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brianmayer
04-16-2009, 4:36 PM
Greetings calguns members:

Expert Witness Needed

I am an attorney representing a juvenile in a criminal defense case in the greater Sacramento, California area. The prosecution alleges that the juvenile emptied the smokeless powder from three shotgun shells, took a firecracker with 25mg black powder for a wick, and stuck it all cardboard tube 2" long and 1/2" diameter. The prosecutor is calling it a "destructive device" and/or "explosive" within the meaning of California Penal Code Sec. 12303.2.

I am hoping that someone here could either help out, or could refer me to someone who could help.

Requirements

I have been looking for someone with sufficient expertise in munitions and/or chemistry who can describe just how "destructive" and/or explosive this device would be. They would need to be familiar with how shotgun ammunition is put together, and be able to discuss things like burn rate, gas expulsion, heat expulsion, etc. I would anticipate that the ideal candidate would have a Chemistry background, but that is definitely not absolute.

I have had tremendous difficulting finding someone with the requisite expertise and would consider someone who has no prior experience as an expert witnesses. Someone located in Northern California would be ideal, but I would consider flying in the right person from Southern California, or Nevada.

Challenges

We have a very short time frame. The prosecution, in my opinion, has no case and I believe the juvenile has an excellent chance of acquital, but I will need someone who is competent to refute their quack expert (he has opined that the "device" could "blow your arm off").

Compensation

This is really more for someone who fits the bill but does not have experience as an expert witness and does not know how the process works. The expert would be well compensated. Under no circumstance would it pay under $150 per hour, including travel time; the agreed upon amount would depend on the expert.

Contact

I would prefer email communication as an initial contact. Please email me at brianm@gtblaw.com with any questions or inquiries if you or someone you know would be qualified and interested. If you have a C.V. or resume already put together, please send that as well. Also, when you email, please be sure to give me a telephone number where you can be reached.

-Brian Mayer, Esq.

Fjold
04-16-2009, 4:47 PM
I would start looking for fireworks/pyrotechnics licensees in NorCal.

brianmayer
04-16-2009, 4:53 PM
That's not a bad suggestion, Frank. Any thoughts on how I might find folks like that?

383green
04-16-2009, 4:58 PM
I wonder if any of the law firms which specialize in firearms-related law might have expert witness contacts that would be helpful in this case? You may know much better than I do where to find these firms, but names which I recall seeing include Trutanich & Michel, Bruce Colodny, and Donald Kilmer.

383green
04-16-2009, 5:01 PM
It just occurred to me that a friend-of-a-friend of mine was an EOD guy in the Corps. I don't know if his training would be appropriate for testimony in a case like this, but I could pass this thread along to him if you would like. If nothing else, he's worked with things that could blow a lot more than your arm off, all on Uncle Sam's dime.

B Strong
04-16-2009, 5:17 PM
You might try Dan Tanner:

daniel@tannerite.com

He's in Oregon, he's a licensed manufacturer of fireworks and explosives, and the inventor of Tannerite.

CSACANNONEER
04-16-2009, 5:36 PM
I've worked very closely with a couple guys with pyro licenses at several re-enactments. I know one of them is within 3 or 4 hours of Sac. (unless he is blowing something up). I don't know where his contact info is right now. If I find it, I'll get it to you. In the mean time, find some local civil war re-enacting units and ask them who normally does thier pyro stuff. It's the same guy. Another idea is to make contact with a hobby fireworks group. I bet there is one in or around Washoe County. These guys usually know the federal and local laws regarding fireworks better than anyone else.

Fjold
04-16-2009, 5:53 PM
That's not a bad suggestion, Frank. Any thoughts on how I might find folks like that?

Rialto company that offers training, etc. - http://www.pyrospectaculars.com/default.htm

whyter
04-16-2009, 8:17 PM
Brian,

Contact me, I can put you in touch with the right people.

Rob
rob [at] pyrorob.com

bwiese
04-16-2009, 8:20 PM
This is why Calguns rocks, folks.

1911su16b870
04-16-2009, 8:53 PM
Dear Mr. Mayer, I have sent you an email briefly describing my unique skill set. Good luck with your client.

1911su16b870
04-17-2009, 7:24 PM
I am not able to assist, calgunners if you can help or know someone who can "the right person(s)", please contact Mr. Mayer.

xdimitrix
04-17-2009, 7:44 PM
Maybe you could hire that retired FBI explosives expert from MythBusters.

georound1
04-17-2009, 9:39 PM
Is it just me, or does what that kid "allegedly" did sound like he was trying to make a destructive or explosive device? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want any kids doing that around me or my property. Is their expert a quack because you don't agree with him or it's not in your best interest?

nick
04-17-2009, 9:44 PM
I've been tinkering with things like that (they're called fireworks and petards and firecrackers outside of our twisted contemporary legal system) all the time when I was a kid. Of course, back then people didn't get their panties in a twist and call for the ban on school kids and young chemist sets :)

hntnnut
04-17-2009, 9:56 PM
I hate to say it, but it looks like a uphill battle or more like climing a cliff. I believe they now also consider water, dry ice, and a enclosed container (pop bottle) a destructive device. A friend got nailed for that on 4th of july a few years ago in victorville and ended up pleading it to a misdemeanor.


