Illegal fireworks on the Fourth: Lessons learned from past cases

July 1, 2011

illegal fireworksThe Fourth of July will be celebrated across the country this weekend with patriotism, barbeques, drinking, and, of course, fireworks.

Obviously, fireworks aren’t legal in all states.

Before purchasing or using fireworks, make sure that doing so would be in compliance with the laws in that state.

Naturally, these laws are often ignored by many members of the populace because the temptation to use fireworks on the Fourth is just too great to resist.

Because illegal firework use can have legal consequences, there have been more than a few cases involving them.

Some of them can be attributed to carelessness, though.

For example, if you’re planning on transporting illegal fireworks in your vehicle, you probably don’t want to advertise to the police that you’re doing so.

That advice wasn’t followed in 2006’s In re T.H., in which a man was charged with unlawful possession of fireworks because he held them in plain view in the back of his SUV.

The police didn’t even need to search him or his vehicle to find them.

However, if you do happen to get threatened with a police search, it’s not a smart idea to invite the police to search the compartments of your car, just as the defendant did in U.S. v. Boden.

According to that case, Boden told a police officer who stopped him he had both a handgun and fireworks in his car, which led to a police searching for, and finding, the fireworks.

Police searches aren’t the only danger with illegal fireworks.

Getting very drunk and setting off commercial-grade fireworks at a party probably isn’t the safest thing in the world.

The plaintiff in 2004’s Pullen v. West, for example, was blinded in one eye, suffered nerve damage, memory loss, and required steel plates to be inserted in his head, because of his usage of illegal commercial fireworks.

His drinking 12-16 beers beforehand may have been a contributing factor, too.

Even giving away illegal fireworks can have some serious legal consequences.

Just look at Michigan Millers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Awad.

That case involved a man, Jason Jones, asking an acquaintance, Jason Awad (who ran an illegal fireworks stand), for some free fireworks.

Awad eventually gave Jones some illegal bottle rockets to get Jones to leave him alone.

Jones subsequently lit a bottle rocket from inside a car and let it go out the window.

The bottle rocket unexpectedly struck a woman in the eye as she was getting out of the other side of the vehicle, and she sued for damages.

While these cases involved some level of carelessness or stupidity, illegal fireworks are still illegal.

Everyone wants to be patriotic on the Fourth of July, but there’s nothing patriotic about injuring yourself or another, or ending up in jail.

That said, have a fun, safe, and legal incident-free holiday!