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Author: Subject: Should I talk to the police before starting my lab?
DeltaTee
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[*] posted on 8-9-2017 at 15:14
Should I talk to the police before starting my lab?


Hello all,

I've recently graduated with my B.S. in chemistry from a school that required undergraduate research (with a 50 page thesis) as a requirement for the degree. The project itself was completed successfully (if demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that the analytical method I was developing could not possibly work counts as a success). As all interesting research projects do, this one led to a spin-off project that I worked on for a couple of weeks but was unable to finish before graduation.

I still want to finish this and potentially publish the results, and have reason to beleive that such a thing can be accomplished using wet chemical techniques (and perhaps a bit of UV-vis spectroscopy later on). I would like to do so during my spare time in a home lab. I'm wondering if it would be a good idea to first let the police in my area know what I'm up to before setting out on the project so they know what's going on and don't ruin my work on a suspicion that I might be up to no good. The fact that I hold a degree in chemistry and am working as an R&D lab tech might lend credibility (in their eyes) to the fact that I am a "real" chemist and pursuing a topic of legitemate research. Alternatively, it could lead to a witch-hunt. Do any of you have thoughts on this?
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SWIM
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[*] posted on 8-9-2017 at 15:40


I'm betting it could be a problem telling them.
The fact that it relates to earlier research you did as a thesis would be an excellent bit of proof as to what you're up to, but cops might not be impressed. They might think you're trying to outsmart them by telling them you're a legit chemist to hide some nefarious purpose.

Also, many cops think you're some kind of maniac if you're doing home chemistry. Some of the members here have posted about some pretty alarming experiences on the legal and societal issues board.

It depends on your local police and their attitudes toward this kind of thing, and that's mighty hard to discern until you tell them what you're doing. Then it could be too late.

There's another thing. before you think about contacting them check the local fire codes out carefully. I have no idea what you're doing, or what chemicals in what quantities you'll need, but If they call out the fire marshal to check you out it could be a problem. many of the totally legit hobby chemists on here are probably in violation of some of these codes because they are rather draconian in some jurisdictions.

Another thing to consider: Do you own or rent? If the land lord gets contacted by the cops or fire marshal he might evict you because he's afraid (rightly or wrongly) of hazard to his property or the other tenants if it's an apartment.

I'd just try to be as low-profile as possible.



[Edited on 8-9-2017 by SWIM]
clearly_not_atra's post below has a very good point. Talking to a lawyer is a great idea if you can afford it. In addition to straight legal advice a local lawyer is also likely to know if the local cops are reasonable or a bunch of dicks.

[Edited on 9-9-2017 by SWIM]
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clearly_not_atara
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[*] posted on 8-9-2017 at 18:35


The best thing to do is to talk to a lawyer, who can tell you the legalities of what you're doing and where you should get any necessary permits. If that's too much of an investment, try reading through the local laws and see if you can figure out what office handles permitting for hazardous chemicals. The rank and file cops won't know a whole lot about the law.
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NEMO-Chemistry
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 06:48


First rule of amateur lab

Dont talk about amateur lab :D
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wg48
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 08:21


Quote: Originally posted by NEMO-Chemistry  
First rule of amateur lab

Dont talk about amateur lab :D


and the second rule is

what amateur lab?

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NEMO-Chemistry
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 09:42


Quote: Originally posted by wg48  
Quote: Originally posted by NEMO-Chemistry  
First rule of amateur lab

Dont talk about amateur lab :D


and the second rule is

what amateur lab?



Second Rule is
Join Sm and talk about it lol :P
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SWIM
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 09:43


Getting the amateur lab rules from the Fight Club movie actually works pretty well as an analogy.

I would add that the last of the Fight Club rules sounds almost like aga made it up.

If this is your first time at Sciencemadness,... you HAVE to fight.
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NEMO-Chemistry
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 09:47


Quote: Originally posted by SWIM  
Getting the amateur lab rules from the Fight Club movie actually works pretty well as an analogy.

I would add that the last of the Fight Club rules sounds almost like aga made it up.

If this is your first time at Sciencemadness,... you HAVE to fight.


Or at least recrystallize with pics lol.

