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“Um, Ya – I Need These 500-gram Roman Candles to Scare Birds from My Crops”

Posted by Scot D. Goldberg | Jul 02, 2014 | 0 Comments

Goldberg Personal Injury Lawyers and Fireworks Laws

Well, it's that time again – easy to figure out by the sudden burst of red, white and blue tents popping up on the side of so many roads. Yep, it's time to scare some birds off our crops.

Wait – you mean that's not what you do with your fireworks?

That's what you're admitting to when you sign that piece of paper at the fireworks stand – that they will be used for “agricultural use”. In Florida, almost all the different types of fireworks being sold these days are technically illegal. That's why our state's lawmakers decided about 60-years ago to write some creative exemptions for those who want to purchase and use them.

Who knows, maybe one of our Senators or Congressman back then had a rich uncle in the fireworks business, and some palms got greased. The exemption was written as an “agricultural exception”. This means that as long as you sign the form that says you are going to use the powerful explosive devices to shoo some birds off of your cotton crop. There's another form that says you'll be using the fireworks to “illuminate a stretch of railroad”.

Sparklers and some of the more benign types of fireworks are legal for sale. But things that are designed to explode and/or act as a projectile, like a mortar shell or roman candle, are illegal for sale in the state of Florida.  And the crazy thing is, lawmakers and everyone else knows that by making a consumer sign such a ridiculous form in order to enjoy some bright blasts and loud explosions in their backyard, they are really asking them to commit a fraud.

But, everyone, including most local law enforcement agencies, turns a blind eye. (We'll resist the urge to mention the possibility of an actual blind eye, caused by altered, modified or mishandled fireworks until later).

In Southwest Florida, the only probable time you'll get in trouble for setting off illegal fireworks is if the cops come by to check out a complaint. If your neighbor calls in to complain about excessive noise, or that your fireworks are raining down onto their roof or their cars in the driveway, the police will come and check it out. And if you've got anything illegal lying around, they will take it from you. If that worries you, you should party with your neighbors to cut down on the possibility of getting reported.

Florida, it may come as no surprise, is the only state that has those specific exemptions. 46 other states do allow the sale and purchase of some fireworks, usually through their own “creative” exemption laws. But if you're in Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey or New York, you'll have to head out of state to smuggle in your explosives from elsewhere.

In some Florida counties, they have more stringent regulations regarding who can buy and use certain types of fireworks, and they supersede any state laws. Basically, if the cops wanted to chase around on the 4th of July and New Year's busting everyone who was making a racket, our local neighborhoods would be packed with cop cars.

OK, since we are Fort Myers personal injury attorneys, here are a few tips to remember if you're planning on staging your own pyrotechnics show:

  • Never let little kids play with fireworks – even a sparkler can poke an eye out
  • Know what you're doing – read the labels, and don't shoot off anything above your skill set
  • Keep plenty of 5-gallon buckets of water handy, and a working garden hose and fire extinguisher nearby
  • Don't get hammered before the big show – explosives and booze can be a big mistake
  • Only light one firework at a time – it's too hard to keep an eye on multiple explosives
  • Thinking of concocting your own mortar shell, ‘cause it will be really cool? Think again – most injuries happen when people try to make their own mortar shells
  • Do NOT try to keep lighting a “dud” or defective firework – just toss it in the water – it's not going to fix itself
  • When you're done blowing stuff up, put your burnt remnants into the water, or into a fire-resistance trash container away from any structures or trees, and spray some water in there

If you do happen to suffer any type of injury from a fireworks accident and you feel another party is at fault, (which is rare, because the vast majority of injuries are due to handler error), feel free to call us for a free consultation.

The attorneys and staff at Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone hope your family and friends have a great time celebrating our nation's independence, and your fireworks shows are safe and fun.

If you'd like to read the actual Florida statutes regarding fireworks, follow the links here:

Florida Statute Chapter 791: Sale of Fireworks

About the Author

Scot D. Goldberg

Local People. Local Practice. Local Knowledge. Scot Goldberg is a founding partner of the Goldberg Law Firm. See his attorney profile for more information.

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