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Can You Face Criminal Charges for Fireworks and Quality of Life Offenses?

by | Aug 18, 2020

It is illegal for unlicensed persons or companies to use or set off fireworks in New York. And though New York State allows for the sale and use of a specific category of consumer fireworks known as Sparkling Devices, it is prohibited in several counties — including four of the five boroughs. 

As we had previously discussed, the use of unlicensed fireworks and other sparkling devices are “quality of life crimes.” They have that moniker since they can cause physical harm to other people, damage property, and essentially lower the tone of a community. This leads to a reduced “quality of life” for residents.

As former prosecutors, the criminal defense lawyers of D’Emilia Law know how easy it is for police to crack down on these sorts of quality of life crimes. One citation or ticket may not seem like a big deal. But once you accumulate a few, you may be required to appear in court, pay hefty fines and establish a criminal record—especially if someone is injured in the process. D’Emilia Law’s criminal defense lawyers in NYC can help you fight these charges in court. 

The Facts of “Life”

“Quality of life” policing is based on the “broken windows” theory. This theory says if a neighborhood allows broken windows and other signs of disarray to exist for too long, it can lead to increased crime because it signals that the community is not in control. Other quality of life offenses include littering, fireworks, urinating, smoking, panhandling, and fare evasion. 

New York City began taking these crimes more seriously during the 1990s under the leadership of Mayor Rudy Giuliani; this led to the reduction of graffiti and vandalism on subways and even the infamous squeegee men. 

The recent civil unrest in several areas of New York — particularly in the city — has led to something of a throwback. Nonviolent offenses like defacing public and federal property and setting off fireworks are low-hanging fruit for the authorities. If caught, they may try to make an example of you and essentially send a message that they are rebuilding law and order. 

Useful Data

You need to know your rights. Prosecutors charge sparkling devices crimes in these sections of the Penal Law:

Section 270.00 (Unlawfully dealing with fireworks and dangerous fireworks.)

Read Section 405.00 (Permits for public displays of fireworks.)

Your location also matters when it comes to these laws. The following state counties have prohibited the sale and use of Sparkling Devices: Bronx, Columbia, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange (prohibited in the Cities of Middletown and Newburgh only), Queens, Richmond, Schenectady, Suffolk, and Westchester.

The Consumer Report Safety Commission revealed in its 2019 Fireworks Annual Report that males are typically injured by fireworks use (66%) and the concentration of injuries among males and people under 25 years of age has been typical of fireworks-related injuries for many years. When you think of the people you have known who would use fireworks, do they match this demographic? This is a chance to warn those in your life who currently do. For more information, New York State’s Fire Prevention and Control page is a good resource for questions about sparkling devices. 

Just getting caught using or selling the sparkling device constitutes a quality of life crime. If someone else is injured as a result, additional elevated counts of reckless endangerment — and other possible felonies — may be added to the charges. 

Today’s Relevance

The New York Times recently reported that the city received 1,737 fireworks complaints in the first half of June 2020, a massive uptick from years past in the same time. This year’s surge of activity can be attributed to a combination of patriotism and wanting to blow off steam after months of sheltering in place. 

In our experience as defense lawyers and former prosecutors, there is a direct correlation between the rise in temperature and the frequency of many quality of life offenses. The standard is not hard to meet for police to make an arrest based on probable cause. The police only need enough evidence to justify an arrest.

If you or a loved one have been charged with illegal fireworks use or quality of life crimes, contact the criminal defense lawyers in NYC of D’Emilia Law for a consultation.

D'Emilia - lighting firework