For Americans, the 4th of July is perhaps the most anticipated day of the year. It is the day to celebrate history, resilience, and prosperity. And in California, they never stall to have a blast -- literally. Fireworks light up the night sky, enchanting every Californian in close proximity. For many, Independence Day is not complete without fireworks. But for firefighters and wildlife conservationists, it is always a disaster. The use of unauthorized fireworks and improper handling of such has notoriously caused grass and structure fires all over the state, putting every emergency agency on high alert. In fact, in 2020 alone, there were at least 100 fires reported in the span of 8 hours. That's just for the city of San Francisco, too.
Indeed, California has become the country's hotspot for devastating fire incidents. As part of their effort to curb further destruction, California Health and Safety Code 12500 was enacted. This basically outlaws any individual to obtain, sell, keep, discharge, or offer hazardous fireworks unless the individual has a special display authorization. Now, the term “dangerous” is somewhat ambiguous and broad. Fortunately, California HSC 12505 enumerated the characteristics that constitute “dangerous” pyrotechnics:
- Is made up of arsenites, boron, chlorates (in large amounts), gallic acid, magnesium, mercury salts, phosphorus, picrates, thiocyanates, titanium, and zirconium;
- Are greater than 10 lengthwise or ¼ inch in breadth;
- Devices that explode when met with friction; and
- Others that are deemed risky by the State Fire Marshall.
With those in mind, prohibited fireworks are materials such as firecrackers, skyrockets, roman candles, and sky mortars. If a material does not fall into any of the aforementioned qualities, then it is considered “safe and sane” fireworks. Any individual in CA is eligible to buy, acquire, or store authorized fireworks. However, take note that even if it carries a “safe and sane” seal, you can still be arrested under these circumstances:
- An individual is marketing a lawful pyrotechnic without any valid license (CA HSC 12686);
- An individual is marketing a lawful pyrotechnic to a teenager below the age of 18 (CA HSC 12689);
- The licensed firework is emitted near a person or mass that induced to a laceration (CA HSC 12680); and
- An individual is marketing a lawful firework beyond the permissible schedule (CA HSC 12599).
Penalties for Infringing California Health and Safety Code 12505
Violation of HSC 12505 is a misdemeanor case. However, in the situation where an individual is found carrying, owning, or using unreasonable sums of unlicensed fireworks, or if the individual is caught distributing any type of pyrotechnics to a teenager, California has separate laws that cover the sanctions for such. For the meantime, here are the possible punishments should an individual be ruled guilty under HSC 12505:
- A maximum of 1 year in county jail
- Pay an amount between $500 and $1,000
Legal Defenses Against HSC 12505
In the long run, we all want to enjoy a peaceful, happy, and safe 4th of July. There is nothing wrong with celebrating and having a great time on account of the fact that it is appropriate and legal. Remember, it is everyone's responsibility to make sure that no living being will perish or endure pain for the sake of other people's happiness.
Nevertheless, the statute will work to give violators the disciplinary actions they deserve. However, if you have been wrongfully accused of advertising, purchasing, or using unlawful fireworks, here are your possible defenses:
- The litigant was wrongfully identified as the violator, when in fact, the real offender is yet to be apprehended;
- Insufficient evidence to prove that the litigant did actually commit the crime;
- He/she is a licensed professional and performed within the latitude of his/her license;
- The litigant was led to believe that his/her customer is above 18 years old.
You have the right to defend yourself in court, guilty or not. Now, let our highly-skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of Raoul Severo in California make that experience lighter for you. With an attorney by your side, you will have a greater chance of winning the case especially if you have been wrongfully profiled as a violator. Do not hesitate to reach out and seek assistance today.
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