Richard

nick
04-17-2009, 9:59 PM
I hate to say it, but it looks like a uphill battle or more like climing a cliff. I believe they now also consider water, dry ice, and a enclosed container (pop bottle) a destructive device. A friend got nailed for that on 4th of july a few years ago in victorville and ended up pleading it to a misdemeanor.


Richard

Water endangers public health, water vapors being greenhouse gasses. Think I'm kidding? Check out what our new chief of EPA came up with. Yes, the same guy who thinks that keeping pets is slavery and animals should have the right to sue people. It's a twisted new world.

But I digress, sorry.

workinwifdakids
04-17-2009, 10:07 PM
One of the pyro forums.

TheBundo
04-17-2009, 11:37 PM
This is why Calguns rocks, folks.

Yes, to find answers (whether they help or not). However the answer may not be what this gentleman lawyer wants. I have no idea what the answer will be, nor do I know the intentions of the kid. That is what concerns me more. He may be a Tom Sawyer kid like a lot of us were, just fooling around. Or he may be a terrorist in the making. Unfortunately, DA's don't always use good judgement, but are looking at the "political hay" they can make, without making a distinction between good kids fooling around and those with evil in their lives.

When I was a kid, a slightly older neighborhood kid was making a "pistol" from 1/4" galvanized pipe, to shoot pea gravel out of using a firecracker as a propellant. He shot it once with all the neighborhood kids watching, then he decided it was too dangerous. We never thought he was doing anything wrong. After all, he was 10 years old to our 8 years old or so, and he already had a 22 and a 410. I can't imagine that he would have been arrested in those days, when we took guns to school for Show 'n Tell.

sigsauer887
04-18-2009, 12:04 AM
Was it great than a .60 caliber? If so, its a destructive device.

nick
04-18-2009, 12:44 AM
Was it great than a .60 caliber? If so, its a destructive device.

Like 12GA? :)

jdberger
04-18-2009, 12:50 AM
Sometimes lawyers are just looking for experts - because a good lawyer knows the answer before anyone asks the question.

TheBundo
04-18-2009, 12:52 AM
Like 12GA? :)

Or a 10 gauge. Seriously, it really all depends on motive, something some DA's don't seem to care about. What about a model rocket? That's a lot of firepower. What about a power nailer thing that uses 22 caliber blanks to shoot nails into concrete? What about tannerite? What about having some fertilizer for your garden and a diesel truck? What about an air nailer (their magazines hold a lot more than 10 "shots"?

A smart kid could make a gun out of this:

http://www.shop.com/+-a-remington+concrete+nailer-p131940013-g1-k24-st.shtml

cousinkix1953
04-18-2009, 7:09 AM
I'd be rich if they paid me, for the times that I've lit smokeless shotgun powder on fire. It just fizzles out. There is NO explosion of any kind. Only a fool would try this with black powder or even Pyrodex. A demonstration on the sidewalk should speak for itself...

7x57
04-18-2009, 7:41 AM
If you can get away with Perry Mason theatrics, you can actually ignite that much smokeless in the courtroom and get nothing more than a flame and a shoosh. As long as it isn't confined, smokeless is pretty harmless and it makes a good visual demonstration of that fact.

Sadly, however, I imagine that you can only do stuff like that in TV courtrooms.

7x57

sigsauer887
04-18-2009, 8:01 AM
Like 12GA? :)

Actually, shotgun(s) are exempt. Funny isn't it?

12301. (a) The term "destructive device," as used in this chapter,
shall include any of the following weapons:
(1) Any projectile containing any explosive or incendiary material
or any other chemical substance, including, but not limited to, that
which is commonly known as tracer or incendiary ammunition, except
tracer ammunition manufactured for use in shotguns.
(2) Any bomb, grenade, explosive missile, or similar device or any
launching device therefor.
(3) Any weapon of a caliber greater than 0.60 caliber which fires
fixed ammunition, or any ammunition therefor, other than a shotgun
(smooth or rifled bore) conforming to the definition of a
"destructive device" found in subsection (b) of Section 479.11 of
Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, shotgun ammunition
(single projectile or shot), antique rifle, or an antique cannon.
For purposes of this section, the term "antique cannon" means any
cannon manufactured before January 1, 1899, which has been rendered
incapable of firing or for which ammunition is no longer manufactured
in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary
channels of commercial trade. The term "antique rifle" means a
firearm conforming to the definition of an "antique firearm" in
Section 479.11 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

cousinkix1953
04-18-2009, 8:01 AM
If you can get away with Perry Mason theatrics, you can actually ignite that much smokeless in the courtroom and get nothing more than a flame and a shoosh. As long as it isn't confined, smokeless is pretty harmless and it makes a good visual demonstration of that fact.

Sadly, however, I imagine that you can only do stuff like that in TV courtrooms.

7x57
EXACTLY right; but I would prefer to do this in the courthouse parking lot, while a judge and jury witnessed the demonstration...

ZRX61
04-18-2009, 8:09 AM
I'd be calling Mythbusters :)

The downside being that after their display of how anaemic the original device would be, they'd add 50lb of C4 & repeat the experiment with somewhat more dramatic results.....

ilbob
04-18-2009, 8:40 AM
Just curious. How does expert testimony play into such a thing?

The act either fits the defintion of the crime or it does not.

