Case Dropped Today Against Teen Who Innocently Sniffed Teacher's Hand Sanitizing Gel

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Middle School Student charged and arrested for using a hand-sanitizer in class. Case dismissed by prosecutors after admitting a mistake was made. Police compare to 'smoking a joint in class' or 'drinking alcohol in class'.

Charges were dropped against the Lewisville teenager that was arrested and charged with sniffing a hand--sanitizer gel.

J. Michael Price II, the attorney for the teenager, was pleased that the Denton County District Attorney's Office did the right thing. "My client and I are very happy that this matter has been resolved successfully. This has been a trying time for him and his entire family the last three months. This matter should have never been prosecuted."

The youth, a student at Killian Middle School in Lewisville, Texas, was accused in October 2007 of 'sniffing' or 'huffing' a common alcohol-based hand sanitizer, "Germ-X" after class. The hand-sanitizer was provided by the teacher for use in the classroom. "My client innocently smelled his hands a few times because he thought 'it smelled good'", Price stated. "The teacher thought he was sniffing it in a manner to try and get intoxicated. The Lewisville Police believed a crime had occurred. He was booked into custody, fingerprinted, a mug-shot taken, then released to his father."

The problem with this case is that under Texas law, the sniffing or inhaling of a hand-sanitizer is not a criminal offense. The law is very clear: Any substance regulated by the Federal Food and Drug Act is not an abusive volatile chemical. Furthermore, a reading of Texas Health and Safety Code Section 485, the law the juvenile is accused of violating, clearly shows that this law is designed for regulated chemical substances, substances that you must possess a permit to sell, or substances that are specifically labeled 'VAPORS HARMFUL' or labeled in accordance with the Federal Hazardous Substance Act. None of these apply to alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Joni Eddy, assistant police chief in Lewisville, said Friday during a television interview with WFAA-TV, Channel 8 in Dallas, that this is "exactly the same as if the kid was in front of the class drinking alcohol or exactly the same as if the kid was in front of the class smoking a joint." Price notes that both of these acts are specifically against the law in Texas, whereas using or sniffing a hand-sanitizer is not. There are no known cases of anyone becoming intoxicated from the inhaling of alcohol fumes from a hand sanitizer. The only effects from doing this in large quantities are irritated eyes and/or a headache.

The juvenile and his family thought this matter was behind them back in October after he was told the matter would be reviewed by the police department to determine if further prosecution was warranted. He served 5 days of in-school suspension. Up until this incident, the teenager has always been a good student and never had any prior disciplinary problems.

"The troubling aspect of this case is that this matter was reviewed by a supervisor at the Lewisville Police Department, and later reviewed by the Denton County District Attorney's office. It was then assigned for prosecution, a 'Petition of Delinquent Conduct" suit was drafted and personally served against the juvenile and his father on January 22, 2008". Price further stated, "It was only after the threat of this matter becoming public that it was ultimately dismissed. I contacted Ms. Jamie Beck of the Denton County District Attorney's Office and told her I didn't think a law had been violated," Mr. Price said. "She made the appropriate decision without a lot of delay."

Richard Ortiz, the father of the student, told the Dallas Morning News he was pleased with the news that this matter was finally resolved. "I'm glad the DA's office decided they made a mistake, but they didn't decide that until after I hired a lawyer and the media got involved."


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