Is It Worth It? Sneaking Fireworks Across State Lines Into New York Could Mean Jail Time
We all know someone who has illegally smuggled fireworks across the border into New York. Maybe that person is even you.
Broome County is in such close proximity to the Pennsylvania border that it isn’t uncommon to see people with New York license plates driving through Pennsylvania towns, often in the vicinity of fireworks stores.
I live not far from a fireworks store just across the New York border in Pennsylvania and I always see cars with New York plates creeping down the road that the store is located on, almost like the occupants are checking to see if there are any lurking police or contemplating whether or not their decision to cross the border for fireworks was actually a good idea.
A friend recently told me that she used to buy fireworks when she was on vacation in New Hampshire and bring them back to New York, clutching the wheel in fear the entire ride home not because she was worried that she would be pulled over and busted for transporting fireworks but because she was worried someone might slam into the back of her car and set them off.
While sparklers are legal in New York, with the exception of in New York City, all other fireworks are still illegal. Understanding New York's Fireworks law can feel like trying to decode the taps of Morse code while having your ears covered. So, we took all of the important parts of the law and broke everything down, putting the law into terms that make sense to the average person. You'll want to make sure you put your eyes on it before buying any big fireworks.
Maybe you're thinking that if you get caught bringing fireworks across the state line you'll get away with just a slap on the wrist. While you might get lucky and that may be your only consequence, it could be a lot worse. Under New York Penal Code § 270.00, you can be charged with unlawfully dealing with fireworks and dangerous fireworks if you "possess, explode, sell or furnish fireworks" in the state of New York unless you've got your ducks in a row and have the proper permits.
What kind of penalty might you get? A bigger than a "slap on the wrist, confiscate your fireworks and let you drive off" kind. We're talking about a misdemeanor or worse, a felony.
New York Penal Code § 270.00, Section B states,
Except as herein otherwise stated, or except where a permit is obtained pursuant to § 405.00, any person who shall possess, use, explode or cause to explode any fireworks or dangerous fireworks is guilty of a violation.
But wait, there's more. Section C of New York Penal Code § 270.00 states,
Possession of fireworks or dangerous fireworks valued at fifty dollars or more shall be a presumption that such fireworks were intended to be offered or exposed for sale.
According to the law offices of Stephen Bilkis,
A misdemeanor is up to 1 year in jail, and for a class E felony is up to 4 years in prison. You may also be required to pay a fine. For a violation, the penalty is up to 15 days in jail. A violation is not a crime.
In June of 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo teamed up with New York State Police to crack down on fireworks being brought across state lines by everyday people like you and me. While the reality is that it's more likely you'll be handed a fine of a couple hundred dollars, a class B misdemeanor, and the fine is a whole lot bigger. Get caught sneaking in fireworks enough times and you'll find yourself with three hots and a cot.
Let's say you make it home without getting caught with fireworks, you're in the clear, right? Maybe not. If someone gets hurt on your property or there's damage to your property because of fireworks, you might be opening another big can of worms. Lawyer Joe Stanley of Stanley Law explained the potential consequences to us:
So, before you load your trunk with fireworks and cross the state line, really think about whether the consequence of being caught is worth it.