Letter: FSCO does not enforce Palm Coast fireworks ordinance; FCSO Chief of Staff: The way the laws are written, deputies are handcuffed

The sale of fireworks is legal in Florida, but setting off fireworks within city limits without a permit is a civil infraction or can be charged as a misdemeanor.

  • By
  • | 7:23 p.m. June 28, 2024
Letters to the editor
Letters to the editor
  • Palm Coast Observer
  • Opinion
  • Share

Sheriff's Office ignores illegal fireworks

Dear Editor:

The 4th of July is just around the corner and although it remains illegal to use and store fireworks in the city of Palm Coast, that illegality will be ignored by both inconsiderate lawbreaking neighbors and our sheriff’s department.

Although the sheriff is tasked with enforcing the fireworks ordinance and taxpayers pay for that responsibility, there is no history of any citations, arrests or even confiscations in that Department’s records for many years, if ever. And this is irrespective of the hundreds of complaints called in each year.

In the past, the sheriff has responded to the perceived dereliction of enforcement duties by contending deputies must observe the ignition of the fireworks to conform with misdemeanor legalities. So be it. But that should not be an insurmountable task.

The extreme pervasiveness of the illegal activity, the brazenness of the offenders and the great number of complaints, surely offers enough potential for successful and proper ordinance enforcement. 

So, the sheriff, who is darn good at catching drug dealers and wanted fugitives, to claim his deputies can never find just one person lighting a fireworks fuse is simply not credible. And that begs a question. Could it be that the sheriff just doesn’t really care? 

Robert Gordon

Palm Coast

FCSO enforces laws as written

By Mark Strobridge, FCSO Chief of Staff

Each year on Independence Day, our community celebrates with fireworks, resulting in letters to the editor and social media posts about the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office not enforcing the laws. But remember: Law enforcement does not make laws.

The men and women of the Sheriff’s Office enforce the laws as our elected bodies have written them, not as the sheriff would like to see them written.

Subject to local ordinances, the sale and purchase of fireworks is legal in Florida. Flagler County does not have an ordinance restricting the sale of fireworks. The City of Palm Coast controls the sale of fireworks but it still does not prohibit the sale of fireworks.

As for 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 with 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 cannot arrest for misdemeanors or issue civil infractions that did not occur in their 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 cannot 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. Then, the State Attorney’s Office will decide whether to file charges.

So, the issue is not that we will not enforce the ordinances and laws concerning fireworks. Rather, we are handcuffed by the Florida Legislature that makes it impossible to enforce the fireworks law and ordinances as written.

If you have concerns, I encourage you to contact your local and state representatives. Until the law is changed, our deputies have been handcuffed to solve this quality-of-life issue when you call us about illegal fireworks exploding in your neighborhood.


Latest News


Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning local news.