WILMINGTON—If you’re planning to drive across the border to score some fireworks, you may want to think again. In North Carolina, possessing, purchasing and using most all fireworks by untrained individuals could result in up to six months in jail.
Considered a Class 2 misdemeanor, those caught handling fireworks could be fined up to $500.
With the exception of small explosives that do not leave the ground, it’s best to leave fireworks to the professionals this Fourth of July. Linda Thompson, spokeswoman for the Wilmington Police Department, said officers do not typically choose to enforce the law to the fullest extent permitted.
“If we see anything, typically we confiscate,” Thompson said. “We rarely give out a lot of citations.”
In New Hanover County, deputies keep an eye out for repeat offenders. “If we know we’ve been there before for the same issue, we do get a little more aggressive in making sure they know what’s legal and what’s illegal,” Lieutenant Jerry Brewer, spokesperson for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, said.
Though neighbors might call in and identify where fireworks are coming from, Brewer said it can be hard for deputies to enforce the law without witnessing the activity themselves.
“It’s difficult because you can have someone set off a firework and you don’t know where it came from,” Brewer said.
What you can use
Certain explosives are permitted in North Carolina, as defined by §14-414. Fireworks specifically exempt from pyrotechnic law include:
- Explosive caps designed to be fired in toy pistols
- Snake and glow worms composed of pressed pellets
- Smoke devices consisting of a tube or sphere that produces white or colored smoke
- Trick noisemakers, including party poppers, string poppers, snap or drop poppers
- Wire sparklers or other sparkling devices.
Materials that do not detonate, explode, spin or propel themselves into the air would also be permitted to be used by non-professionals.
What you can’t use
Conversely, fireworks that detonate, explode, spin and can propel themselves into the air are illegal in North Carolina. When used by an unlicensed individual, explosives cannot contain more than 75 grams of chemical compound per container or no more than 200 grams total among multiple containers.
Fireworks matching the above description may not be manufactured, purchased, sold, dealt in transport, possessed, received, advertised, used, handled, exhibited, or discharged. Common examples of illegal fireworks include but are not limited to:
- Roman candles
- Bottle rockets
If illegal fireworks are exhibited indoors, the individual could be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Outdoors, the individual could be found guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.
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