Civil Liberties

Teen Jailed for Zero Tolerance Offense, Starved for 36 Hours


Mosin nagant
Wikimedia Commons

I previously wrote about Alexander Chier, a Pewaukee, Wisconsin, 17-year-old who was disciplined by his high school for smoking a cigarette. This caused the police to search his vehicle, where they found his hunting rifle. Since the weapon was technically on school grounds, he was suspended and arrested.

Chier spoke with me via e-mail to relate his side of the story. There are no key details in dispute; even so, it's hard not to sympathize with the teenager, who was jailed for a night and denied food for 36 hours, according to his account.

"I had to spend a night in jail after the interrogation, and didn't receive food that I could eat for 36 hours," Chier told Reason. "You see I have life threatening food allergies to the point where legally I have a disability (Anaphylaxis to peanuts, nuts, milk and eggs). 1/8 of a peanut would have me dead in 10 minutes or less. I had 2 different physicians and my allergist call the Waukesha County Jail to convey this and I was still denied edible food."

Other pieces of new information: Chier was caught smoking an e-cigarette, not a regular cigarette, at school; the weapon found in his car was a "bolt action mosin-nagant from 1937," which he uses to hunt coyotes; and he voluntary granted the cops access to all his text messages and social media activity.

According to Chier, he turned himself over to the police, subsequently enduring a four-hour interrogation and a famishing night in jail.

Police agree that Chier was not planning to hurt anyone.

"We have no information at all that would have led us in that direction," a spokesperson for the Village of Pewaukee Police Department told Reason.

The good news is that Chier expects the charges to be dropped.

"Basically as long as I show up to my next court date and commit no crimes I'm a clear man," he said.

He is still suspended, however, and could be expelled. He's not happy about that, obviously.

"The fact that I'm facing expulsion in so extreme in every way," he said. "They will be punishing a hunter who made a mistake, had no ill intent, harmed no one, and never planned to do so; and if the Pewaukee Police Department and the State of Wisconsin both determined I am no threat to anyone I should be allowed to go back to school!"