12301. (a) The term "destructive device," as used in this chapter,
shall include any of the following weapons:
(1) Any projectile containing any explosive or incendiary material
or any other chemical substance, including, but not limited to, that
which is commonly known as tracer or incendiary ammunition, except
tracer ammunition manufactured for use in shotguns.
(2) Any bomb, grenade, explosive missile, or similar device or any
launching device therefor.
(3) Any weapon of a caliber greater than 0.60 caliber which fires
...

I took a quick look and the CA health and safety code says smokeless powder is an explosive. Its not, but the code says it is. In any case, the blackpowder from the firecracker is a mild explosive.

Its not a projectile so (1) does not apply, nor does (3), so for it to be a DD it would have to be defined in (2). I guess the expert could argue it wasn't a bomb or grenade (its not a missile or launching device). If he had done the same thing and used PVC pipe instead of cardboard no one would argue it was not a pipe bomb.

AfricanHunter
04-18-2009, 10:00 AM
Always thought smokeless powder was technically an accelerant, not an explosive correct?

nick
04-18-2009, 10:06 AM
Always thought smokeless powder was technically an accelerant, not an explosive correct?

Well, as far as the lawmakers know, it's that thing in that thing that goes to your shoulder and goes up.

anthonyca
04-18-2009, 10:14 AM
I've been tinkering with things like that (they're called fireworks and petards and firecrackers outside of our twisted contemporary legal system) all the time when I was a kid. Of course, back then people didn't get their panties in a twist and call for the ban on school kids and young chemist sets :)

Many of us would be in jail nowdays for what was considered boys being boys not all that long ago. You should hear the stories of what my dad who was born in 1932 used to get away with. Making what would now be considered bombs, getting caught shooting a sawed off 22 in Golden Gate park in SF, caught riding across SF with that on his handlebars and told to put it in his jacket. Man, the good old days.

artherd
04-18-2009, 10:32 AM
Explosives detonate (combine at the speed of sound in material - often at speeds of 6,000meters/sec) smokless powder merely burns. It is not an explosive.

If smokless powder were an explosive - it would be used in bombs and missile warheads. It is not.

You have PM.

ilbob
04-18-2009, 10:57 AM
Explosives detonate (combine at the speed of sound in material - often at speeds of 6,000meters/sec) smokless powder merely burns. It is not an explosive.

If smokless powder were an explosive - it would be used in bombs and missile warheads. It is not.

You have PM.

Its an explosive in CA because CA law explicitly says it is.

There are a lot of things in many state laws where things are badly laid out in the law, simply because the lawyers and people who wrote the law really did not understand much about the subject they were writing laws about.

HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE
SECTION 12000-12007
12000. For the purposes of this part, "explosives" means any
substance, or combination of substances, the primary or common
purpose of which is detonation or rapid combustion, and which is
capable of a relatively instantaneous or rapid release of gas and
heat, or any substance, the primary purpose of which, when combined
with others, is to form a substance capable of a relatively
instantaneous or rapid release of gas and heat. "Explosives"
includes, but is not limited to, any explosives as defined in Section
841 of Title 18 of the United States Code and published pursuant to
Section 555.23 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and
any of the following:
(a) Dynamite, nitroglycerine, picric acid, lead azide, fulminate
of mercury, black powder, smokeless powder, propellant explosives,
detonating primers, blasting caps, or commercial boosters.

jasilva
04-18-2009, 11:40 AM
Its an explosive in CA because CA law explicitly says it is.

There are a lot of things in many state laws where things are badly laid out in the law, simply because the lawyers and people who wrote the law really did not understand much about the subject they were writing laws about.

Add physicist to the list of things your not.

Shane916
04-18-2009, 11:56 AM
I do respect the fact you are defending your client and presuming innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, with all due respect, your client is (in my opinion) rather guilty.

With PC 12303.2 it states:

Every person who recklessly or maliciously has in his
possession any destructive device or any explosive on a public street
or highway, in or near any theater, hall, school, college, church,
hotel, other public building, or private habitation, in, on, or near
any aircraft, railway passenger train, car, cable road or cable car,
vessel engaged in carrying passengers for hire, or other public place
ordinarily passed by human beings is guilty of a felony, and shall
be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of
two, four, or six years.


As stated above explosive is further defined in Health & Safety Code 12000

For the purposes of this part, "explosives" means any
substance, or combination of substances, the primary or common
purpose of which is detonation or rapid combustion, and which is
capable of a relatively instantaneous or rapid release of gas and
heat, or any substance, the primary purpose of which, when combined
with others, is to form a substance capable of a relatively
instantaneous or rapid release of gas and heat. "Explosives"
includes, but is not limited to, any explosives as defined in Section
841 of Title 18 of the United States Code and published pursuant to
Section 555.23 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and
any of the following:
(a) Dynamite, nitroglycerine, picric acid, lead azide, fulminate
of mercury, black powder, smokeless powder, propellant explosives,
detonating primers, blasting caps, or commercial boosters.
etc. etc. etc.

artherd
04-18-2009, 12:52 PM
Ilbob - irrelivant. Smokless powder is not an explosive.

Neither the DA nor the Legislature may rewrite the laws of physics.

peekay331
04-18-2009, 1:01 PM
Ilbob - irrelivant. Smokless powder is not an explosive.

