Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Muslim Teen's Homemade Clock Wasn't a 'Hoax Bomb'

The homemade clock that 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed brought to school on Monday may have looked innocent enough, but his eagle-eyed teachers weren't fooled. One saw the ticking converted pencil case as "possibly the infrastructure for a bomb."

Officers were quick to respond. They immediately took Mohamed into custody before the small circuit board, digital display, and decorative tiger hologram could cause further disruption.

The School and Police Overreacted

In fact, this isn't the story of a teen bringing a bomb to school. Instead, this is the story of an enterprising Muslim teenager, with dreams of becoming an engineer and wearing a NASA t-shirt, who brought to school a pencil case he converted into a fully functioning clock. Clearly proud of his feat, he showed it to his engineering teacher, who told him not to show anyone else. After a second teacher heard the clock beeping in class and confiscated it, the principal paid Mohamed a visit, along with a police officer.

Instead of using the common sense necessary to recognize an innocent digital clock, the principal and five police officers interrogated Mohamed, asked him why he was trying to build a bomb, threatened him with expulsion, took his fingerprints, and booked him on charges of making a hoax bomb.

The Hoax Bomb Statute Doesn't Apply

Police initially considered whether to formally charge Mohamed for building a hoax bomb. However, it's clear that the relevant statute doesn't apply to this case. The text of Texas's hoax bomb statute reads:

(a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly manufactures, sells, purchases, transports, or possesses a hoax bomb with intent to use the hoax bomb to:
(1) make another believe that the hoax bomb is an explosive or incendiary device; or
(2) cause alarm or reaction of any type by an official of a public safety agency or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

Mohamed never knowingly manufactured a hoax bomb, much less attempt to make anyone believe he had a hoax bomb or cause any alarm. So either officers didn't know the statute, or they knowingly arrested Mohamed for no reason.

As Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd pointed out, "We live in an age where you can't take things like that to school." Great call, Larry -- can't have the kids out there with clocks and watches in a school environment. We owe you, your hero officers, and the bomb squad teachers at MacArthur High School a debt of gratitude.

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