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Getting Caught with Illegal Fireworks Can Dim Your 4th

Posted on: 07/04/2011

Around the Bay Area, people will pack a picnic blanket, a patriotic spirit and head to see fireworks displays. Some people also want to celebrate by setting off fireworks at home. Here are a few things you should know before you get popping.

In the good ol’ days, early summer meant fireworks stands on every corner just about. These days you only see stands in cities like Gilroy in Santa Clara County, Newark, Union City and Dublin. While cities like these have more permissive laws in place, most of California bans the private sale and use of fireworks. Under California Health & Safety Code section 12677, it is “unlawful for any person to possess dangerous fireworks without holding a valid permit.” Only those specifically permitted to do so can sell or keep certain types of fireworks.

Although it sounds simple enough, there are at least 20 sections of California law that govern the distribution, sale, and possession of fireworks. The state has specific definitions for what is considered a “safe” firework and what is considered dangerous. There are also specific scenarios for distributing, giving fireworks to minors etc.

What happens if you get caught with illegal fireworks?

Possession of illegal fireworks is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine ranging from $500 and $1000 and/or imprisonment up to one year.  There are, however other fireworks related charges. Other violations could include illegal advertising, illegal fireworks display, illegal sale, and illegal storage of fireworks. Penalties for some of these offenses can include a felony conviction, fines up to $50,000, and/or imprisonment in state prison for three years.

The California Fire Marshall has a fireworks resources page, which includes a helpful handbook.

Your safest plan for the holiday is to check with the specific city or county you live before you start celebrating. Have a happy, safe 4th of July!

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