BAY COUNTY-- A lot of people travel across state lines this time of year to to load-up on fireworks. Florida law prohibits the sale, possession or use of consumer-grade fireworks that explode or fly. However some vendors and customers are taking advantage of an apparent loophole in the law.
Ask any law enforcement officer and they'll tell you what fireworks are legal and which ones are illegal. "The only thing that you are allowed to use is the sparkler type. Anything that leaves the ground, that flies though the air is illegal in Florida," said Darrel Wise, Bay County Fire Department Battalion Chief. Lt. David Baldwin of the Bay County Sheriff's Office adds, "[The] Rule of thumb is if it explodes, if it shoots into the air it is illegal in the state of Florida."
If that's true, then how are the vendors under white-topped tents around Bay County able to sell these? Apparently it's all legal.
Law enforcement officials say there's an agricultural exemption to the fireworks law, allowing they're use to scare away pests from farms and fish hatcheries. Customers have to sign a form swearing that's the intended use. State courts have ruled the vendors don't have to verify the customer's intent before selling bottle rockets and mortars.
However, that doesn't give you the green light to run out an buy a truck-load of explosives. If you're caught using the fireworks illegally, police can charge you with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
Although vendors may not be breaking the law, they do run the risk of a civil lawsuit if their fireworks results in property damage, injury or death.