Georgia legalized most consumer fireworks in 2015. With legalization comes regulation, and that means there are rules to go along with the privilege of buying fireworks in Georgia. The new laws are balanced with protecting your right to use fireworks throughout the year and protecting you from injuries, burns, and constant noise late at night.
The Georgia legislature drafted HB 419 to modify the laws that govern the use of fireworks in Georgia, which goes into effect on July 1, 2018. The key rules that most people should know are:
You may legally use fireworks from 10:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on any day of the week. HOWEVER, local authorities may restrict firework usage on private property as part of a general noise or nuisance law that includes more than just fireworks. In other words, your city or county cannot ban the use of fireworks during these times without banning other nuisances such as music, animals, construction, etc.
No local city or county regulation may restrict firework use from 10:00 a.m. to 11:50 p.m. on the following holidays:
- Memorial Day (last Saturday and Sunday in May – these dates to not include the Monday of Memorial Day)
- Independence Day (July 3 and 4)
- Labor Day (first Monday in September)
- New Year’s Eve (December 31, extended to 1 a.m. on January 1)
Georgia prohibits the use of fireworks indoors and in any public space, such as a public park or playground, or the right-of-way of any public road or street.
Most significantly, Georgia has created a misdemeanor crime under O.C.G.A. 25-10-2.1 for using fireworks while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This code section is incredibly strict by finding you guilty of violating the code section if “there is any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance…present in such person’s blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both, without regard to whether or not any alcohol is present in such person’s breath or blood.” Even if you have a valid prescription, the statute says “such person shall not be in violation of this Code section unless such person is rendered incapable of igniting consumer fireworks or fireworks safely as a result of using a drug other than alcohol which such person is legally entitled to use.”
This treatment is even harsher than the standards for strict liability while Driving Under the Influence (DUI/DWI) of drugs or alcohol.
You must be 18 or older to purchase fireworks in Georgia, but the laws do not say what age may use fireworks leaving the decision at your discretion. Consuming intoxicating substances (legal or illegal) and using fireworks is always dangerous. Ordinary sparklers, a staple at every 4th of July and Memorial Day celebration, can reach temperatures of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause severe burns in mere seconds.
Using fireworks carries inherent risks. Georgia courts are more likely to find someone who used fireworks in a creative way (like holding a bottle rocket with your bare hand while it is ignited) have assumed the risk of a burn injury and caused their own damages. It is important for the safety and health of everyone to practice safe firework usage. You should also check with your local government regarding your community’s drought status. The Governor in Georgia may always place a fire and firework ban when drought conditions exist. Fires started by fireworks or lightning can destroy homes and kill or injure people. Pay attention to your surroundings and clear any flammable brush or debris from the area you will be using fireworks.
Enjoy fireworks this summer and remember to practice and teach safe firework practices to your friends, family, and neighbors.
Renée Morgan is a litigation attorney who has recovered millions for persons injured in Georgia and continues to provide comprehensive representation in both Civil and Criminal litigation.