Neither the DA nor the Legislature may rewrite the laws of physics.
no, Ilbob appears to be right. The Legislature can define explosive however it wants. The court has to apply the law and if the law says explosive=smokeless powder, than the defedant is SOL on that issue.

nick
04-18-2009, 1:29 PM
Ilbob - irrelivant. Smokless powder is not an explosive.

Neither the DA nor the Legislature may rewrite the laws of physics.

It dosn't mean they don't doit though. Pity educating them is so expensive.

ilbob
04-18-2009, 2:10 PM
Ilbob - irrelivant. Smokless powder is not an explosive.

Neither the DA nor the Legislature may rewrite the laws of physics.
In Illinois the legislature defined some air guns and all Tasers as firearms.

Think about it. The BATF routinely defines small chunks of metal that by themselves completely unusable for anything, except perhaps a paperweight, as machine guns. Lower receivers are considered to be firearms, yet there is no way you could ever fire anything with just a lower.

jdberger
04-18-2009, 2:11 PM
no, Ilbob appears to be right. The Legislature can define explosive however it wants. The court has to apply the law and if the law says explosive=smokeless powder, than the defedant is SOL on that issue.

Sure - and it can define elephants as fish....

I seem to remember an attempt to define a "detachable magazine".....

Shane916:

After all this time on the forum, shouldn't you know that people are innocent until proven guilty. Further, given the sparse facts given by the OP - you have no idea if the defendant was reckless or malicious in his "experiment".

socal2310
04-18-2009, 2:33 PM
I do respect the fact you are defending your client and presuming innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, with all due respect, your client is (in my opinion) rather guilty.

It doesn't matter. His job as an attorney is to obtain an acquittal or a reduced sentence. Given the way the law is written, the former may not be possible but the latter is. Expert testimony may be the difference between a month in jail and probation.

Ryan

Asphodel
04-18-2009, 2:51 PM
Hi, Brian,

If I understand the description correctly, the allegedly manufactured item would far more reasonably be considered an 'amateur fireworks device' or 'home made low-powered fire-cracker', as compared to the designation of a 'destructive device', implying a device of sufficient power to be effective in the commission of a crime.

The 25 milligrams of black powder, if as alleged, would indeed be an explosive, but in such a small quantity as to make any capability as a 'destructive device' of such low order as to be incapable of any meaningful level of 'destruction'.

That 25 Mg is approximately half a grain, 'grains' being the common unit of measure for powder.

The least powerful common centre-fire handgun cartridge of the 'black powder era' was the 32-20, the '20' designating 20gr of black powder. The 32-20 cartridge was primarily used for hunting small game at close range, or for target shooting.

Hence, the alleged black powder charge is 1/40th of the charge needed to fire a low-powered cartridge. The actual powder charges in common firearms use during the period when black powder was the usual propellant would range from 40 to 120 grains.

I have no accurate knowledge of the amount of black powder which might be reasonably required to manufacture a 'home made fire-cracker', but it would seem reasonable that the same charge level as that of a 32-20 or similar cartridge, 20 or more grains of black powder, would be a probable minimum required to produce the desired 'bang' of a fire-cracker.

I can say that, whilst I have never myself made a 'home made fire-cracker' or similar device, I have seen it done, on several occasions, many years ago.

The boys who made these 'amateur fireworks' used well more than 20 grains of black powder in doing so. I say this as I saw the volume of powder they used per fire-cracker, which was a significantly greater volume than could have been contained within a 32-20 cartridge case.

I can say that these 'amateur fireworks' did make a rather loud 'bang', a cloud of smoke, and, in some instances, would send a medium size tin can some distance, maybe 30 to 50 feet, into the air.

The next aspect of the 'destructive device' concept, then, would be the presence of some amount of 'smokeless powder'. As others have noted, that is not actually 'explosive', but derives its usefulness in small arms ammunition from rapid gas formation in an enclosed space.

The nature of the 'enclosed space' would be an important determinant of the level of 'destruction' inherent in the use of smokeless powder.

There is an accurate reference source for information, a chapter of "Hatcher's Notebook", a standard reference for many aspects of firearms and ammunition technology.

The author, Maj. Gen. Julian Hatcher, was the Army's small-arms expert, and published the findings of many military inspections and evaluations of small-arms technology.

The one of interest in this instance, was the group of tests which was done to determine the danger from small-arms ammunition being discharged when not chambered in a firearm, such as loose or boxed ammunition in a building fire.

Gen. Hatcher devised a test fixture which was contained in a cardboard box, using an electrical resistance heating device to fire the primer of a cartridge, replicating the effect of a fire or equivalent heat source.

The primers, when so fired, would light the smokeless powder in the cartridge, which would burn intensely, but not explode. The gas pressure from the burning smokeless powder pressed the bullet out of the case very quickly, whereupon the remainder of the powder simply burned.

According to the report, some fairly large number of small-arms cartridges were test-fired in that manner. None of them 'exploded', and no parts of the cartridges penetrated the walls of the cardboard box.

Gen. Hatcher demonstrated, from that test, that unconfined smokeless powder represented a hazard of fire, but not of explosion.

"Hatcher's Notebook" is still 'in print' and is readily available from book-sellers.

We return to the alleged device.

If, as alleged, it consists of a small quantity, that of three shotshells, of smokeless powder in a cardboard tube, much would depend on the nature of the tube, and the method used in enclosing the ends of the tube.

