Back in the very early 1980s, when I founded Lethal Force Institute, I formulated a “five point checklist” of things that need to be said to responding authorities at the scene after you have defended yourself or others with force, perhaps even deadly force. 

In the four decades since, that advice has worked remarkably well.

Defense lawyers often tell you “Never talk to the police.” You have to understand where that advice comes from. In forty-plus years as an expert witness in homicide cases, including many years of teaching CLE (Continuing Legal Education) for practicing attorneys, and a couple of years as Co-Vice Chair of the Forensic Evidence Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, I’ve gone into this matter deeply with a helluva lot of defense lawyers. Many of them have NEVER defended a truly innocent person who fired in self-defense. Those who have done that sort of case generally agree with my advice, which is to establish a Five-Point Checklist of things right there at the shooting scene from the get-go.

Unfortunately, the gun-related internet is full of people who have bought into the “never talk to the police” narrative, and mis-interpret my advice as “Babble as much as you want and answer every question you are asked.”

A couple of years ago, my friend John Correia hosted me and my colleague Marty Hayes to do a Deadly Force Instructor class for John and his staff and some other attendees. While we were doing that in Phoenix, Arizona, John recorded the following video with me:

Please take a few minutes to review.

If anyone tells you “Never say anything after you defended yourself, because you’ll be so stressed out that your brain will turn into feces,” ask them this:

“We can all agree that when someone is trying to kill you or your loved ones, you’ll be under MORE stress than ‘talking to cops.’ If our brains melt into diarrhea under stress, how the hell did we defeat an apex predator in a life-or-death battle, to begin with?”

And ask that person the question I put to John Correia at the end of the video: If you think your brains melt into feces under stress, why the hell do you keep deadly weapons for defense of yourself or others in the first place?


  1. I’ve been a long time watcher of “The First 48”, and unlike the TV detective shows they don’t yell and accuse you of all kinds of stuff (for that will provoke a ‘I want a lawyer’ response.) They use the sweet talk, the ‘man up’ talk, the ‘your name came up’ talk, the ‘we know stuff you don’t’ talk, and ‘this is your only chance to tell your side of the story’ talk, and other tricks.

    Officers on the scene have their own tricks to get you to talk. Go watch ‘Lone Star Law’ or “Cops”.

    Most importantly they will shut up and LET YOU TALK. Talk about the weather, talk about foot ball, talk about anything.. just talk.. and then they will slip in their questions (general questions, then more specific.. dates, times, places, etc..) And ask to search your car, cell phone, house, person, “You have nothing to hide, right? So why won’t you let us search your car?”

    Now we humans are not tape recorders. We are not CCTV. Thus it is easy to get confused at the timeline of events. So just remember… they can be real slippery and you can make a slip of the tongue that meant one thing.. but came out another way.

    So don’t motor mouth. See they are right… “this is your opportunity to tell your side of the story”… so chose your words carefully..

    • @ Deaf Smith – “I’ve been a long time watcher of ‘The First 48’…”

      Same here. You are correct. The police use a variety of methods to induce people, that they interview, into giving statements. Then they take those statements and “fact check” them any way possible to determine if the statement is false. Plus, these cops have a lot of experience and can usually spot a lie as soon as it is spoken.

      Once they have evidence that your statement is wrong, in any way, they come back and accuse you of telling a lie. Then they will go over and over and over it until you say something to land yourself in trouble. I am amazed, on that show, as to how many people talk themselves into prison.

      This brings up a point that relates to Mas’ advice. Stick to the absolute truth. Avoid subjective statements. Don’t “guess” about events or timing. You did not have a stopwatch going and your perception of time may have been screwed up by the stress of the event.

      The cops will encourage you to “talk away” and you could easily say something that could be twisted or misunderstood into being a lie.

      So, I think that the “Five Point” checklist that Mas has developed is great. It covers the “bare bones” of what must be said to justify your actions while helping you to avoid making misleading or subjective statements to the police.

      If you are a rich, well-connected leftist, like Alec Baldwin, then you can afford to hire lawyers and a PR firm. You can craft a “narrative” and put it out there with the confidence that a sympathetic media will pick it up, parrot it back and amplify it for you. So, “lying away” is a viable option for rich leftists in today’s America. Telling the “Big Lie” seems to be almost an instinctive reaction on the part of the American Left. So much so that the old joke applies. How can you tell if a leftist politician is lying? Answer: His or her (or its) lips are moving! 🙂

      However, for us ordinary mortals, “lying away” and “crafting a narrative” will probably land us in prison. Saying nothing simply lets other people “craft the narrative” which is also a path to prison. So, I think Mas is correct. The best path is a short, straight one that (briefly) tells “just the (necessary) facts”. At which point, you should “shut up” until you have your attorney at your side.

