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  1. #1
    AmatureChemist is offline Junior Member AmatureChemist is on a distinguished road
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    Amature chemistry - what do police think?

    Hello, as I mentioned in my intro post, I'm an amateur chemist (and insomnia sufferer, if anyone is wondering about the time!) The amateur chemistry is pretty divided about what to do in terms of police, some people would send a letter to the station in advance to prevent any misunderstandings, others would avoid contact at all costs.

    There are some pretty scary and ignorant stories out there, I've heard of a person being arrested for public endangerment after he ran a pump backwards to remove air from a glass jar in his apartment building. In another case they couldn't prosecute a guy for anything so they argued he was violating zoning by-laws by doing chem in residential zoning.

    The problem is that to do some more interesting experiments, I need chemicals and equipment that are closely associated with illegal activity. The last thing I want is the very people protecting society breaking down my door to stop me from doing something educational (and legal). And yes, I am following local fire codes and shipping regulations (Seattle, Washington area). And disposing of chemicals properly. And I keep a lab record and would gladly give inspectors tours. I know people are worried about crime, but the same way that guns are legal despite shootings, it's unreasonable to bust down every home chemist because of drug cooks and terrorists, especially when the law doesn't proscribe any explicit bans (except the catch-all "public endangerment").

    Any advice from the real police?

  2. #2
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    scott715us is offline Sgt/DUI Inst/Juris Doctor scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute scott715us has a reputation beyond repute
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    It's evident that when you manufacture meth or other drugs that have a chemical makeup, there will be chemicals involved that produce a specific odor (or combination of odors). If these odors are detected then fire and/or police will be called. If the officer, based upon his training and experience, smells something that is commonly used to make meth/crack cocaine, then he can likely get a warrant to search or do a knock/talk. This is completely acceptable and expected. In our routine daily lives, we rarely come across adults putting together science experiments in their home for a couple of reasons. Number one, such experiments are normally done in university/school/industrial settings. Number two, doing it at home stinks up the house and possibly endangers the homeowner and/or others, especially if the chemicals can be volatile.

    The only recommendation I have is to do it where it is normally done. Otherwise you will probably have some unexpected visitors. Even if your intentions are completely legal, it's just simply something that is not common among households and will draw unwanted attention. Aside from the fire codes, you need to check zoning regulations. If you're in an apartment complex or townhomes, I highly doubt it would be allowed. If you absolutely must do it at home, then deal with the officers/FFs cordially when they show up at your door.

  3. #3
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    Probable cause is required to get a search warrant. If you acquire regulated and monitored chemicals that are commonly associated with narcotics production and there is evidence of a lab at your home, then there's a good chance that a judge would sign a warrant, which very well could result in your door getting kicked in. There really isn't anything else I can say there. There are way more people out there making drugs illegally using illicit labs than there are legitimate amateur chemists out there, and the lab and your possession of the chemicals is enough evidence to investigate what you're doing.

  4. #4
    Samuel is offline is out Samuel has disabled reputation
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    Quote Originally Posted by AmatureChemist View Post
    Hello, as I mentioned in my intro post, I'm an amateur chemist (and insomnia sufferer, if anyone is wondering about the time!) The amateur chemistry is pretty divided about what to do in terms of police, some people would send a letter to the station in advance to prevent any misunderstandings, others would avoid contact at all costs.

    Anyone with a little common sense and intellect (you would hope that every amateur chemist would possess these qualities) would know what would be good and right to do.

    There are some pretty scary and ignorant stories out there, I've heard of a person being arrested for public endangerment after he ran a pump backwards to remove air from a glass jar in his apartment building. In another case they couldn't prosecute a guy for anything so they argued he was violating zoning by-laws by doing chem in residential zoning.

    Yeah right. And there are A LOT OF STORIES OF IGNORANT DRUG COOKS/LABS OUT THERE - people causing fires, explosions, and creating toxic clouds - often in residential zoning areas.

    The problem is that to do some more interesting experiments, I need chemicals and equipment that are closely associated with illegal activity.

    Please. Elucidate exactly what "interesting experiments" require exactly which "chemicals and equipment" that are "closely associated with illegal activity"?

    The last thing I want is the very people protecting society breaking down my door to stop me from doing something educational (and legal). And yes, I am following local fire codes and shipping regulations (Seattle, Washington area). And disposing of chemicals properly. And I keep a lab record and would gladly give inspectors tours. I know people are worried about crime, but the same way that guns are legal despite shootings, it's unreasonable to bust down every home chemist because of drug cooks and terrorists, especially when the law doesn't proscribe any explicit bans (except the catch-all "public endangerment").