Unless the tube were as strong as the steel barrel of a firearm, or the steel pipe of a bomb, and sealed at the ends with some medium which would replicate the breech of a firearm or a strong closure of a pipe bomb, the smokeless powder would simply open the tube, or its end closures, and burn harmlessly, as demonstrated by Gen. Hatcher.

Therefore, it would seem reasonable to conclude, that if the alleged device consisted of a half-grain or less of black gunpowder, and a small amount of smokeless powder, in a cardboard tube, it might indeed have been an attempt at producing an 'amateur pyrotechnic' or 'home made fire-cracker', but an attempt to describe it as a 'destructive device' would be 'linguistic acrobatics' at best, and 'overtly prejudicial exaggeration' at worst.

That said, it must be noted that irresponsible use of amateur pyrotechnic devices, particularly by juveniles, has been responsible for some injury accidents, over the years.

My own personal observation has been that many boys, and some men, have a rather strong fascination with, and enjoyment of, 'things which go bang'. I cannot tell why this is so, but I can say, from first-hand observation, that it is so.

Obviously, I would be unsuitable for service on a jury hearing such a case, as I would feel a clear prejudice against any prosecutor who would seek to ruin a boy's life with such a prosecution, unless it were proven that the alleged device was in fact capable of serious injury to a person or of significant destruction of property, and was in fact intended for use in the commission of a crime, such as assault or arson.

cheers

Carla

cousinkix1953
04-18-2009, 3:03 PM
Its an explosive in CA because CA law explicitly says it is.
These are the idiots who never learned that assault rifles are also fully-automatic weapons and regulated by the same federal laws which cover machineguns.

They are only now realizing that you can put serial numbers on a sheet metal magazine; when this has been done in Europe for more than 100 years.

Some are so stupid, that they seek to ban illegal guns a second time because it feels good just like a BJ.

Don't tell those drug addled hippies (who run Marin county) that the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 used to require the registration of ammo. This is an original idea, only if somebody was just too stoned to know their own names in those days.

The San Fransicko board of stupidvisors didn't even know that FFLs sent copies of their #4473 receipts to several law enforcement agencies prior to 2006 0r 2007. One telephone call to the BATFE would have told them that thiis has been the case for better than 40 years...

garandguy10
04-18-2009, 3:11 PM
I do believe that Pyro technic guys are licensed by the BATFE, if so then the license information is public record and should be available to those that are looking for pyrotechnic professionals. Contact the BATFE and see if they will tell you who has a Fed. pyro license in your area.

VW*Mike
04-18-2009, 3:17 PM
Wow, what kid HASN'T messed with emptying firecrackers and powder into a bowl, tennis ball, bottle, etc...... boys will be boys would be my ruling.

socal2310
04-18-2009, 3:53 PM
Wow, what kid HASN'T messed with emptying firecrackers and powder into a bowl, tennis ball, bottle, etc...... boys will be boys would be my ruling.

Regrettably, common sense is not a prerequisite for legislators or judges.

Ryan

yellowfin
04-18-2009, 5:53 PM
Perhaps not, but it should be a tool used for firing them.

Adonlude
04-18-2009, 6:28 PM
I used to make fireworks like that all the time. What you describe would just make a fireball with little explosive power. I soon learned to wrap the tube in lots and lots of duct or masking tape. Then you get a nice explosion.

hvengel
04-19-2009, 4:51 PM
I used to make fireworks like that all the time. What you describe would just make a fireball with little explosive power. I soon learned to wrap the tube in lots and lots of duct or masking tape. Then you get a nice explosion.

This is correct. The smokeless powder from shotgun shells is a fast burning powder and likely has some nitroglycerin content as well. But if it is not contained all it does is burn (violently) when ignited. In order to have it "explode" it must be contained in a vessel that is strong enough to let the pressure from the gases that are released during combustion burst the container at a high pressure. A cardboard tube is simply not strong enough to hold very much pressure unless it is reinforced.

Of course we don't know what the actual device looked like and if it were wrapped with something like fiberglass reinforced tape it could be strong enough to explode with significant force.

Black powder on the other hand will explode even if it is not in a strong container because unlike smokeless powder, which only burns when ignited, black powder is a true explosive.

ilbob
04-19-2009, 6:00 PM
Wow, what kid HASN'T messed with emptying firecrackers and powder into a bowl, tennis ball, bottle, etc...... boys will be boys would be my ruling.

I would be willing to bet there is a little more to this situation than that.

Dr Rockso
04-19-2009, 6:37 PM
I did the same thing when I was a kid and it was really pathetic. Hypothetically replace the smokeless powder with FFFG black powder, on the other hand.... :chris: (Of course I never blew craters in the lawn with such a thing...)

ZRX61
04-19-2009, 7:50 PM
Wow, what kid HASN'T messed with emptying firecrackers and powder into a bowl, tennis ball, bottle, etc...... boys will be boys would be my ruling.

Indeed, if it goes to trial then the kids best hope is the the jury is composed of grandfathers who would appreciate the entertainment before dismissing all charges.....

