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Rhode Island Fireworks Laws and Your 2017 Fourth of July

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Independence Day is Coming

Fourth of July is coming up, and that means fireworks are coming with it. The national anthem describes one heck of a fireworks display. Bombs are bursting in the air; rockets leave a red glare. You know the rest of the song. As the story goes, the author of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key, found inspiration for the lines while the British held him captive during their shelling of Fort McHenry. These days you, too, may have the experience of being held in captivity during a fireworks display if you break Rhode Island fireworks laws. Many kinds of fireworks are illegal in Rhode Island, and using or possessing them can land you with a fine or in jail.

What Fireworks are Legal in Rhode Island?

First, let’s go over which fireworks are legal. Anything that stays on the ground or in your hand and does not explode or make a “bang” like noise is okay. These kinds of fireworks include handheld sparklers, cone fountains that spray sparks, ground spinners, and poppers or snappers. Anything whose main effect is producing smoke is also an allowable kind of Rhode Island fireworks.

Illegal Rhode Island Fireworks

Now, let’s check what are considered illegal Rhode Island fireworks. There are two major guidelines.

  • Does it go “bang?” Yes? It’s illegal. 
  • Does any part of it fly into the air? Yes? It’s illegal.

The list of fireworks that are not allowed in Rhode Island is a bit longer than what is allowed. Some of the banned fireworks include bottle rockets, firecrackers, mortars, and Roman candles. There are very simple guidelines as to what you can and cannot use for your Fourth of July festivities. Make sure it stays on the ground and isn’t too loud!

More Lenient Than Massachusetts

Be happy with what you are allowed to use. The Providence Journal reports that the fireworks business is booking near the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border, because consumers in Massachusetts cannot possess any and all fireworks. This means that there are several border towns where more than half of Rhode Island fireworks sales end up across the Massachusetts border! Be glad you are allowed to have any fireworks at all.

Making Fireworks at Home is a Terrible Idea

Don’t try and be clever and MacGyver your fireworks into something you think might be more spectacular. In 2016, a Rhode Island man made national news for trying to manufacture his own fireworks. The whole operation blew up in his face, literally, and he wound up in the hospital. A bomb squad arrived and blew up the rest of his garage in a controlled detonation, but that wasn’t before every law agency you can imagine arrived at the scene. The West Warwich Fire Department, the West Warwick Police Department, the West Warwick Fire Marshall, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the FBI all arrived on the scene to investigate the explosion. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men determined that the explosion wasn’t related to terrorism, just idiocy. Don’t be an idiot, stick to sparklers.

Lanterns are Illegal, Too

The Fire Marshall warns Rhode Islanders that sky lanterns, paper hot air balloons that rise due to a flame, are also illegal in the state. There are no laws directly banning the lanterns, but laws about abandoning recreational fires cover something you set on fire and release into the air. These lanterns pose a risk of starting unintentional fires or injury, and if you set one off this Fourth of July, you can face criminal charges.

What Happens if the Law Catches You

Possessing illegal fireworks in Rhode Island is a misdemeanor that can set you back up to five-hundred dollars or a penalty of up to one year in prison. If you are caught setting off illegal fireworks, you can be charged with a felony, and you are liable for a fine of at least one-thousand dollars and up to five years in prison. Law enforcement can make arrests and seize fireworks without a warrant.

What to Do if You Witness Illegal Fireworks

Chances are, you will probably hear a bang or two this Fourth of July. If you suspect someone is using illegal fireworks in Rhode Island, do not call 911. Instead, call your local police department. Never use 911 for non-emergency calls.

Fireworks and Personal Injury

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that hundreds of people head to the Emergency Room in the months surrounding Independence Day. If you experience a personal injury due to fireworks this Fourth of July season,  The Law Offices of Michael Campopiano has the experience to help you with your personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim. Contact Michael Campopiano today if you experience a personal injury due to any fireworks.