    Any advice from the real police?
    My advice is to stop watching Breaking Bad and get another hobby. Either that or pick different experiments to conduct at a different location. If you've got equipment and substances/precursors commonly used in making illegal drugs - plan on going to jail and, Later, arguing your case in front of a judge. Period.
    Last edited by Samuel; 06-30-12 at 12:56 PM.

  5. #5
    AmatureChemist is offline Junior Member AmatureChemist is on a distinguished road
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    Thank you police officers for your input. I suppose it is an unusual hobby, although my (completely detached) house is probably not how you imagine it. Everything is neatly organized and labeled, there are warning signs detailing the possible dangers to any first responders or even robbers! I realize I am liable for injuries caused even to uninvited visitors. It certainly doesn't smell like anything, I highly value my family's health.

    It would be nice if police did a knock/talk but even if they broke down the door, I'd be more worried about them taking away my hobby materials and my passion! I do not have this hobby because I think it is cool or because I watched breaking bad. In fact, that show only makes people like me look like criminals. I cannot do these things in a lab, because at this point I still need prof. supervision to do my own experiments at university, and my prof is a busy lady. Nor do I have the capital to start a commercial lab.

    Again, I'd like to stress that any investigations are welcome, because they won't uncover anything illegal, but I'd rather approach the police myself and tell them in advance. My only reservation that has stopped me is that they will automatically assume I'm out there to to something illegal. I would rather not spend money on a lawyer if possible! Again, I know people do stupid things for stupid reasons and hurt their communities, but I really want to communicate to my local station that I'm not one of them, before the SWAT team descends on me!

    Anyway, sorry if I sound too defensive, and it's enlightening to hear some first-person opinions on the matter, rather than rumors and speculation. To answer your question, officer Samuel, some "suspicious" chemicals I have are in my periodic table collection (a few grams of each iodine, phosphorous, mercury), others I use to make samples for my collection (aluminum powder to reduce transition metal oxides), some I use for specific experiments (acetic anhydride and sodium hydride to make fluoxetine, an intermediate level experiment recommended to me by a chemistry professor - I returned the extras after I found out they were potential legal issues.) To answer the obvious question of "how do I know they're suspicious?", it's because the more and more people I talk to, the more I'm aware of the tension between chem and society, and the more I find out about laws and bans and suspicious purchases.

  6. #6
    Samuel is offline is out Samuel has disabled reputation
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    If you are dead set on sticking with your hobby/experimenting, I would recommend that you exhaustively research ALL the legal/safety issues. Absolutely knowing every pertinent Federal, state, and municipal statutes. Contacting and clearing with City Hall/code enforcement. Contacting and clearing with Fire/police personnel/stations as well as with your local hazardous materials responders/specialists. Even if you aren't making controlled substances, there is a good chance that something you're doing, not doing, or possessing is still illegal...

  7. #7
    scott715us's Avatar
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    I realize I am liable for injuries caused even to uninvited visitors.
    Not sure where you get that from, but it's not true.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samuel View Post
    If you are dead set on sticking with your hobby/experimenting, I would recommend that you exhaustively research ALL the legal/safety issues. Absolutely knowing every pertinent Federal, state, and municipal statutes. Contacting and clearing with City Hall/code enforcement. Contacting and clearing with Fire/police personnel/stations as well as with your local hazardous materials responders/specialists. Even if you aren't making controlled substances, there is a good chance that something you're doing, not doing, or possessing is still illegal...
    Definitely QFT^. So even if you are a legitimate lot of the Do-It-Yourself Scientist, the problem that I have is that (for too many) their idea of safe storage, proper distance away from an occupied residence, proper ventilation, and legally mandated training in order to handle certain chemicals/chemical combinations are vastly different than what is required by law, common sense, or me if I'm their neighbor.

    There are some very smart folks that do this stuff as a hobby, a lot of them have worked as scientists at legitimate facilities, but even in that group some have "brought their work home" and caused a lot of issues. Law Enforcement is doing a lot of outreach to DIY Scientists in order to keep the avenues of communication open, but I'm just not a big fan of DIYS personally - I think if you truly have an interest in doing things like that, get the education and get hired to do it.
    "Evil prospers when good men do nothing..."

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    Disclaimer: All views, opinions, and comments expressed in Wolfman's post are those of Wolfman and do not necessarily represent the views of the FBI, Department of Justice, U.S. Government, citizens of the United States, or people of the planet Earth.

  9. #9
    AmatureChemist is offline Junior Member AmatureChemist is on a distinguished road
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    I'll start by asking the fire department what they think, not to offend anyone but its less intimidating. I can't blame people for thinking DIY science is unsafe, and it's good to hear there is communication. I suppose it boils down to the community opinion. Perhaps there should be a lab where people can pay a membership and come experiment in a legal, safe environment. If only there were more people interested and less people worried about liability.

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