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Student's curiosity, unintended mishap leads to felony charges

When it comes to criminal defense stories, the circumstances usually stray to the extremes. Either you read a story about someone who does something so terrible that, surely, they must be guilty (only for the case to go the other way); or the defendant clearly had no malicious intent, a random convergence of circumstances and personalities leads to a good person being sent to jail under controversy.

The inadequacies of the system are there; and while people try to change them for the better, they only highlight the need for criminal defense attorneys when someone is accused of a crime. They may truly be guilty or truly be innocent; but in either scenario, the charges against them must be fought, because, otherwise, the fair and balanced justice system that you know would not exist.

Take a case out of Florida as an example. A 16-year-old high school student, with no history of bad behavior, was expelled from school and hit with two felony charges because she filled a water bottle, at her friend's advisement, with aluminum foil and a cleaning solution. The bottle let off a loud "pop" and then started smoking. No one was injured and no damage was done.

But, under the school's code of conduct, the student was determined eligible for expulsion -- an action that was taken. Then, the police got involved -- and charged her with discharging a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device. In reality, she was just a curious high schooler who wanted to know what happened when you mixed those two things together. She likely had no idea how the water bottle would react, a sentiment echoed by the school's principal.

While the school expulsion is a different matter, hopefully this young girl will not be found guilty of these over-the-top charges.

Source: USA Today, "Florida teen arrested, expelled over science 'blast'," Michael Winter, May 2, 2013

 York County Bar Association South Caroline Bar NACDL South carolina association of criminal defense lawyers United states court of appeals | For the Fourth Circuit
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