My juvenile experiments (in the UK) with this kind of stuff escalted to the point of a brass cannon that would fire snooker/pool balls. AND I made it in HS metal shop...Unfortunately I only got to fire it the once before the *grown ups* realised what I'd built after the test firing left a row of neat round holes mostly in the fences of several neighbors, the last hole being in side of a shed at the end of the street where the remains of the snooker ball were found embedded in a lawn mower engine.... I was deaf for about 3 days.. :( which meant I didn't actually get to hear the lecture my dad gave me when he came from work :)

Theseus
04-19-2009, 7:57 PM
When I pray whatever I want I pray for the sanity to be returned to our society and judicial systems. . . Further proof that God isn't listening to me.

MindBuilder
04-19-2009, 8:43 PM
In my opinion, smokeless powder is definitely an explosive when confined in a closed space. Black powder was used to blast rock before dynamite became popular. A hole would be drilled in the rock and the powder packed into the hole, which would confine the combustion in order to get the pressure up enough to get the burn rate up enough to constitute an explosion. Black powder and smokeless are somewhat different but basically the same from this point of view.

On the other hand, mere possession of three shotgun cartridges worth of powder can't be considered a bomb. Otherwise everyone who buys a canister of powder for reloading would be in possession of a bomb.

Putting the powder into a heavy cardboard tube is an attempt to make it explode. If the ends were not strongly sealed to contain the pressure then it would fail to explode. Is there a crime for attempted bomb making? Possession of bomb making materials could be a problem as well. It looks to me like the relevant precedent or regulations are the ones relating to fireworks. There must be a certain maximum legal size for firecrackers. The case is ultimately rather simple. Did the alleged device exceed the legal limits for a firecracker?

If on the off chance there is no precedent for the size of a device, You may want to hire a licensed pyro tech to do a test using the arm of a pig corpse or similar animal model to test the expert's claim of destructiveness.

It may be useful to point out to the prosecution or jury that while smokeless powder and high explosives like dynamite, may have a similar energy output, high explosives are much more destructive because they release their energy much more quickly. The faster energy release results in higher pressures and therefore higher forces and more destruction to surrounding objects. You could set off gun powder and then a comparable quantity of dynamite in the chamber of a gun for a dramatic video demonstration of the difference in destructiveness of dynamite vs gunpowder.

brianmayer
04-20-2009, 12:51 PM
I appreciate the recommendations that I have received here, plus independent communications. I was very impressed with the wealth of knowledge that the members of this site have.

In the course of my work, I have defended the rights of people who I believed to be guilty as well as innocent. I believe this kid is innocent; I am not looking for someone who will give a skewed opinion; I need someone who can tell it like it is. Their expert is a quack because this thing is less powerful than a firecracker of comparable size, but he believes that it would blow one's arm off; we have already run tests and you could basically hold this thing in the palm of your hand and scarcely get singed. We intend to challenge the admissibility of the "expert's" testimony based on his lack of expertise.

Anyway, I do appreciate the legal analyses, but the prosecution messed this one up and we are building our case for a malicious prosecution suit when we prevail. As a former prosecutor, I would have dropped this case months ago.

brianmayer
04-20-2009, 12:52 PM
Thank you, it is smaller than 0.60; we have read the statutes and case law and this was not a destructive device.

brianmayer
04-20-2009, 12:58 PM
I should also point out, since the discussion is taking place, that Health and Safety Code Section 12001 exempts as an explosive black powder and smokeless powder in certain quantities, neither of which were alleged to have been exceeded in this case. It is therefore going to hinge, in part, on what this thing was capable of. I'm sorry guys, the thing had less kick than a model rocket or even a flare. :)

jasilva
04-20-2009, 1:40 PM
I should also point out, since the discussion is taking place, that Health and Safety Code Section 12001 exempts as an explosive black powder and smokeless powder in certain quantities, neither of which were alleged to have been exceeded in this case. It is therefore going to hinge, in part, on what this thing was capable of. I'm sorry guys, the thing had less kick than a model rocket or even a flare. :)

Go get 'em Brian. I'm all for prosecuting a REAL criminal with REAL destructive plans, but at some point the legal system in this state has to come back to some sort of common sense reality. We really need a head shake test before cases can be heard. Maybe if 6 out of 10 average working people shake their heads and roll their eyes when told what the case is it gets dismissed?

brianmayer
04-20-2009, 1:49 PM
Since this is a juvenile case, there is unfortuantely no jury; it will be tried by a judge. The case is also "confidential" meaning it is ordinarily closed to the public; however, we intend to file a motion to make it public so the kid's family and loved ones can observe the proceeding.

artherd
04-20-2009, 2:49 PM
In my opinion, smokeless powder is definitely an explosive when confined in a closed space.

You've been a physicist for how long exactly?

The difference in power between agents that burn and agents that truly explode - is terrific.

brianmayer
04-20-2009, 5:17 PM
In my opinion, smokeless powder is definitely an explosive when confined in a closed space. Black powder was used to blast rock before dynamite became popular. A hole would be drilled in the rock and the powder packed into the hole, which would confine the combustion in order to get the pressure up enough to get the burn rate up enough to constitute an explosion. Black powder and smokeless are somewhat different but basically the same from this point of view.

On the other hand, mere possession of three shotgun cartridges worth of powder can't be considered a bomb. Otherwise everyone who buys a canister of powder for reloading would be in possession of a bomb.

