911 Calls About Illegal Fireworks Skyrocket in Chicago
In the summer months, it’s not unusual for Chicagoans to hear the booming sound of fireworks lighting up the skies in the neighborhood. It’s a relatively common summer pastime.
This year, the pastime has been more popular than ever. So popular, in fact, that The Chicago Sun-Times reports that fireworks complaints to Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management are up over 700 percent over last year. That’s an interesting statistic, especially since fireworks are mostly illegal in Illinois — ours is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to the consumer sale and possession of fireworks.
This summer, here’s what you need to know about the rules in Illinois and what penalties you may face if you’re charged with violating these restrictive rules.
The Illinois Pyrotechnic Use Act
The Illinois law that prohibits the use of consumer fireworks is called the Illinois Pyrotechnic Use Act. It identifies fireworks that are not legal as well as fireworks that are legal to use. The legal fireworks include:
- Glow worms and snakes
- Smoke devices
- Party poppers or trick noisemakers
There are many more fireworks that are prohibited under the law. Specifically, these include:
- Bottle rockets
- Roman candles
- Buzz bombs
- Handheld fireworks
- Sky lanterns
Fireworks displays for major holidays are allowed because special display permits are granted. However, those must be applied for at least 15 days in advance and the local fire department must be able to inspect the site in order for the permit to be approved.
Why so many restrictions? Because fireworks are dangerous. Even sparklers can get up to anywhere from 1800°F to 3000°F. Those who use them should know what they’re doing and take great care.
What About Purchasing Fireworks in Other States?
Many of the states surrounding Illinois, such as Wisconsin and Iowa, sell fireworks. Can you simply drive to one of those states to purchase fireworks you intend to set off in Illinois?
While it is legal to purchase fireworks in these states, the moment you enter the state of Illinois with these items, you will be in violation of the Pyrotechnic Use Act. You may also be in violation of the Illinois Explosives Act.
The Illinois Explosives Act is another law that you should be aware of if you want to set off fireworks. It requires anyone who possesses, stores, uses, purchases, transfers, or disposes of explosives like fireworks to have a special explosives license as well as a certificate of storage that is issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Fireworks Penalties in Illinois
Some people may think that violating the laws surrounding fireworks in Illinois is no big deal. After all, if you hear people setting off fireworks so much, the authorities must not be doing anything to stop them, right? That’s not true.
In reality, violating the fireworks laws in Illinois could land you in some serious legal trouble. Violating the Pyrotechnic Use Act is a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction could result in up to one year of jail time and up to $2,500 in fines.
Violating the Illinois Explosives Act is a Class 3 felony. It is punishable by up to five years in jail and fines up to $10,000.
Don’t Forget About Local Laws in Illinois, Either
Along with the state laws that govern the use of fireworks in Illinois, there are local laws and ordinances you may need to consider, too. It’s within the rights of the local municipalities to ban fireworks of any kind.
In fact, the Pyrotechnic Use Act affords cities the power to enact ordinances banning the selling and usage of things such as sparklers on municipal property. Check with your local authorities before using fireworks that are legal under the Pyrotechnic Act to ensure you’re complying.
Federal Fireworks Laws Also Apply in Illinois
On top of state and local laws, there are also federal laws to contend with when it comes to fireworks. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is in charge of the regulations and laws surrounding fireworks on a federal level.
Even under the more relaxed federal laws, there are still fireworks considered illegal, such as:
- Cherry bombs
- Any firework that is composed of more than 50 milligrams of pyrotechnic composition
If you have been charged, it is very important that you take the charges seriously and understand the law. That way, you have the best chance of building a strong case and beating your charges.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.