Whenever we think of Independence Day, we cannot help but think about barbecues, pool parties, and shooting off fireworks. However, before you set off your bottle rockets and sky lanterns, there are a few things you ought to know about the legality of doing so. Unlike in other states, it is illegal to sell, purchase, possess, or use fireworks of any kind in New Jersey. Ultimately, it is crucial to understand what the law considers a “firework” as well as the penalties associated with having and using them in NJ.
What is Illegal About Fireworks?
Believe it or not, selling, purchasing, and possessing fireworks or pyrotechnics is considered to be “against the public health, safety[,] and welfare of the people of the state of New Jersey.” [N.J.S.A. 21:3-1] Accordingly,New Jersey has criminalized such conduct. Under N.J.S.A. 21:3-2, it is unlawful for any person “to offer for sale, expose for sale, sell, possess or use, or explode” fireworks and explosives of any kind.
What Counts as a “Firework” or “Explosive”?
It is important to recognize that something we might think is harmless may be considered extremely dangerous under New Jersey’s fireworks law. For example, sparklers, which one would think are a fun toy to use on the Fourth of July, actually count as fireworks. That means it is unlawful to possess, use, or sell them! To help you understand what is and is not an “explosive” or a “firework” under New Jersey law, we have provided you with the following list:
- Balloons Requiring Fire Underneath to Propel Them
- Blank Cartridges
- Fireworks Containing Any Explosive or Inflammable Compound
- Roman Candles
- Sparklers and Other Fireworks of Like Construction
- Tablets or Other Devices Commonly Used and Sold as Fireworks
- Toy Canes or Toy Guns in Which Explosives are Used
- Toy Cannons
- Toy Pistols
- Any Compound Containing Nitrates, Chlorates, Oxalates, Sulphides of Lead, Barium, Antimony, Arsenic, Mercury, Nitroglycerine, Phosphorus or Any Other Explosive (Catch All Category)
- Any Substance, Combination of Substances, or Article Prepared for the Purpose of Producing a Visible or Audible Effect by Combustion, Explosion, Deflagration or Detonation Other Than Aviation and Railroad Signal Light Flares (Catch All Category)
Everything in the list above is considered either an “explosive” or “firework” under N.J.S.A. 21:3-2. That means it is illegal to sell, buy, possess, and/or use any of them.
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Exceptions & Permits
NJ’s fireworks law does not prohibit selling, buying, possessing and/or using a toy pistol, toy cane, toy gun, or other device in which paper or plastic caps containing 0.25 grain or less of explosive compound per cap are used as long as they are made in a way that prevents a hand from coming in contact with the cap when in place for use. This exception also applies for toy pistol paper or plastic caps that contain less than 0.20 grain of explosive mixture per cap. However, there are no exceptions when it comes to fireworks.
The only way you will lawfully be allowed to use them is if you first obtain a permit from your municipality. The State of New Jersey will allow you to apply for a permit if you pay the appropriate fee and fill out the requisite forms. It is important to remember that a permit will not usually be issued for personal use. Instead, a permit is typically reserved for public displays put on by certain organizations, amusement parks, and other groups approved by your local municipality.
Penalties [N.J.S.A. 21:3-8]
If you are caught selling or possessing with the intent to sell fireworks, you will can be found guilty of a fourth degree crime. This means you can spend up to 18 months in prison and face a fine of up to $10,000. However, if you are caught using or merely possessing fireworks, you can be found guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense. Although a petty disorderly persons offense is the lightest penalty you can receive in NJ, you will still face up to 30 days of jail time and a fine of up to $500. Make sure to contact an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney who can help you avoid all of the negative fallout associated with a conviction.
Who Should You Contact?
If you or a loved one was recently charged with a fireworks crime in NJ, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm today. Mr. Rosenblum is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has helped people in similar situations. He will defend your constitutional rights and do what he can to have your fireworks charges dismissed. E-mail or call him today at 888-815-3649.