It’s the 4th of July and that means two things; Cookouts & Fireworks. I for one can say for a fact that I know fireworks for reasons beyond simply being a Maryland Defense Lawyer. Fireworks run deep in my small hometown of New Castle, Pennyslvania, which happens to be the fireworks capital of America. Being from there enabled me to appreciate the potential fireworks as a Maryland defense lawyer. Despite my history with the tradition, I still need to refer to Maryland Criminal laws when I have a client come into my office. The arrival of the 4th of July has sparked a flash of questions from people about the illegal discharge of fireworks:
- What does “Illegal fireworks” really mean?
- What is the penalty?
- Why can you light off sparklers and other small fireworks without worry of interference with law enforcement?
- Finally if you get cited for illegal fireworks, do you need a Maryland defense lawyer?
Maryland defense lawyer: The laws of fireworks
What are fireworks?
PS § 10-101 (f) Fireworks. — (1) “Fireworks” means combustible, implosive or explosive compositions, substances, combinations of substances, or articles that are prepared to produce a visible or audible effect by combustion, explosion, implosion, deflagration, or detonation. (2) “Fireworks” includes 1.3 G fireworks, 1.4 G fireworks, firecrackers, squibs, rockets, Roman candles, fire balloons, and signal lights.
What are NOT fireworks?
(3)”Fireworks” does not include:
(i) toy pistols, toy canes, toy guns, or other devices that use paper caps that contain 0.25 grains or less of explosive composition if the devices are constructed so that a hand cannot touch the cap when the cap is in place for use; (ii) toy pistol paper caps that contain less than 0.20 grains of explosive composition; (iii) sparklers that do not contain chlorates or perchlorates [your kid’s sparklers]; (iv) ground-based sparkling devices that are nonaerial and nonexplosive, and are labeled in accordance with the requirements of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission [fountains]; (v) paper wrapped snappers that contain less than 0.03 grains of explosive composition [bang-snaps]; or (vi) ash-producing pellets known as “snakes” that do not contain mercury and are not regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation [snakes – the lamest fireworks ever].
PS § 10-104, in short, says that you must have a permit to discharge items defined as fireworks, which is granted by the Fire Marshall. These permits are not for public use, but for municipalities and other organizations who are putting on large fireworks displays.
PS § 10-110(a) Discharge or possession of fireworks without permit. — Unless the person holds a permit issued under this subtitle, a person may not: (1) discharge fireworks; or (2) possess fireworks: (i) with intent to discharge or allow the discharge of the fireworks in violation of this subtitle; or (ii) for the purpose of disposing or selling the fireworks to a person for use or discharge without a permit if a permit is required by this subtitle.
PS § 10-111. Penalties (a) Possessing or discharging fireworks in violation of subtitle. — A person who possesses or discharges fireworks in violation of this subtitle is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $ 250 for each offense. (b) Selling fireworks in violation of subtitle. — A person who sells fireworks in violation of this subtitle is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 for each offense. (c) Seizure and forfeiture of fireworks. – (1) At the expense of the owner, the State Fire Marshal shall seize and remove all fireworks possessed or sold in violation of this subtitle. (2) Fireworks described in paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be forfeited and destroyed.
Maryland defense lawyer: The laws of fireworks – why do you care?
Many similar offenses are civil fines. E.g. red light cameras and speed cameras. However possession and distribution of illegal fireworks is a violation of Maryland criminal laws that is classified as a Misdemeanor. If you have no prior criminal record it is significant, because on future job applications you must answer YES to that pesky question, “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” No, you can’t go to jail, but as any good Maryland defense lawyer will tell you; don’t get the conviction if you can avoid it.
Maryland defense lawyer: I got cited for lighting fireworks in my driveway, what now?
Most likely, the police officer issued you what is called a “criminal citation” or Maryland Uniform Criminal Citation (not to be confused with a traffic citation). From there you will be issued a court date [or it may be on the citation] and will NOT have an option to pay the fine without appearing in court. Once you get your court date, you have all your rights as though it were any other criminal case (except the right to a jury trial, because it is a fineable offense). If you fail to appear for your court date a warrant will be issued for your arrest. As stated above, you should strongly consider hiring a Maryland defense lawyer to help you exercise those rights, because especially if you have no prior criminal record, a conviction could prove costly for future job prospects.
Maryland defense lawyer: the bottom line
If you find yourself with a short-fuse and end up on the wrong end of Roman Candle fireworks, don’t take any chances with the law and be sure to have your favorite ENlawyers on speed dial.