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Author: Subject: "Raid" after housefire. Laptop confiscated, not chems?
Mesa
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[*] posted on 20-12-2013 at 23:31
"Raid" after housefire. Laptop confiscated, not chems?


EDIT: Location is Australia.

To preface, I figure a bit of backstory is required to get relevant replies. Sorry if it seems tedious or longwinded. Cliffs at the end.

A small fire started up in my room last week. A half empty bottle of turps I had used to clean my desk was ignited, probably due to a spark from my powerboard. I got some burns to my hand and legs(pants were alight.) Lots of excitement etc. from the neighbours when the ambulance/firey's/cops showed up.

I keep the vast majority of my lab downstairs(room is upstairs) but have a few random chemicals in my room that had not yet been moved. Nothing particularly reactive, nothing with a particularly 'scary' name, just silica gel, Na2S2O5, etc. in PET bottles.

I was informed by the police that I was a suspect, although were vague when i asked what I was suspected of doing.
They opened a conversation by asking me what explosives I was making, and why I had bomb-making websites open on my laptop( https://www.sciencemadness.org/whisper/viewthread.php?tid=27... was the page they were referring to.)

I gave a few short answers before the ambo's intervened and gave me a morphine injection and a trip to the hospital. Cops dropped by about an hour after I got there. I went through what happened then had to patiently explain why NiCl2 does not spontaneously ignite when you add a few zinc shavings to a dilute solution of it(had done this about an hour before the fire started. It was sitting on the other side of my desk.) Then on to most of the other chems and how they don't spontaneously ignite when kept in sealed containers next to each other.

I found out they had gotten the forensic chemists(full tyvek suits etc.) to go through both my room, and the lab downstairs the next day. Looking for god knows what.

When I got back home, I found they'd taken my laptop and about 20ml of an unfinished ethanol/acetic acid esterfication, but obviously had no problem with my lithium hypochlorite, 15ish grams of Hg(NO3)2, 3kg bag of KNO3, or the bag of very fine mesh Al powder beside the KNO3. :o Such a display of competency by the forensic chemists was topped off by them deciding to leave aforementioned Hg(NO3)2 unsealed ans outside its bottle, in the middle of the garage when they left.

They also left a 100ml reagent bottle, and one of those stainless steel spoon things used to scoop out powdered reagents. Those have been added to my inventory :D.


The questions I have, and reason for this thread, is if there is any point trying to get in contact with the forensic chemists and asking what the fuck they were doing? Logically I'd assume this is a screw-up that shouldn't/couldn't be laughed off, given how toxic mercury salts are. However I have no idea if I'd be taken seriously.

The other people living at this house have very limited knowledge of chemistry, beyond knowing not to touch the white PET bottles I keep reagents in. They wouldn't be able to identify a white/beige powder in an unsealed sandwich bag as dangerous, and may have handled it etc. if I hadn't been there when they let us back in to the house.

Also, anyone with experience of possessions being confiscated... Is it particularly difficult getting them returned? I don't even know if I have to contact them, or if they intend to contact me, to return it.


Cliffs:
-Small fire occurred in my room
-Cops assume bomb-making etc.
-Forensic chemists go through entire house, overlook a bunch of potentially suspect reagents, take some crude ethyl acetate and my laptop. Leave what I consider to be the most dangerous/toxic reagent I own, mercuric nitrate, unsealed, on my workbench when they left.
-Laptop yet to be returned.
-Scored a scoop and a 100ml reagent bottle.


-Should I make a complaint about them leaving toxic shit unsealed, lying around my house? The others living here wouldn't have a clue what Hg(NO3)2 means, nor the potential danger handling it.
-Should I wait for my laptop to be returned, or ring up/request it be returned? Expected difficulty?

