- November 15, 2018
by: Rick Staly, Flagler County sheriff
Each year on special celebrations, such as Independence Day and New Year’s Eve, the community celebrates with fireworks, resulting in letters to the editor and social media posts about the Sheriff’s Office not enforcing the laws. The Sheriff’s Office enforces the laws as our elected bodies have written them, not as I would like to see them written. Law enforcement does not make laws.
The sale and purchase of fireworks is legal in Florida, subject to local ordinances. Flagler County does not have an ordinance restricting the sale of fireworks. The city of Palm Coast controls the sale but does not prohibit the sales of fireworks.
As to igniting or using fireworks, Flagler County ordinance only limits the use of fireworks in public parks and recreational areas. There are no other restrictions. The City of Palm Coast does limit the use of fireworks within the city limits to individuals who seek and are granted a permit. A violation of these ordinances is a civil infraction, or the offense may be charged as a misdemeanor.
However, under Florida law and with few exceptions, law enforcement may not arrest for misdemeanors or issue civil infractions that did not occur in the law enforcement officer’s presence. The use of fireworks is not an exception under Florida law. This means that unless the illegal use of fireworks occurred in the presence of a deputy sheriff, we can not arrest or cite the offender.
Instead, if the person reporting and witnessing the violation of law is willing to sign an affidavit and testify in court, a deputy sheriff will take a report and file a charging affidavit with the State Attorney’s Office. The State Attorney’s Office will then decide whether or not to file charges.
In closing, it is not that we will not enforcement the ordinances and laws concerning fireworks, but instead the handcuffs the Florida Legislature placed on law enforcement across Florida that makes it impossible to enforce the fireworks law and ordinances as written.
I encourage you to contact your local and state representatives with your concerns. Until the law is changed, your deputies have been handcuffed to solve this quality-of-life issue when you call us about illegal fireworks exploding in your neighborhood.