As Independence Day approaches, Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith cautions county residents about the dangers posed by illegal fireworks.

“The Fourth of July is the quintessential American holiday and we Americans love to celebrate our independence and our freedom in many traditional ways,” Smith said. “All too often, though, the happy holiday is marred — and sometimes very tragically — by the unsafe and unlawful use of fireworks.”

The sheriff pointed out that even relatively small kinds of fireworks, such as firecrackers or sparklers, could be dangerous, especially when used by children without adult supervision.

The danger of injuries is not the only risk at stake, the sheriff noted. “Fireworks aren’t just unsafe but, as a matter of state law, they are also illegal.”

Under the New York State penal law, any person who possesses, uses, or explodes any fireworks is guilty of a violation. The law defines fireworks to include firecrackers and sparklers. Violations are punishable by up to 15 days in jail or a fine of up to $250 for each offense.

Criminal penalties are even more severe for people who offer fireworks for sale, or sell or furnish any fireworks to another person. Selling — or even giving away — fireworks to someone else is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500. Offering to sell, selling or furnishing more than $500 worth of fireworks is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $1,000.

Around every Fourth of July, the Sheriff’s Department receives numerous noise reports from residents complaining of persons setting off firecrackers in their neighborhoods. Less frequently, the department investigates complaints of vandalism involving fireworks, such as the use of “M-80s” to damage property, like mailboxes. In those kinds of cases, the offenders could face arrest for criminal mischief, as well as for unlawful possession of fireworks.

Sheriff Smith noted that in addition to facing criminal sanctions, people who sell or furnish fireworks to others could find themselves defending against civil lawsuits if those fireworks cause injuries to persons or property.

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