  2. Mas,
    I’ve heard these rules many times and it is always good to hear them again. The more they are refreshed in our brain, the more likely a person will follow them. Thanks for the refresher.

  3. As usual Mas I thank you for your advice. I carry a small card in my wallet specifically with those 5 points to remember. I think its a great idea to make something up and laminate it for reference.

    • It would be a good idea to memorize the five points in lieu of a card. Anything that looks like reading from a script is going to be a red flag to experienced LE officers.

      • I plan simply to say: “Massad Ayoob gives some 5-point advice on what to say if something like this unfortunate event happens to victims like me. Please help me follow his excellent professional advice on matters like this…”. I can remember that much.

      • Might also be a good idea to lay on your back like a victim before the authorities come on the scene and to give them the 5 points while you are supine?

  4. I’ve watched ASP where they advised to say nothing. I’d go with Mas & his years of experience on this one. Most cops & most attorneys are going to interact with many more “bad” guys than “good” guys, so brief statements that put yourself in a positive light should help.

  5. The responding officer has two boxes to fill in on his report: “Victim” and “Offender.” If you decide to not say anything, the guy you shot, or his running buddies, will make sure he goes into the “Victim” box and leaves you swinging, and the narrative portion of the report will be their story and not yours. And once he’s the “Victim” on paper, you’ll have an uphill battle to change it.
    It’s America, do what you want. I’d make sure I got into the “Victim” box, and after that I’ll decide what else to say.

  6. In law school, we were taught the law itself to some degree, but often not to the depth required for practice. There is a misconception that law school is like medical school; that you are constantly learning substantive and detailed knowledge for your field. True for medical school, much less so for law school. Law school’s main purpose is to train your mind how to think and analyze an issue against a case law or statute.

    Mas’s 2 points above make common sense (NOT taught in law school). If you made mental preparations for, and actually have to engage in a lethal defense, you should be able to inform LEO on scene the five points without losing your mind. Doing this distinguishes your case in the mind of LEO and the prosecutor from the other big pile of cases they have, in a positive way. It also makes your attorney better positioned to defend your case to a positive result.

    Having clerked in open court in the District Attorney’s office, criminal defense attorneys advise their clients to not say anything to LEO because usually the things they say make it harder for the attorney to defend their client, and what is said often reminds and reinforces that they are defending a client guilty of some horrible crimes.

  7. Remember first of all, the LEO questioning you is not your buddy. Speak to him/her calmly, courteously, and impersonally. Do not run your mouth for the sake of making noise. If you answer any questions, think carefully about what is asked and pick the proper words to respond. Don’t look upwards as that would indicate to the officer you are thinking up a lie. Instead look downwards as people who are trying to recall events do that. If you use any hand gestures, make sure your palms are exposed as that indicates you have nothing to conceal. Don’t assume a defensive position like crossing your arms and don’t touch any part of your face when speaking as liars tend to cover their mouths when spouting false information. Maintain eye contact with the officer but don’t stare at him/her and appear aggressive or angry. If people are present who were with the offender, address them civilly and don’t call them names, and do not threaten them in the presence of the officers. Be aware nowadays, that Big Brother is watching as there are cameras everywhere. You are the victim, act like one. Image is everything.

    • Tom606,

      I’m sure that everything you wrote is correct. However, following that advice requires a very cool head. This cool head is required immediately after facing a life or death situation. Maybe a Special Forces soldier who saw a whole lot of combat in Iraq could stay that cool. The only person who I’m sure could stay that calm, cool and collected would be Mr. Spock.

      Our government basically says to us, “Don’t even make the teeniest, tiniest mistake or we will convict you.”

      • Roger, we need to train ourselves to be as calm as possible in any bad situation. That’s why we train and practice at the range, shooting under safe conditions, yet putting ourselves in as much stress as we can while maintaining a cool head. I go to the range on weekdays when no one is around and run, jump, and do pushups between shootings. To add extra stress, I imagine running from Hillary, who’s flying after me on her broom, cackling demonically. Now that’s something to raise one’s heartbeat.

        Combat is the worst time to figure out what you need to do. Imagine various scenarios in your head while laying in bed so that when the excrement hits the fan, you will already know how to respond. As some wise person once said, “We fight as we train” so think, train, and act without hesitation.

  8. Excellent advice as always, Mas. I have your five points written on a standard-size sheet of paper that is laminated. I use it for memorization. I should write it on paper the size of a business card, laminate it and carry it in my bag.

    My fear is that our legal system is crumbling. Leftists are allowed to commit crimes, while Patriots are enemies of the state. Look at the treatment of illegal Democrats crossing the southern border, and criminal Democrats in cities, versus the treatment of some January 6th participants. (I condemn any participant who assaulted an officer, or committed vandalism, but the others who have been charged are political prisoners, not criminals.) Your advice will only work in a fair legal system.

