With Fourth of July just around the corner, many Southland residents are gearing up for barbecues and backyard parties – and maybe just a little bit of fireworks. If you are one of the millions of Americans who chooses to celebrate our nation's independence with the time-honored tradition of lighting colorful incendiary devices, be forewarned that you may be at risk for criminal consequences. As illustrated by this week's seizure of more than 3,000 pounds of illegal fireworks, not all fireworks are created equal under California law.
This past Wednesday evening, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department seized the large quantity of illegal fireworks after deputies witnessed three men lighting what appeared to be explosives on a residential street near the city of Industry. After placing the men under arrest, law enforcement officers later discovered several boxes of fireworks in an open garage. Equipped with a search warrant, deputies seized more than 3,000 pounds of illegal fireworks, later turning them over to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. No names have been released as investigations are still pending.
California's Laws on Fireworks: Enjoy the Holiday without Being Arrested
With drought-ridden Southern California being at such great risk of sweeping wildfires, state and local laws impose a number of regulations surrounding the use of fireworks. Each year in Los Angeles and many of the surrounding communities, the Fourth of July weekend sees high rates of brush fires, house and car fires, property damage, injuries, and occasionally a few fatalities. As a result, local law enforcement agencies and fire departments are on high alert during the weeks and days surrounding Fourth of July weekend, making it clear that those who violate the law will be held criminally accountable. The difficulty, however, comes with breaking the common belief that certain fireworks are legal to use.
While some cities in Southern California may allow the use of "safe and sane" fireworks in a responsible manner, fireworks of any form are illegal in Los Angeles County unincorporated communities, as well as in many of Los Angeles County's 88 cities. This includes the storing, manufacturing, selling, use, and handling of fireworks. Supervisor Michael D. Antioch – a representative of northern Los Angeles County's fifth district – has been raising awareness about the use of fireworks this summer and making it well known about their illegality and the criminal consequences that can result.
Possessing or using illegal fireworks in Los Angeles County is a criminal offense punishable by fines of up to $1,000, one year in jail, or both. Sale or distribution of illegal fireworks can subject one to heightened charges and penalties. Additionally, certain products and projectile devices – including M-80s, M-100s, mortars, and Roman Candles – are defined as explosives under California law. Possession or use of these explosives is a felony offense punishable by terms of imprisonment as high as 16 months in a state correctional facility. If fires do occur, individuals may also be at risk of being charged with arson, a serious felony offense punishable by lengthy terms of imprisonment. Parents of children who cause damage or injuries using fireworks can also be held liable.
Politicians, law enforcement agencies, and fire departments throughout Los Angeles County urge residents not to use fireworks in celebration of July 4th, and instead encourage them to attend licensed fireworks displays conducted by professionals. Although these laws are in place, there are still numerous local residents who believe that they are allowed to use fireworks, as the practice is a tradition and performed in neighborhoods across the Southland. If you or your loved one has been charged with any type of criminal offense involving fireworks, it is crucially important that you understand that serious penalties exist and that a conviction will result in a criminal record. Allow our firm to help you understand the charges and penalties you face and what we can do to help. Contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP today.