Putting the powder into a heavy cardboard tube is an attempt to make it explode. If the ends were not strongly sealed to contain the pressure then it would fail to explode. Is there a crime for attempted bomb making? Possession of bomb making materials could be a problem as well. It looks to me like the relevant precedent or regulations are the ones relating to fireworks. There must be a certain maximum legal size for firecrackers. The case is ultimately rather simple. Did the alleged device exceed the legal limits for a firecracker?

If on the off chance there is no precedent for the size of a device, You may want to hire a licensed pyro tech to do a test using the arm of a pig corpse or similar animal model to test the expert's claim of destructiveness.

It may be useful to point out to the prosecution or jury that while smokeless powder and high explosives like dynamite, may have a similar energy output, high explosives are much more destructive because they release their energy much more quickly. The faster energy release results in higher pressures and therefore higher forces and more destruction to surrounding objects. You could set off gun powder and then a comparable quantity of dynamite in the chamber of a gun for a dramatic video demonstration of the difference in destructiveness of dynamite vs gunpowder.

Is there a standard for distinguishing a high explosive from other types of explosives?

Asphodel
04-21-2009, 12:40 AM
Brian, a thought occurs to me......

From your description, that does indeed sound like something which could be fired in a person's hand without causing injury, if the person were to wear a good quality leather glove. (It could cause a somewhat painful burn, were it in a bare hand)

How about providing exact details of the device here, with the idea that some number of Calguns people would replicate the device, and 'fire' it in the palm of a gloved hand.

A number of short videos of the construction and firing of a duplicate device by some number of the Calguns folks would rather dramatically demonstrate the 'capability' of the device.

This would make a rather dramatic, and mildly humorous, reply to your adversary's line about 'blowing one's arm off'.

Edited......Brian, for some info on the nature of a 'high explosive', try a 'google' search on the term 'brisance'.

cheers

Carla

mather911
01-03-2010, 8:19 AM
This is a mixed topic for me. I don't want to see a kid go to jail for being stupid, but it is also the reason I now pay an arm and leg for black powder. Seems all these dumb people who build pipe bombs are giving the politicians a reason to restrict my purchase of powder and have caused the price to skyrocket. The description of cardboard for a case tells me it would be an incendiary device more then an explosive. Smokeless powder burns at a slow rate which allows it to build tremendous pressure. Black powder burns at a fast rate which gives it less pressure but also makes it an explosive. If I were on the jury with the information you have given, I would definitely be leaning towards possession of bomb making materials. Thank god this kid seems to be behind the curve, that mixture in a hard case such as metal or such would be a pipe bomb and quite dangerous. However you being an atty and all, intent is the deciding factor in most of these cases. It appears he intended to make a pipe bomb in my opinion. So what do we do? I am a 2nd Amendment advocate and believe that we should be free to use and posses any weapon or weapon material that we want for legal purposes. This type of activity just adds fuel to the liberal fire to ban all of us from our Constitutional right to Bear Arms. So I ask, is it worth finding a loop hole, explanation of technical terms, twisting the facts, proving he used the wrong materials to make a bomb or such to save one person when the negative effect for millions is in the balance? Shotgun powder is for propelling shotgun BB's or slugs, using it for anything else that it is not intended for, well you decide. You can explain away ballistics, you can't explain away intent.

pullnshoot25
01-03-2010, 9:06 AM
This is why Calguns rocks, folks.

FTMFW

Roadrunner
01-03-2010, 9:23 AM
When I was a kid I made gunpowder from my moms sulfur she used for her roses, some charcoal briquettes I got from the bag, and potassium nitrate I bought from Longs drugs. The recipe I used was from a Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia, and the firecrackers I made were awesome. Made some decent money off of them also from the kids around the neighborhood.

aileron
01-03-2010, 10:17 AM
So what ever happened to this case? Sound like he was making a cherry bomb to me.

bwiese
01-03-2010, 10:35 AM
So what ever happened to this case? Sound like he was making a cherry bomb to me.

Yes, and you can see the close connection to Tannerite issues here.

cmth
01-03-2010, 11:18 AM
I may or may not have made "modifications" to several "safe & sane" fireworks as a kid. I still have all of my phalanges.

anthonyca
01-03-2010, 11:25 AM
Was this ever resolved?

Boys used to be able to be boys. I am not saying what he did was smart but didn't most of us do this?

2009_gunner
01-03-2010, 12:15 PM
Was this ever resolved?

Boys used to be able to be boys. I am not saying what he did was smart but didn't most of us do this?

I'd worry more about boys that didn't have an inclination to try something like this. The State has way too many Nurse Ratched types.

Super Spy
01-03-2010, 12:22 PM
I hope the kid gets aquitted....sounds he was just doing what many of us did as kids. I'm no expert, but I certainly blew up plenty of stuff as a kid, and what that kid made is relatively small compared to stuff I or friends made.....and we all have all our fingers, toes, eyes, etc....

Maestro Pistolero
01-03-2010, 2:35 PM
If you can get away with Perry Mason theatrics, you can actually ignite that much smokeless in the courtroom and get nothing more than a flame and a shoosh. As long as it isn't confined, smokeless is pretty harmless and it makes a good visual demonstration of that fact.

Sadly, however, I imagine that you can only do stuff like that in TV courtrooms.

7x57

Shoot a video

GrayWolf09
01-03-2010, 6:29 PM
Indeed, if it goes to trial then the kids best hope is the the jury is composed of grandfathers who would appreciate the entertainment before dismissing all charges.....

