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Chief of Police Daniel Meyers and the Village of Montgomery would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone about the use of fireworks. With the Fourth of July approaching, many people will attend one of the many professional fireworks displays, but many still will also have their own displays.
These non-professional displays are illegal and not nearly as safe as the professional displays. “The number one problem is people are unaware of the dangers of fireworks,” said Chief Daniel Meyers. “Sparklers can reach 2000 degrees. That is hot enough to melt some metals.”
According to Meyers, sparklers are the No. 1 cause of injuries related to fireworks, with bottle rockets being the No. 2 cause. According to 2010 statistics from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, about 8,600 people were treated in emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks, with children and young adults accounting for more than half of the fireworks-related injuries. Most fireworks injuries are burns to the hands and face. Hearing and vision damage also occur.
In Illinois, only certain fireworks are legal, such as smoke pellets, smoke grenades, glow snakes and sparklers. Hand-held fireworks, bottle rockets, roman candles, buzz bombs and sky rockets are illegal without a license. In spite of all of this, many people will make the trip to other states to buy fireworks and bring them back to Illinois.
The Police Department will be out enforcing the Local Ordinances and State Laws, making arrests for those caught possessing and using Illegal Fireworks in the Village. The Chief of Police hopes that all residents take this very seriously.
We wanted to take this opportunity to provide a brief overview of the Village’s Fireworks ordinance and the process for addressing potential violations.
I. FEDERAL AND STATE LAW
By way of background, both federal and state law significantly restrict the ability to possess fireworks. Federal law prohibits one from possessing “banned hazardous substances,”and specifically, prohibits the possession of M-80s, cherry bombs, are firecrackers with more than 50 milligrams of “pyrotechnic composition.” Illinois law expands upon this, and the Pyrotechnic Use Act (“PUA”) and Illinois Fireworks Use Act bans all “consumer fireworks,” which includes firecrackers, bottle rockets, and roman candles. [225 ILCS 227/, 425 ILCS 35/]. Under Illinois law, possession of these articles can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of $2,500. While Illinois law does not prohibit “non-consumer fireworks,” it does allow municipalities to ban any such items under local ordinance (which is the case for the Village of Montgomery).
II. MONTGOMERY’S FIREWORKS ORDINANCE
The Village of Montgomery has adopted a “zero-tolerance” position toward unpermitted fireworks displays. Specifically, it prohibits the following, without first obtaining a permit for the Village:
• Distribution of fireworks• Possession of fireworks• Engaging in fireworks display within the corporate limits of the Village • Manufacturing, building, assembling, constructing or disassembling any fireworks within the corporate limits of the Village, unless such action is comprised of the assembly of pre-manufactured components of fireworks in conjunction with a permitted display of fireworks
[See Chapter 8 ¼ -1 Fireworks Regulated]
Additionally, the ordinance further provides that no individual under 18 shall possess any fireworks, engage in the distribution of fireworks or fireworks display. However, individuals over the age of 18 may transport fireworks through the Village, so long as they are not engaging in the distribution of fireworks within the Village, not violating any provision of Illinois law, not delivering fireworks to an entity without a valid permit. To be clear, the only case in which a person may possess fireworks within the Village, without a permit, is if they are transporting such legal fireworks with a point of origin and a point of destination both outside the Village.
[See Chapter 8 ¼ -3 Fireworks Age Restriction; 8 ¼-5 Transporting of Fireworks Exempted]
[See Chapter 8 ¼ -9 Additional Restrictions]
If an individual is found to be in violation of these provisions, they may be fined up to $750, for each individual article of fireworks displayed, distributed or possessed, which shall constitute a separate offense. Such fines would be issued pursuant to Section 1-8 of the Village Code.
III. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR ADDRESSING VIOLATIONS
Be advised that the nature of fireworks are such that they may be difficult to prove in court. Generally, the illegal possession of fireworks will be much easier to prove than engaging in a fireworks display (in which cases the offender(s) may simply light off the fireworks and quickly disperse). In many cases, a report may come in as a noise complaint, with the origin or offender unknown. If the offender is directly observed by a neighbor (but not the officer), it will likely be necessary for that individual to also appear in court to testify as to their observations.
To successfully prove a violation of the ordinance in court, it will be essential for the officer to be able to demonstrate that the elements of the offense, as set forth in the ordinance, have been satisfied. However, because the ordinance prohibits “engaging in the fireworks display within the corporate limits of the Village,” it may not be necessary to identify the person who actually set off the item, so long as the person identified can be said to have “engaged” in the display.