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P. Simmons
P. Simmons, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
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Experience:  16 yrs. of experience including criminal law.
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I am experimenting with energetic chemistry, trying to ...

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I am experimenting with energetic chemistry, trying to develop
an alternate fuel to gasoline/diesel. Yesterday (8/02/08) I tried a device using alternate fuel; it was supposed to produce a jet of flame, but unfortunately exploded with a very loud noise. As a safety measure it was buried in the ground on my property, but even so some pieces of concrete and parts of the device flew long distances.

My neighbors were very frightened, and justifiably concerned.
One of them called the police; they (and fire department people) came, questioned me, and took photos. I answered all their questions and cooperated fully. They left about 20 hours ago (today is Sunday), and so far I''ve heard no more about
the matter.

The incident occurred at my house in Los Altos, CA 94022.

Are there any legal actions I should take now ?
Can you tell me if anyone was injured?
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Reply to Philip Simmons's Post: There were no injuries.
Good to hear that

Had there been an injury they could have likely prosecuted you for negligent or reckless conduct. With no injuries I suspect criminal prosecution less likely.

There are at least two statutes you need to worry about.

1. Federal:
18 USC 1102 (this is a criminal code)

§ 842. Unlawful acts

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person-

(1) to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in explosive materials without a license issued under this chapter;

So, under federal law its unlawful to make an explosive. Now, I know you are trying to make a fuel and it just happened to I suspect there will not be a prosecution...but it looks like under this section they could prosecute

The definitions section of this law helps a bit:

"except for the purposes of subsections (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), (i), and 0) of section 844 of this title, "explosives" means any chemical compound mixture, or device, the primary or common purpose of which is to function by explosion; the term includes, but is not limited to, dynamite and other high explosives, black powder, pellet powder, initiating explosives, detonators, safety fuses, squibs, detonating cord, igniter cord, and igniters."

You also need to be wary of State law:

Under cal health and safety code:

12351. Any explosives which are illegally manufactured, sold, given
away, delivered, stored, used, possessed, or transported shall be
subject to immediate seizure by any chief, issuing authority, or
peace officer authorized to act under Section 12020. When a permit
issued pursuant to this part has expired and is not immediately
renewed, any explosives in the possession of the permittee shall be
subject to immediate seizure by any chief, issuing authority, or
peace officer authorized to act under Section 12020, unless first
destroyed by the permittee in accordance with Section 12087.

SO, if your making something that explodes, the state could frown on that

I did not find a california criminal statute that applies...the best I could find was

§ 415. Disturbing the peace

Any of the following persons shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than 90 days, a fine of not more than four hundred dollars ($400), or both such imprisonment and fine:

(1) Any person who unlawfully fights in a public place or challenges another person in a public place to fight.

(2) Any person who maliciously and willfully disturbs another person by loud and unreasonable noise.

I do not think this will apply

SO what now?

I woud refrain from future explosions if you can and would also recommend seeking counsel from a local attorney familiar with Cal law on explosives so you can get any required permits for further tests

best of luck

Please let me know if you have questions else please hit the green button, its the only way i get paid

P. Simmons and 2 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Here's the Police Report:

Case Number(NNN) NNN-NNNN
Offense - Possession of Destructive Device
{My comments in curly brackets, {} }

6.080.020 LAMC - Projectile Missile

This report reflects the possession of a destructive device that occurred on 08/02/08
at approximately 2008 hours atXXXXX(sic) in Los Altos. The suspect
ignited an explosive device in his backyard which was buried approximately two feet
under the ground and enclosed in cement. The explosive device shot into the air upon
detonation and the remains of the device scattered throughout the neighborhood.

{The device did not 'shoot into the air." Parts of it did; most of it was
contained by the surrounding ground.}

on 08/02/08 at approximately 2008 hours, I was dispatched to the area of Egan School on
the report of an explosion. Upon arrival, Sgt McCrossin and I contacted numerous residents
in the area in order to pin point where the explosion took place. While searching the
area I was approached by the suspect who said that he caused the explosion. The following
is a summary of his statement.

He stated today he was in his backyard conducting a chemical experiment. He stated
that he has been researching how to burn aluminum so it can fuel vehicles and
replace gasoline. He stated that he took a 2" pipe and loaded it with 150 g of Potassium
Nitrate, 20 g sulfur, 30 charcoal and 5g of titanium. He said he put cement around
the device and buried it approximately two feet under the ground. He said he lit the fuse
and the device made a large "boom" and shot into the air {No; I never said
it 'shot into the air'}. He said that the experiment was a failure because the device
was supposed to shoot out a flame and not explode. He said this was the third
experiment he has done however the previous two experiments were done using
less potent chemicals. He said that during the first two experiments, the device
shot a flame out of the ground. He said he would measure the length of the flame
and post his results on a pyrotechnic website. The suspect stated that his device
resembled a pipe bomb. He stated that he is not certified to make explosive
devices {nor did I intend to !} and has a background in electrical engineering.

{There are errors of fact, but basically it's an accurate account.}

I contacted residents at 1030 andXXXXX The following is a summary
of their statements.

She said that at approximately 2000 hours she and her family heard an explosion and
saw a cement chunk fall into their backyard.

She stated that at approximately 2000 hours she along with her family and friends were
sitting in the backyard eating dinner when the explosion occurred. She said that a
piece of cement fell from the sky and landed in her backyard approximately five
feet from where they were eating dinner.

The explosion broke a chair {it was less than 2' from the explosion} in the suspect's
backyard and created a hole in the ground. The backyard contained debris from
the pipe {in the hole} and cement chunks. {The LAPD dug up the hole and found
pieces of the pipe.}

Santa Clara County Fire Dept (E15) responded to make sure the scene was safe.
Captain Yanomi of SCCFD was advised of the chemicals in the suspect's garage and
advised that they would he would {sic} contact Santa Clara County Hazmat to investigate
the improper storage of dangerous chemicals.

Sgt McCrossin took photographs of the scene and of the chemicals and pipes in the
garage. Sgt McCrossin collected the cap to the device which was located at Los Altos Ave
and Loucks Ave (approximately 200 yards from the scene). I collected the cement
chunks that landed at the property of 1030 andXXXXX I collected the
remains of the 2" pipe that caused the explosion. I collected fuses and the pipes
the suspect used in his previous experiments. All the evidence was booked
into LAPD evidence.

No injuries were reported.

Sgt. McCrossin
Officer Bautista

Forward to the District Attorney's Office for review and possible prosecution
for 12303 PC - Possession of an Explosive Device and 6.080.020 LAMC -
Projectile Missile.