My juvenile experiments (in the UK) with this kind of stuff escalted to the point of a brass cannon that would fire snooker/pool balls. AND I made it in HS metal shop...Unfortunately I only got to fire it the once before the *grown ups* realised what I'd built after the test firing left a row of neat round holes mostly in the fences of several neighbors, the last hole being in side of a shed at the end of the street where the remains of the snooker ball were found embedded in a lawn mower engine.... I was deaf for about 3 days.. :( which meant I didn't actually get to hear the lecture my dad gave me when he came from work :)

:rofl2: We made a rubber ball cannon out of an aluminum tube and used black powder and canon fuse. Man you should have seen that ball bounce when it finally hit the ground. We were lucky though. A friend of mine performed an appendectomy on himself with a CO2 cartridge and some match heads.

This sounds like pyrotechnic exploration rather than anything nefarious. Good luck in the young man's defense.

arster
01-03-2010, 9:13 PM
Always thought smokeless powder was technically an accelerant, not an explosive correct?

Per Wikip (and also some verified EOD source matter I had - but Wiki explains it more simply for all).

The UN(of all trusted orgs) lists smokeless powder as a 160/161 Class "explosive" with hazard clasess of 1.1C-1.3C - note that the DOT, DOE and US DOD also uses this classification system (or something very similar). In terms of the ATF listing - it also lists Smokeless powder in its "list" but since it is a low order explosive (with a legitimate civilian usage) - as long as DOT regs and age regs are followed - its allowed to citizens.

Also, if you want to read up on technically certified information:http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/explosives.htm

"Gunpowder, also called black powder, is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate. It burns rapidly, producing volumes of hot solids and gases which can be used as a propellant in firearms and as a pyrotechnic composition in fireworks. The term gunpowder also refers broadly to any propellant powder. Modern firearms do not use the traditional gunpowder (black powder) described here, but instead use smokeless powder. Antique firearms or replicas of antique firearms are often used with black powder substitute.

Gunpowder is classified as a low explosive because of its relatively slow decomposition rate and consequently low brisance. Low explosives deflagrate at subsonic speeds. High explosives detonate, producing a supersonic wave. The gases produced by burning gunpowder generate enough pressure to propel a bullet, but not enough to destroy a gun barrel. This makes gunpowder less suitable for shattering rock or fortifications, where high explosives such as TNT are preferred.

Low-order explosives (LE) create a subsonic explosion [below 3,300 feet per second] and lack HE's over-pressurization wave. Examples of LE include pipe bombs, gunpowder, and most pure petroleum-based bombs such as Molotov cocktails or aircraft improvised as guided missiles.

A High Explosive (HE) is a compound or mixture which, when initiated, is capable of sustaining a detonation shockwave to produce a powerful blast effect. A detonation is the powerful explosive effect caused by the propagation of a high-speed shockwave through a high explosive compound or mixture. During the process of detonation, the high explosive is largely decomposed into hot, rapidly expanding gas.

Decomposition
The chemical decomposition of an explosive may take years, days, hours, or a fraction of a second. The slower processes of decomposition take place in storage and are of interest only from a stability standpoint. Of more interest are the two rapid forms of decomposition, deflagration and detonation.


Brisance
In addition to strength, explosives display a second characteristic, which is their shattering effect or brisance (from the French meaning to "break"), which is distinguished from their total work capacity. An exploding propane tank may release more chemical energy than an ounce of nitroglycerin, but the tank would probably fragment into large pieces of twisted metal, while a metal casing around the nitroglycerin would be pulverized. This characteristic is of practical importance in determining the effectiveness of an explosion in fragmenting shells, bomb casings, grenades, and the like. The rapidity with which an explosive reaches its peak pressure (power) is a measure of its brisance. Brisance values are primarily employed in France and Russia.

The sand crush test is commonly employed to determine the relative brisance in comparison to TNT. No test is capable of directly comparing the explosive properties of two or more compounds; it is important to examine the data from several such tests (sand crush, trauzl, and so forth) in order to gauge relative brisance. True values for comparison will require field experiments.

Deflagration vs. Detonation
In deflagration, the decomposition of the explosive material is propagated by a flame front, which moves slowly through the explosive material in contrast to detonation. Deflagration is a characteristic of low explosive material. (ie. gunpowder).

Detonation is used to describe an explosive phenomenon whereby the decomposition is propagated by the explosive shockwave traversing the explosive material. The shockwave front is capable of passing through the high explosive material at great speeds, typically thousands of meters per second."

Hunt
01-04-2010, 11:15 AM
this is why we need fully informed juries

sreiter
01-04-2010, 7:48 PM
the movie industry if full of pyro guys if you still need some help - pm me, and i can get you in touch with someone

chuckdc
01-04-2010, 10:53 PM
Might also want to check with the High Power Rocketry guys (Tripoli Rocketry Association) as they just beat the ATFE in court when it came to classifying their propellants as low explosives and requiring permits for them, etc. Yes, they're a little weird, but the better Tripoli guys really ARE rocket scientists, and probably could calculate the energies released and the like, and then compare that to what it would take to do the damage the prosecutor is alleging. I'm pretty sure there is info on how many joules/gram in smokeless powder, etc.