Fighting breaks glass ware
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Tsjerk
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 10:02


I think the biggest problem would be is that the police will not have the vaguest clue what you're talking about. So every scientific detail you use to prove you're legit will sound like a foreign language to them. They would have to believe you on your nice smile and your BSc, which they probably won't.
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amaming
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 15:37


If you write up all your stuff and always have a lot of textbooks and smart people stuff around you'll be fine. I've had the police and various people come around to look at mine in the past, and the biggest problem is that they didn't understand what I was up to or didn't think I did either (partially true). If you have a bunch of smart people stuff around and pay big attention to safety and practicality, I think you'll generally be trusted not to fuck up. There's nothing illegal about having a lab, you just have to not do illegal stuff in it, and make sure that everyone else knows it.
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Corrosive Joeseph
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 15:43


Quote: Originally posted by DeltaTee  

Do any of you have thoughts on this?


Don't ever tell those b@st@rds anything............. They wouldn't understand anyways


/CJ
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[*] posted on 14-10-2017 at 18:03


Also probably an important question; in what country do you live?
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[*] posted on 1-11-2017 at 19:10


I'm in the process of slowly building a cute little tinkering lab and I actually did ask my lawyer if I shouldn't just introduce myself to local law enforcement so there wouldn't be any misunderstandings. His advice was that most police won't appreciate the thought of a 'personal' chem lab in their city and an investigation can be a big problem even if you're innocent, so it would probably be best to just stay under the radar. If they don't know you're there, they can't suspect you of something improper and cause you trouble.

Part of me resents the idea that we should have to stay hidden. But, I can see the wisdom of it. So, the first part of my 'plan' is to mind my own business and be a good neighbor (no weird smells, etc.) The second part of the plan is to do things properly, treating my little hobby the same way I would run a lab at work, with proper storage (like safety cabinets for solvents), SDS sheets, fire extinguishers, lab notebook, inventory lists, excellent housekeeping, etc. If the boys in blue do ever come knocking, they're going to find something clean, respectable (maybe even a bit cute.)

One of the things that has impressed me is the idea of 'the clothes make the man'. People have powerful, deeply rooted assumptions of how respectable people and things 'should' present themselves. Make sure your lab looks like the home of a responsible and respectable tinkerer, not the fever dream of a meth-head. :-)
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[*] posted on 2-11-2017 at 09:24


If they want to talk to you, they'll let you know.



This is my YouTube channel: Extreme Red Cabbage. I don't have much posted, but I try to do nice writeups once in a while.
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[*] posted on 2-11-2017 at 10:44


I live in a very small town with close-by neighbors. I knew smells, occasional smoke and other things might get the neighbors excited and have them call the law. So I did it first, dragged them all through the lab, opened all the cabinets and drawers to let them see everything. I showed them my write-ups, the books I study and the ones I was working from. I explained that I was doing this for the sake of the love of chemistry. As others said earlier, it certainly didn’t hurt that the place was clean and organized. Texas requires a permit for certain glassware, or so I’ve been told, but I don’t have any permits and they didn’t ask me for any. But they could certainly tell by the look of the place that I’m not a dope cook. I agree with other members that it certainly helps in how you present yourself and your lab.
This isn’t to say that you’ll have the same result I did, especially if you live in a larger city where illicit drug manufacturers are a problem. But I think that this is one time where a little “advance PR” might avert a situation where someone calls you in and the cops already have their minds made up when they get there that you’re a meth cook and they trash the place and haul you off to jail without you being able to explain yourself. Whatever you do, be safe and above all have fun!




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Texium (zts16)
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[*] posted on 2-11-2017 at 10:58


Quote: Originally posted by charley1957  
Texas requires a permit for certain glassware, or so I’ve been told, but I don’t have any permits and they didn’t ask me for any. But they could certainly tell by the look of the place that I’m not a dope cook. I agree with other members that it certainly helps in how you present yourself and your lab.
That's good to hear! I always figured that was the case, but the unease of not having the permits has still always been in the back of my mind.



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NEMO-Chemistry
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[*] posted on 2-11-2017 at 12:52


Quote: Originally posted by zts16  
Quote: Originally posted by charley1957  
Texas requires a permit for certain glassware, or so I’ve been told, but I don’t have any permits and they didn’t ask me for any. But they could certainly tell by the look of the place that I’m not a dope cook. I agree with other members that it certainly helps in how you present yourself and your lab.
That's good to hear! I always figured that was the case, but the unease of not having the permits has still always been in the back of my mind.


What glass ware is supposed to have a permit? I got a friend who works for silicon labs (actually a sub company, energy micro) in Austin Texas, he has a home lab and no permits.

He said something about what us Brits call a conical flask, needs a permit. Forget what you call them over there, i suggest you buy from the UK, that way you get conical flask stamped on the box :D.

