use-of-force event.

I know a lot of law enforcement officers, and almost without exception they are fine public servants. But I do mean almost without exception. The simple truth is that if you take any sizeable group of people of any description you’ll always find a few bad apples, and law enforcement is not immune to this truth of human nature.

Is there any way you can be certain the police investigating your use-of-force case won’t share the same poor judgment as Detective Moffett? No. You simply take your chances and hope for the best, with the rest of your life hanging in the balance. That’s not a great spot to be in.

The same flawed character risks apply even to judges, who are after all only imperfect humans, too. An example is Sol Wachtler, who when he was the Chief Justice of the highest court in New York State in the 1980s played a key role in what I consider the railroading of Bernie Goetz on murder charges. (Goetz would ultimately be acquitted of all use-of-force charges, and convicted only of violations of New York’s punitive gun laws.)

Only five years later Wachtler was sentenced to Federal prison after having pleaded guilty to threatening the kidnapping of the daughter of his estranged mistress. (Ironically, Wachtler would serve 13 months in prison, a full 5 months more than Geotz.)

Is there any way you can be certain the judge presiding over your use-of-force case won’t be similarly flawed? No.

The moment you engage in a use-of-force against another person, you’ve now subjected yourself to the judgment of other people—police, prosecutors, judges, jurors—who have the power to determine whether you spend the rest of your life in a cage living with unpleasant people. Almost all of those people will be honest and well-intentioned and interested solely in justice. Almost all of them.

But whether that’s the case or not is something that’s not within your control. You have no power whatever over whether the folks who are judging your future fall into the large majority of good folks—or the minority who demonstrate the poor judgment of driving to a crime scene armed and so badly impaired that their own colleagues feel compelled to arrest them at the scene, or of threatening to kidnap his mistresses’ daughter.

The risks of getting into a fight aren’t merely physical, folks, and they don’t arise only in the context of a courtroom. Don’t get into fights you don’t need to get into—make sure the risks are worth the stakes.

Remember: You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill. Know the law so you’re hard to convict.

–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

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