The Fourth of July is next week and you know what that means–fireworks! Although it is customary to celebrate the independence of our nation with a pyrotechnic display, we at LaMarche Safranko Law want to remind everyone of the fireworks law in New York state governing sale and use.

Over the past few weeks, you have no doubt seen the plethora of tents set up in retail parking lots selling fireworks, or sales displays inside local stores. This is because since 2015 New York state has legalized the sale and use of certain fireworks—known as sparkling devices—for those 18 or older in more than three dozen counties, including Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Rensselaer.

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As defined under New York State Penal Law §§ 270, sparkling devices are those “which are ground-based or hand-held devices that produce a shower of white, gold, or colored sparks…” The law further specifies what devices are deemed “dangerous fireworks” and are still not legal, including “torpedoes, skyrockets and rockets” which explode or combust in the air, as well as roman candles and bombs…”[1]

To be sure you are purchasing legal fireworks from an authorized vendor in New York state, check out the 2017 Registered Sparkling Device Vendors list.

The adoption of the law by localities across the state has not been without controversy. Because of confusion about the complexities of what is allowed and what is not, some people misinterpret the regulations and assume any type of firework is allowed. This has raised concerns in at least one local community, which has been dealing with an increased use of the more dangerous types of devices and an increase in fireworks-related emergency calls for law enforcement. In response, last month, Schenectady County became the first in the area to repeal the use of small fireworks, opting out of the state law.[2] “An increase in injuries played a factor,” attorney George LaMarche told WTEN News10 ABC.  It remains to be seen if other localities will decide to opt out.

In addition to understanding the fireworks law regarding sale and use, it’s important to understand the rules regarding transporting fireworks. If you are planning to travel this July 4th weekend and will be bringing fireworks with you, know that while you can travel through New York counties that have not adopted the law, you are not permitted to use said fireworks in those counties.[3] If you are planning to travel outside New York state, make sure you’re aware of the fireworks laws of the state you are visiting. Although most U.S. states have some form of legalized fireworks, there are some exceptions, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Delaware, where fireworks remain illegal. You can visit the American Pyrotechnics Association for more details about each state’s fireworks laws.

[1] Penal Law § 270.00(1)(vi)(2)(B)(b)(2016)