    What you teach is double self defense. First, defense against the criminal. Second, defense against the legal system.

  9. Readers: I wrote my comment before seeing the previously mentioned comments about reading notes versus memorization. Haste makes waste.

  10. Mas, your comment about “If you think your brains melt into feces under stress, why the hell do you keep deadly weapons for defense of yourself or others in the first place?” reminds me of a related phenomenon. People have said for a long time that you will “lose all fine muscle control” under high stress, so after an emergency reload, don’t use your (strong side) thumb on the the slide lock to release the slide since that requires fine muscle control. Instead, use your support hand to grab the slide and rack it back to release the slide. However they also say use your strong side thumb to push the mag release button, which is also requires fine muscle control …
    Bottom line is it is all down to training. You will do under stress what you do in training (at least you will default to your most automatic level of training), so make that training frequent and consistent. I encourage students to practice not only shooting but also things like not shooting, and I also advocate they include practicing what to say to responding officers. Our mutual friend John Murphy of FPF Training includes this sort of thing in his excellent Street Encounter Skills and Tactics course that he conducts all over the country.

    • Tom in NC,

      Excellent advice. Practice dry firing, then make believe you are talking to an officer in the aftermath of a shooting. Go to the range for live fire training. Afterwards, find a buddy and take turns acting. First, play the part of the victim, then play the part of the investigating officer. Critique each other. You could even get fancy and video your response, then critique yourself as you watch the video. Just hope the prosecutor can never dig up that video of you practicing to be a victim. A prosecutor would probably label that as , “malice aforethought.”

  11. Even after one survives a self-defense incident, one is still on the spot. As Jeff Cooper noted, you have solved Problem #1 but you now have Problem #2 to solve. How to explain it to the guys with the handcuffs!.

    There are pitfalls no matter which way one turns. Following Mas’ advice (if done very, very, very carefully) may help keep you from trial. If you can, thereby, persuade the authorities that you have a credible self-defense claim.

    There is another side to that coin, however. By talking to the police (even on just the “5 Points”), you assume one set of risks while attempting to dodge others. There are REAL REASONS why defense attorneys say “NEVER talk to the Police”. If you think otherwise, then watch this video:

    I just hope and pray that I am never placed in that situation!

    • Whenever you watch one of those “Never talk to the police” videos, folks, be sure to keep count of how many of the horror stories they relate are people who were in fact guilty. Different scenario entirely. Different situations call for different responses.

      • @ Mas – “Different scenario entirely.”

        True! The usual “client” for a defense attorney is someone who is guilty of something (often they are career criminals with long “rap” sheets). The standard for these “clients” is the Soddi (Some Other Dude Did it!) defense. That is why the standard advice (from defense attorneys) is to SHUT-UP, SHUT-UP, and then ASK for your LAWYER!

        In the case of a legitimate defensive incident, the client had no criminal intent, sought only to defend himself/herself, and must make an affirmative claim of self-defense. It is as different as “Night and Day”. For that reason, I agree that your “5-Point” plan makes more sense than the standard Shut-up/Plead-the-5th approach. Still, there are all kinds of pitfalls and minefields involved in talking to the police. One needs to keep a cool head.

        It is an art to do it right. Like a true artist, one needs to know when enough has been done (or said) and it is time to stop. Otherwise, one can easily “blab” yourself into prison!

    • TN_MAN,

      My guess is that the favorable or unfavorable outcomes of trials for those who refuse to be victims depends on their jurisdiction. Look at Kyle Rittenhouse. In a red state, filled with Patriots and fair judges, who believe in following the Constitution, Kyle would never even have had to stand trial. The video evidence showed he was innocent. He only fired in defense of his life.

      Now, put Kyle’s actions and trial in CA, NY, MA, HI, MD, IL or NJ, and he would be found guilty of something, and definitely do some jail time. His actions and trial occurred in WI, a purple state. The best thing to happen to Kyle was that his judge was fair, and was not going to allow the trial to become political. In my opinion, that is what saved Kyle from political torture (like we see some January 6th participants enduring).

      Moving to a Second Amendment-favorable jurisdiction has the double blessing of less crime, and fairer trials for those who refuse to be victims. Those of us who live in Democrat hellscapes are doubly cursed. More crime, less justice.

  12. Whenever selecting a lawyer, I have two criteria:

    1). You have to be VERY comfortable with sarcasm and profanity.

    2). You have to be willing to throw furniture in a courtroom.

  13. Thank you for reinforcing this advice once again. It is the sage advice from Mas that I regurgitate in classes taught for the Carry permit. Also, if you have not yet joined the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, it could be a great help in remembering these 5 points. The DVD set the organization sends you, Mas has his own disk explaining in great detail, of what you just saw here and then some.

    Stay safe and Lets Go Brandon!

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