Criminal Law

Keeping the Fourth?s Fireworks Fun Safe and Legal

Arizona has been in the national spotlight for its recent passage of controversial laws affecting immigrants, but it also passed a law generating sparks but less controversy. Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed a bill allowing the sale and use of sparklers and other fireworks that shoot off sparks, as long as they don't explode.

The Arizona Fireworks Law

Arizona's current law makes it illegal to buy, sell or use sparklers and any other "consumer-grade" fireworks in the state. But the Arizona government has just signed a bill that changes this. So starting December 1, 2010, people can sell and use sparklers and other fireworks that don't explode.

However, cities in Arizona can still pass their own ordinances and regulations to prohibit the use of fireworks. Counties can also restrict fireworks in areas where the risk of wildfire is high.

The Arizona law came after years of lobbying by the fireworks industry. On the other side, local fire departments are worried about the fire risks. Arizona's dry climate means that with a little wind, a spark or an unattended fire can burst into a spreading fire.

Some local fire chiefs have expressed worry that with state budget cuts reducing their forces, it'll be tough to have the staff and equipment needed if the law results in more fires.

Transporting Fireworks across State Lines

You might assume that if you can buy fireworks in a different state, there's no harm in using them once you get home. Every state has different laws about using fireworks. For example, in Arizona before the new law takes effect, people can't use fireworks no matter where they bought them.

You might be asked to sign a form stating that you aren't going to transport the fireworks across state lines, or that you aren't going to sell them to someone else. If you sign but don't live up to your promise and someone is injured or their property is damaged from your use or sale of the fireworks, you might be sued. And if you've violated the law, you might face charges.

Saying you didn't know about the law won't get you off the hook. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Even if you're in a state other than where you live, you're still subject to the laws of the state where you are. And that includes laws about fireworks.

Caution: Fire Danger

Around the Fourth of July the sights and sounds of loud fireworks abound across the country. The National Fire Protection Agency warns these can turn from fun to tragedy. In 2006, 32,600 fires were reported to have resulted from fireworks. There were six deaths, 70 injuries and $34 million in property damage.

Children should never be allowed to use fireworks without close adult supervision. Parents can be on the hook from a legal standpoint if their children have used fireworks that harmed persons or property.

Even if the parents didn't know their children were using fireworks, it can be claimed the parents were negligent about properly supervising their children. Leaving fireworks, matches or a lighter in a place where children can reach them could be enough to prove that the parents weren't taking proper care to avoid accidents.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can I sue the fireworks manufacturer if I get hurt using their fireworks?
  • If I'm using fireworks and I start a fire, can I still be charged with arson if it was an accident?
  • Can my insurance company deny a claim if the damage was caused by fireworks I bought out of state and set off in my yard?
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