Can fireworks that were legally purchased in one county be used in another county that outlaws them?

Question:

There are “no fireworks” signs posted in all the parks in the California county where I live. I heard that if I go to a different county, I might be able to set off fireworks on the Fourth that aren’t allowed here. Is that true?

Answer:

Generally, fireworks are not allowed in public parks in California. But, whether your county can impose restrictions on discharging fireworks depends on what the restriction is and what governmental body enacted it.

This article discusses fireworks laws in California counties. For more information about California state fireworks laws, see Are fireworks legal in California?

For information about fireworks sales and use on Native American reservations or tribal lands, see Fireworks Sale and Use on Indian Reservations.

California State Fireworks Law

The State of California restricts the type of fireworks that private citizens may buy, possess, or discharge; who may sell them; and when, where, and who may possess and discharge them. (Cal. Health & Safety Code § 12500.) This comprehensive set of laws lists “dangerous fireworks” (which may not be possessed or discharged without a permit) as well as “safe and sane” fireworks (which may be possessed and discharged without a permit). It also restricts the dates of sales of safe and sane fireworks and prohibits sales to minors.

State law preempts local laws

Laws and city or county ordinances that encroach on the comprehensive State Fireworks Law are unenforceable. (Ventura v. City of San Jose, 151 Cal.App.3d 1076 (1984).) This is because, where a state law fully occupies a field of legislation (such as the regulation of fireworks), the state law preempts any local laws that attempt to cover any part of that field of legislation.

So, if your county has an ordinance that restricts fireworks, the ordinance is unenforceable. For example, a complete ban on fireworks by your county would be invalid because it conflicts with state law.

State law applies in your county

But, if your county is merely posting signs that alert you to restrictions imposed by the State Fireworks Law, the signage is valid. And, even without such signage, you are subject to the restrictions on the discharge of fireworks imposed by California state law.

County Laws in Other States

Whether or not a county ordinance governing fireworks is enforceable depends on whether the state it’s in has a fireworks law and, if so, whether the state law occupies the whole field of fireworks law (usually making the county or city ordinances unenforceable) in the opinion of the state’s courts.

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