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Calling 911 After an Incident - What to Say?

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

You or a member of your family have been attacked. You responded with force. At this point it doesn’t make any difference if the force you used was non-deadly or deadly. Calling 911 to report the incident and get help will involve the same considerations.

First, calling 911 after an incident should be, other than your safety, one of the first things you think about after an incident. If you have to delay calling in order to move to a place of safety – fine. At your earliest convenience – call 911. Your attacker/s may call police also – they know the drill. In most (but not all) jurisdictions, the first person calling 911 is thought to be the victim. That is where you want to be – a victim.

The primary fact you need to know about a 911 call is that it is recorded. The second thing to know is that it will always be exhibit ‘A’ in the investigation and courtroom. That makes the call very important! You want the information available in the call to all be favorable to your case. Think about the call now before you actually need it.

When you call 911, you are not required to make your case over the phone. All you really need to report is who, what, and where. Give the operator your name, what happened, and where you are. Then basically shut up!

Say Little or Say Nothing?

There is plenty of information out there to support either action. Let’s consider the say nothing position first. Most attorneys will tell clients to say nothing, because utterances made in a stressful/excited state could be damaging and possibly used against you in court - that makes your attorney’s job more difficult. After all, when you call 911, you are talking to police! You have a general right to talk to your attorney before answering questions from police. Most attorneys want you to exercise that right until they have the opportunity to hear the facts from you. When you call an attorney after an incident, one of the first questions they might ask is, “What did you say to 911/police”? It makes sense, an attorney will want to protect you from further legal problems and the best way they can do that is to keep you from making statements that hurt your case. Not saying anything to police until you talk to your attorney is good advice, however it is limited.

If all you say to the 911 operator is, “I want to talk to my attorney”, could that be construed as trying to hide something or that you think you might have done something wrong? Maybe, but why give that thought legs. Asking for an attorney up front - could it make you sound like just another thug covering the bases. Give the needed information so you can get help and also not foul up your case at the beginning.

Say Little.

You can always take the road of say nothing, but when you do, make sure that it is in your best interest at the moment. There are things you might add that would not be potentially incriminating like what you are wearing (so police can identify the victim). You can add what assistance is needed. Do you just need police or medical assistance as well? It is not a bad idea to request medical assistance for yourself just to get checked out or even to buy you a little time at the scene. And, it may add credibility to the idea that you are the victim. Establish you are the victim. This is the first time you can so identify yourself by saying so, “I was attacked”! Consider adding a brief description of the attacker. Then shut up! Then make sure of your continued safety as you wait for police.

The concepts of “say little or say nothing” also apply to what to say to responding police at the scene. Anything you say there could potentially be more important than the 911 call. It is a critical time in the incident. However, the question of what to say to police at the scene or at the station will have to be the subject of another post. Stay tuned!

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