[Edited on 21-12-2013 by Mesa]
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violet sin
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[*] posted on 21-12-2013 at 00:35


well, for one thing, if your laptop was open to scimad... then maybe you wanna change your password n all. just a though if you had auto fill on. second thought, if the container was open on your desk I kinda wonder if one of them was wafting it for smell. some one who would make/use drugs might be in the habit of putting it in a bottle labeled with something horribly toxic to prevent others from checking it. the acetic acid/ethanol mix may have been taken to see if there was opiates in it for heroin production? just a guess, not sure how that on works but I have heard LEO's mention interest in anything smelling like vinegar.

well I am sorry to hear you got burnt and it doesn't sound fun to have to worry about getting you lappy back, but possessions are replaceable.

-I would NOT recommend complaining, but that's just me. also if they didn't feel it was important or dangerous enough to take then, than they don't need to know differently now right?

-all you can do is ask when they think they may be done with it as far as I know. but it's more of a question for a lawyer. they know when you activity is justified and when it is poking the bear, for a living.

just my input, as I have never had to deal with cops in a neg manner like this.
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[*] posted on 21-12-2013 at 02:33



Perhaps they forensics guys are much better at their job than you give them credit for.
Don't forget, they were quite possibly nerdy kids before they were forensic scientists.
Having KNO3 could mean "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" or it could mean "harmless science nerd". The difference is a matter of intention.
They can't hope to find that out by taking the KNO3 away, but they might get some idea of what you are up to by looking at the computer.

If they find anything on your laptop that they don't like, that will get you into trouble.
You could argue in court that the KNO3 is garden fertiliser and the Al was going to be used for pretty shiny stuff for Christmas.
It's much more difficult to explain away a bunch of computer files about radical pastafarianism or whatever.

If you raise a complaint about them, the outcome isn't likely to be good for you.
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[*] posted on 21-12-2013 at 11:00


Quote: Originally posted by unionised  

Perhaps they forensics guys are much better at their job than you give them credit for.


I'd agree with you if not for the Hg(NO3)2 issue.

In all fairness, I also had a stainless steel crucible filled with KNO2/3 and some lead in plain view so its possible they realized its purpose wasn't necessarily pyro orientated.
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[*] posted on 21-12-2013 at 12:25


That sucks!

It is not wise to have reagents in your room. keep them all categorized in cabinets in the lab (with locks so a warrant is needed to search them)
and doing reaction there isn't the best idea either!

I would nicely ask them when you can get back your PC.




all above information is intellectual property of Pyro. :D
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[*] posted on 21-12-2013 at 12:53


Not the first post I've read on someone getting raided, or getting their door knocked on lately. Seems like the PTB have declared war on anybody with an interest in chemistry.
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[*] posted on 21-12-2013 at 12:59


Quote: Originally posted by Mesa  
EDIT: Location is Australia.

To preface, I figure a bit of backstory is required to get relevant replies. Sorry if it seems tedious or longwinded. Cliffs at the end.

A small fire started up in my room last week. A half empty bottle of turps I had used to clean my desk was ignited, probably due to a spark from my powerboard. I got some burns to my hand and legs(pants were alight.) Lots of excitement etc. from the neighbours when the ambulance/firey's/cops showed up.

I keep the vast majority of my lab downstairs(room is upstairs) but have a few random chemicals in my room that had not yet been moved. Nothing particularly reactive, nothing with a particularly 'scary' name, just silica gel, Na2S2O5, etc. in PET bottles.

I was informed by the police that I was a suspect, although were vague when i asked what I was suspected of doing.
They opened a conversation by asking me what explosives I was making, and why I had bomb-making websites open on my laptop( https://www.sciencemadness.org/whisper/viewthread.php?tid=27... was the page they were referring to.)

I gave a few short answers before the ambo's intervened and gave me a morphine injection and a trip to the hospital. Cops dropped by about an hour after I got there. I went through what happened then had to patiently explain why NiCl2 does not spontaneously ignite when you add a few zinc shavings to a dilute solution of it(had done this about an hour before the fire started. It was sitting on the other side of my desk.) Then on to most of the other chems and how they don't spontaneously ignite when kept in sealed containers next to each other.