Seriously though having seen your lab, your a long way off a meth cook profile. I think permits would only come into play if you upset them, and they wanted any excuse to make life hard for you.

Considering your background as a mod here etc etc, its going to be tough to prove your upto no good.
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[*] posted on 24-1-2018 at 04:39


I once inquired about a matter of chemistry from local PD and they were mostly like wtf are you asking this from us, we don't know anything about such things.
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[*] posted on 24-1-2018 at 07:09


Quote: Originally posted by NEMO-Chemistry  


Considering your background as a mod here etc etc, its going to be tough to prove your upto no good.


But it will cost him a lot of time and money to defend a charge even if he is not guilty.
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[*] posted on 24-1-2018 at 09:05


Talking about law with cops is like talking about surgery with a butcher.



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For all your phlogiston needs.
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[*] posted on 24-1-2018 at 10:16


I'd recommend that you avoid calling unnecessary attention to yourself.

O3




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[*] posted on 24-1-2018 at 10:46


I concur with the common opinion on this matter, don´t talk with the police ever!
That´s what lawyers are for.
Cops will just twist everything around in their favour what you say to them, trying to construct a charge out of it...

Also, keep your hobby a secret as much as possible, because others will for sure start jokingly mention your bomb/meth lab, "friend"(more like acquintances), people who don´t grasp the concept of this hobby at all, and not knowing how much damage such a behaviour could cause.
And the cops don´t care about your legal status, all they know is they probably will receive a raise after they busted a lab.
No matter that it was just a harmless chemistry lab, and not a drug kitchen or bomb workshop... A lab is a lab, right? :o
Cops aren´t your friendly helper, actually they´re quite the opposite of it, street pirates disguised as public servants...

But contacting a lawyer in advance, that would be a wise move, even if it may cost a little, it will come handy if there is ever any kind of trouble.
This way he knows about your projects already, very helpful to have someone already convinced and informed about the real nature of your hobby.
Especially someone with this profession, thats worth it totally to have one consulted, informed and in the worst case if it ever comes to this, ready to defend you too.
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[*] posted on 24-1-2018 at 12:49


i definately agree with the advise to not brag/talk openly about your lab. I was advised by the police that there have been cases of educated chemists being extorted to cook for criminals. eg they discover you have a secret or they kidnap a pet etc

[Edited on 24-1-2018 by diddi]




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[*] posted on 24-1-2018 at 13:17


I do chemistry as a hobby in UK,
I wish that I had an EPP license but it seems that there is no chance of being granted one,
so I operate on the assumption that if I make no trouble for anyone,
the police would not want to waste their time on me and my hobby.

As I have no answer to terrorism and acid-in-the-face throwers, I have to support the current paranoia,
Hopefully we will soon be an independant progressive nation and science will be celebrated.
(I expect this enlightenment to occur shortly after I publish my unified field theory)

[Edited on 24-1-2018 by Sulaiman]




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[*] posted on 24-1-2018 at 14:46


Quote: Originally posted by karlos³  
I concur with the common opinion on this matter, don´t talk with the police ever!
That´s what lawyers are for.
Cops will just twist everything around in their favour what you say to them, trying to construct a charge out of it...

Also, keep your hobby a secret as much as possible, because others will for sure start jokingly mention your bomb/meth lab, "friend"(more like acquintances), people who don´t grasp the concept of this hobby at all, and not knowing how much damage such a behaviour could cause.
And the cops don´t care about your legal status, all they know is they probably will receive a raise after they busted a lab.
No matter that it was just a harmless chemistry lab, and not a drug kitchen or bomb workshop... A lab is a lab, right? :o
Cops aren´t your friendly helper, actually they´re quite the opposite of it, street pirates disguised as public servants...

But contacting a lawyer in advance, that would be a wise move, even if it may cost a little, it will come handy if there is ever any kind of trouble.
This way he knows about your projects already, very helpful to have someone already convinced and informed about the real nature of your hobby.
Especially someone with this profession, thats worth it totally to have one consulted, informed and in the worst case if it ever comes to this, ready to defend you too.


I agree with most of this advice. But over the 15 years I have done this hobby I have relaxed a bit on who I show my lab to. Most are just amazed at my lab and equipment. Cook/terrorist jokes just are minimal, just someone looking for a cheap laugh. My brother asked "where do you get all these wonderful toys?" (a la the Joker in Batman.) I am a 75 year old retired chemical engineer. My friends and associates are mostly of the same age. They are well educated and sophisticated, not inclined to gossip or joke at my expense.

I have never talked to a lawyer, but I know who I would call.





The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
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