Crimes for Fireworks in Florida

Update: The Florida Legislature recently passed 2020 SB 140, which provides an exemption from the prohibition of fireworks usage during the following designated holidays:

  • Independence Day on July 4;
  • New Year’s Eve on December 31; and
  • New Year’s Day on January 1.

Although the mere possession of fireworks is not generally a criminal offense, it is unlawful for any person, firm, co-partnership, or corporation to offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, use, or explode any fireworks without first obtaining a permit from the Board of County Commission. The offense is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida Statute §791.02.

Florida law imposes a similar penalty for individuals, members of a partnership, and officers of an association or corporation who violate the terms of ch. 791, F.S. Under Section 791.06, F.S., firms, copartnerships, or corporations found to violate the law are subject to a $1,000 fine.

In addition, the sheriff or any other police officer is authorized to seize, take or remove at the expense of the owner, all stocks of fireworks or combustibles offered for sale, stored, or held in violation of ch. 791, F.S.22

The laws related to the sale of fireworks under Florida Statute Chapter 791 are difficult to enforce. As a result, several local communities have passed city and county ordinances, largely aimed at regulating the sale of fireworks.

Under the county ordinance, fireworks vendors would be required to comply with a number of standards and regulations in order to sell fireworks in that local city or county lawfully.

Prohibitions on the “Sale of Fireworks”

Chapter 791, entitled “Sale of Fireworks,” is relatively short. It begins with section 791.001, which provides:

This chapter shall be applied uniformly throughout the state. Enforcement of this chapter shall remain with local law enforcement departments and officials charged with the enforcement of the laws of the state.

Under Florida law, the term “fireworks” is defined as any combustible or explosive composition or substance or combination of substances prepared to produce a visible or audible effect by combustion, explosion, or detonation.

Under Florida Statute §791.01(4)(a), fireworks can include blank cartridges and toy cannons in which explosives are used, the type of balloons that require fire underneath to propel them, firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, roman candles, dago bombs, and any reworks containing any explosives or flammable compound or any tablets or other device containing any explosive substance.

The term “fireworks” does not include sparklers approved by the Division of the State Fire Marshal, toy pistols, toy canes, toy guns, or other devices using paper caps containing twenty-five hundredths grains or less of the explosive compound.

Those items, however, must be constructed so that a hand cannot come in contact with the cap when in place for the explosion or toy pistol paper caps that contain less than twenty-hundredth grains of explosive mixture. Under Florida Statute §791.01(4)(b), the sale and use of these items shall be permitted at all times.

Additionally, under Florida Statute §791.01(4)(c), the term “fireworks” does not include the following novelties and trick noisemakers: snakes or glow worms, smoke devices, and trick noisemakers. Examples of these novelty items have names such as “snake,” “glowworm,” “party popper,” and “trick match.”

The statutory definitions of these novelties and trick noisemakers can be found in Florida Statute §791.01.

The Seizure of Fireworks under Florida Law

Under this statute, Florida law requires police officers to seize, take, remove, or cause to be removed at the expense of the owner, of all stocks of reworks or combustibles offered or exposed for sale, stored, or held in violation of Section 791.05, Fla. Stat.

According to the Division of State Fire Marshal’s helpful pamphlet titled Fireworks and Sparkler Enforcement Law Enforcement and Inspections Guide,” law enforcement officers should be advised that “[i]t may not be necessary, or legal, to seize all products in one location observed to engage in instances of unlawful retail sales of reworks or illegal sparklers.”

Enforcement personnel may choose to seize only those items involved in an illegal transaction or illegally exposed for sale. Seizing an entire stock of products may be improper as an enforcement procedure if lawful wholesale transactions occur at an enforcement site.

Exemption for the Use of Fireworks

It is important to note that Section 791.02(1) prohibits the use and sale of items that fall within the definition of fireworks. The law contains several exceptions to this general prohibition.

  • An exception exists for the use and sale of fireworks for certain public displays of fireworks. See § 791.02(1), Fla. Stat.; § 791.04, Fla. Stat.;
  • The governing bodies of counties and municipalities can adopt rules for granting permits for the public displays of fireworks by fair associations, amusement parks, or other organizations. § 791.02(1);
  • The Fla. Stat. Boards of county commissioners must require bonds from licensees in an amount not less than $500. § 791.03, Fla. Stat.
  • Further, outdoor displays are subject to the safety standards of “the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1123, Code for Fireworks Display, 1995 Edition.” § 791.012, Fla. Stat.
  • But “[a]ny state, county, or municipal law, rule, or ordinance may provide for more stringent regulations for the outdoor display of fireworks.” Id. 
  • The Code for Fireworks Display does not govern fireworks displays on private, residential property. Id.

Exemptions for the Wholesale of Fireworks

In addition to exempting the use and sale of fireworks for certain public displays, chapter 791 exempts the wholesale of fireworks if:

  • The sales are delivered to out-of-state entities or to other manufacturers, distributors, or wholesalers. § 791.04, Fla. Stat.
  • Chapter 791 exempts the use of fireworks for signal purposes by railroad and transportation agencies, for quarrying purposes, for blasting or industrial purposes, for show or theatre purposes (blank cartridges), “or for signal or ceremonial purposes in athletics or sports, or for use by military organizations.”
  • Chapter 791 also exempts the sale and use of fireworks for “frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.” § 791.07, Fla. Stat. This last exemption “shall be governed entirely by the rules prescribed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”

The “Scare Birds” Defense

In some limited circumstances, sellers can sell fireworks that might otherwise be illegal if the items are used to frighten birds from agricultural work and fish hatcheries. The seller will often ask the customers to confirm the purpose of buying the items in a form stating that they are purchasing the fireworks for this lawful purpose.

Additional Resources

Regulatory Staff of the Division of State Fire Marshal – The staff is available to render guidance and assistance if necessary. The phone number of the Regulatory Licensing Section is (850) 413-3172.

Florida’s Consumer Fireworks Task Force – The Florida legislature created this task force to make recommendations in early 2008. The Task Force prohibited local governments from enacting new laws regulating fireworks. The Task Force prohibited any new permanent or temporary facilities from selling fireworks beyond the current number approved in 2006.

This article was last updated on Thursday, February 1, 2024.