Which Fireworks are Legal to Set Off on the Fourth of July?
The Fourth of July is fast approaching and there have been numerous questions concerning the legality of purchasing and setting off fireworks. We understand that this is a day of celebration of our nation’s independence and that fireworks are usually a part of how people like to commemorate this holiday.
So what is legal? Sparklers, fountains, glow worms, and snakes are legal.
What is illegal? Any firework that explodes or leaves the ground is ILLEGAL. This includes, but is not limited to: firecrackers, M-80s, bottle rockets, roman candles, mortars, etc.
So why are fireworks for sale at locations throughout the city? It is understandable that this can be very confusing. In the State of Florida, there is a loophole in the law. Florida is primarily an agricultural state and the loophole in the law is for the benefit of agricultural operations to scare off birds and other pest animals. When you purchase prohibited fireworks from these vendors, you are presented with a waiver that you must sign to complete your purchase. Now, we realize that many people don’t read the waiver, but all that legalese that most people skip over explains this. The waiver is your promise that you are using these fireworks for agricultural purposes. The waiver protects the vendor, not you the customer.
Fireworks have been illegal for decades in Florida and every year, we respond to HUNDREDS of fireworks complaints around New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. We expect this Fourth of July to be no different and will probably create an even higher call volume due to the holiday being on a Wednesday. People have to be at work Thursday morning and having fireworks going off throughout the night isn’t very conducive to a good night’s sleep. The people who call in fireworks complaints are annoyed, and rightly so. The noise keeps people awake, disturbs pets, the debris litters yards and roadways, and burns through screen enclosures.
What about enforcement? Our officers COULD issue citations and/or make arrests the first time they see a violation. The noise ordinance ticket will run you about $100 and the misdemeanor fireworks charge can run up to $1,000 with a year in jail!
Let’s be real. Nobody wants us out there rounding up people for shooting off a bottle rocket. Also, since it is a misdemeanor, the officer must witness the violation occurring in order to make an arrest or issue a citation. A lot of times, we arrive after the fireworks have gone off, or between volleys. Fortunately, our officers have the discretion to issue warnings and educate people as an alternative to citations or arrests. That is usually enough to get compliance and handle the complaint. If not, then we have the other tools at our disposal.
The fact of the matter is, there are way more people buying and shooting off fireworks than there are officers on the street. We get to the calls one at a time as fast as we can. If you’ve been setting off prohibited fireworks in the past and never got the police called on you, it wasn’t because it was legal before. It was simply because you got lucky.
Safety is also a major concern with setting off fireworks. In 2016, there were 11,000 injuries and 4 deaths in the United States associated with fireworks incidents.