I found out they had gotten the forensic chemists(full tyvek suits etc.) to go through both my room, and the lab downstairs the next day. Looking for god knows what.

When I got back home, I found they'd taken my laptop and about 20ml of an unfinished ethanol/acetic acid esterfication, but obviously had no problem with my lithium hypochlorite, 15ish grams of Hg(NO3)2, 3kg bag of KNO3, or the bag of very fine mesh Al powder beside the KNO3. :o Such a display of competency by the forensic chemists was topped off by them deciding to leave aforementioned Hg(NO3)2 unsealed ans outside its bottle, in the middle of the garage when they left.

They also left a 100ml reagent bottle, and one of those stainless steel spoon things used to scoop out powdered reagents. Those have been added to my inventory :D.


The questions I have, and reason for this thread, is if there is any point trying to get in contact with the forensic chemists and asking what the fuck they were doing? Logically I'd assume this is a screw-up that shouldn't/couldn't be laughed off, given how toxic mercury salts are. However I have no idea if I'd be taken seriously.

The other people living at this house have very limited knowledge of chemistry, beyond knowing not to touch the white PET bottles I keep reagents in. They wouldn't be able to identify a white/beige powder in an unsealed sandwich bag as dangerous, and may have handled it etc. if I hadn't been there when they let us back in to the house.

Also, anyone with experience of possessions being confiscated... Is it particularly difficult getting them returned? I don't even know if I have to contact them, or if they intend to contact me, to return it.


Cliffs:
-Small fire occurred in my room
-Cops assume bomb-making etc.
-Forensic chemists go through entire house, overlook a bunch of potentially suspect reagents, take some crude ethyl acetate and my laptop. Leave what I consider to be the most dangerous/toxic reagent I own, mercuric nitrate, unsealed, on my workbench when they left.
-Laptop yet to be returned.
-Scored a scoop and a 100ml reagent bottle.


-Should I make a complaint about them leaving toxic shit unsealed, lying around my house? The others living here wouldn't have a clue what Hg(NO3)2 means, nor the potential danger handling it.
-Should I wait for my laptop to be returned, or ring up/request it be returned? Expected difficulty?

[Edited on 21-12-2013 by Mesa]


Request it be returned - if out of all things they took the laptop, they probably just wanted to steal the laptop. Lousy law enforcement.




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Mesa
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[*] posted on 22-12-2013 at 10:21


@Pyro: I am generally fairly consistant with keeping everything labelled/properly stored, however if I've just arrived home, I'll keep it in my room for a few hours to repackage/label/procrastinate then move it to my lab(layout of the house makes it difficult to get to the garage if the others in the house are around.) That being said, I agree with you regarding any reactions in my room. At the time I kinda figured an exception was fine given how mild/passive the reaction is.

@Elementcollector1: Will do. They'd be sorely dissapointed if they just wanted to jack the lappy. The battery was in the cupboard and the cover for the underside had been removed to prevent overheating. I have a slight suspicion that they've damaged the PCB and couldn't be bothered dealing with returning a dead laptop. Regardless, I'll likely find out tomorrow when I ring.

Turns out the reagent bottle they left behind doesn't have water in it like I originally assumed. When I took the cap off I got a pretty decent whiff of some sort of hydrocarbon solvent(assumed based on smell.) I've got no clue what I should be doing with it. I can't identify it so I'd rather not pour it down the drain/in the yard. I've just re-capped the bottle and put it in a sealable baggy, not sure what to do with it from here...
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[*] posted on 22-12-2013 at 10:24


Heh. I wouldn't make a habit of sniffing suspect reagents, if I were you...
If the laptop is unusable, they probably won't have a problem returning it. If they damaged the PCB, I *think* you can hold them liable for damages. I'm not exactly a legal expert, though, so I can't say for sure.
Good luck with getting your stuff back!




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[*] posted on 22-12-2013 at 21:47


That sucks, if there's anything I learned from my situation, it's never to consent to searches, or speak without a lawyer. Cops these days will stop at nothing to incriminate you.



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