June 26, 2013

Do I really have to let the dog bite me?

As lawyers, we see people who get caught up in the legal system everyday who have done nothing illegal. In another category of

(GunReports.com) — You have your gun to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property from murderers, rapists, car jackers, and home invaders. You may believe that the chances of anyone having any real legal issues regarding the killing of an animal in self-defense were remote.

As lawyers, we see people who get caught up in the legal system everyday who have done nothing illegal. In another category of "it can happen to you", the Firm has had two clients who were cited by the police for using their firearms to defend themselves and their pets from an animal attack, writes attorney Michael D. Wisdom, president of the Texas Law Shield, a firearms legal defense retainer program developed by Houston-based Walker, Rice & Wisdom, P.C., Attorneys at Law.

One incident occurred when a client-member was alerted to a skunk in his own backyard that was threatening his dog. When the gentleman entered his backyard, the skunk then turned on him. He shot and killed the skunk with one shot. The police responded to the report of the sound of the gunshot. The responding patrol officer was advised of the situation and initially seemed okay with the client-member's explanation (and the evidence of the skunk's corpse). However, (in a what can only be put in the head scratching category) when the supervising sergeant arrived on the scene, he stated that no one was allowed to discharge a firearm in the city limits and ordered the patrol officer to issue a Class C misdemeanor citation for violating the municipal code.

After hearing this from our client, our lawyers immediately contacted the city prosecutor and explained the facts and the applicable municipal ordinance to her. This was a clear case of the officer disregarding the law and substituting his own personal value system, because, the officer ignored the fact that the municipal code provides a justification for discharging a firearm specifically for defending one's person or property. After our firm's discussion with the city prosecutor, she immediately and graciously dismissed the case against our client.

On another occasion occurring within days in a different town, a client-member was walking his dog on a leash along a neighborhood roadway, when two large dogs raced out of an unsecured backyard and attacked him and his dog. The client-member and his dog were jumped by the aggressor dogs and the client-member's dog was bitten on the leg. When our client-member was finally able to pull his gun, the attacking dogs' owner called her dogs back into her yard prior to a shot being fired.

Our client went home and immediately reported the dog attack to the police. The police responded to both residences. Instead of citing the owner of the attacking dogs, the responding officer proceeded to grill our client-member as to why he felt he had the right to pull his firearm and possibly shoot the dogs. The officer, who was a supervising sergeant, explicitly stated that "he was tired of CHL holders thinking that they can do anything they want with a gun and that in the future he must allow the dog to bite him first before he can defend himself or his dog."

None of this is true under the law. The client-member was then issued a class C misdemeanor citation for disorderly conduct for publicly displaying his firearm. The police officer took this action after the county's district attorney refused to file charges for class A disorderly conduct believing that no crime had been committed. Once again, we contacted the city prosecutor who agreed with our position that the sergeant was not only out of line with issuing the citation, but also was incorrect with his attitude towards our client-member as well as CHL holders in general. That case too, will be dismissed.

Unfortunately, the charge of disorderly conduct for displaying a firearm has become a standard default charge that the police are using whenever they feel the need to arrest someone. For example, in another recent case, our client-member was charged for displaying his firearm because he opened his apartment door to confront an abusive neighbor and had his pistol at his side. A wrongful charge resulted against our client even though he never left the confines of his own apartment or pointed his weapon. The responding police wrongfully entered his apartment and questioned/berated him as to why he had a handgun in his own living room, and then arrested him for disorderly conduct by displaying a firearm. This case is currently pending.

Our point, dear friends, is to remind you to always be vigilant about any situation where your firearm may be involved. These individuals would have never dreamed that they would be in trouble with the law because of their ownership of firearms or for defending themselves. However, you never know when and where something may happen, or how it is going to be handled by the responding police. While most police diligently try to know and enforce the law, some police officers remain ignorant of the law and/or just don't care what the law is, because, he or she cares more for their own notions of street curb justice.

Michael D. Wisdom

President & Attorney at Law

Walker, Rice and Wisdom, P.C.

1020 Bay Area Blvd. Suite 220

Houston, Texas 77058