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The fireworks law loophole you need to know about

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Posted at 9:50 PM, Jul 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-02 22:35:00-04

QUINCY, Fla. (WTXL) - If you're planning on celebrating the Fourth of July in Florida, you may want to brush up on the state's fireworks law before you light them up.

Just because you can buy certain fireworks on the side of the road, that doesn't mean they're legal. Florida law says using exploding or flying fireworks is illegal... unless you're scaring some birds.

"It's probably kind of silly but I've heard of sillier laws," said Roger Sparkman. He manages a roadside fireworks tent on West Jefferson Street in Quincy.

Sparkman says, until he started working in the fireworks business, he had no idea the only fireworks legal for home use are sparklers.

Under Florida law, it is illegal to use exploding and/or flying fireworks in Florida. That means shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers have been illegal to sell or set off in the Sunshine State since 1941.

The loophole? If the exploding pyrotechnics are used to scare animals away from a farm, they're fair game.

Anyone who buys fireworks has to sign a waiver. The form shoppers signed at the stand in Quincy doesn't spell out the law, but whoever signs it agrees that they've read the law and they understand it.

"The only problem I've really run into is that Hispanic folks sometimes have a little trouble," said Sparkman. "[They] don't understand exactly what [the waiver] is and have a little trouble filling it out. Other than that, there have been no problems with it at all."

Once you sign the waiver, vendors aren't responsible for how you use the fireworks. If you buy fireworks and use them unlawfully, you can face come hefty penalties.

Illegally using fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

However, Florida police have said  the law is hard to enforce. In Sparkman's experience, families are always going to find a way to light up the sky on Independence Day.

"I'm from Tennessee, a state that doesn't allow fireworks, but everybody on the 4th of July seems to have them," said Sparkman. "I mean, look at all the people coming in here. People obviously seem to enjoy it. It's kind of like mom and Apple pie."

WTXL reached out to CFO & State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis' office to find out more about oversight and how Florida's fireworks law is enforced. No one was immediately available to answer questions.

In Georgia, the law is a little clearer. Private citizens can purchase and shoot consumer fireworks. Only professional or display fireworks require a license.