Felony Child Endangerment and Firework Injuries.
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Wilfredo Trivino-Perez ©2019
Over 5,000 Americans are injured every year from the use of skyrockets, firecrackers and other fireworks that are illegal in California. The loss of fingers, hands and eyes is often the end result. Over a third of those injured are children.
In this week’s Newsletter, we discuss Firework safety law.
Our Scenario: Billy was excited, as he recently celebrated his 10th birthday, and his father, Henry, promised to drive into Mexico to purchase M-80’s and other fireworks not sold in California to light on 4th of July. Family and friends gathered at Henry and Billy’s house to witness the display of fireworks Henry would be lighting that night. Henry took precautions to have the spectators stand or sit a safe distance from the lighting area. He lit a pack of firecrackers and the crowd cheered. Then, he brought out the M-80’s. An M-80 is a quarter of dynamite. Billy insisted on lighting the firework. After much insistence, Henry finally agreed, and handed a long lighter to Billy. He quickly attempted to light it and ran quickly to join the rest of the crowd; but nothing happened. They all waited, and finally agreed it was a “dud.” Billy returned to the firework to attempt to relight it, he picked it up, when suddenly it exploded in his hand. Billy lost 5 fingers on his left hand. Does Henry face criminal charges? Yes, he does.
FIREWORK LAW IN CALIFORNIA
Exploding and flying fireworks are illegal in California except when used with a special holiday display permit issued to qualified and trained pyrotechnic operators.
California Health and Safety Code 12677 HS makes it a crime to possess dangerous fireworks without a valid permit to do so. HS 12677 does not apply to possession of fireworks designated as “safe and sane.” Unless prohibited by a local fire code, possessing these is typically legal.
Definition of Safe and Sane Fireworks:
“Safe and Sane” fireworks are those approved fireworks that are legally sold at fireworks stands by licensed community groups. “Safe and sane” fireworks do not explode or launch into the air and have a seal of approved from the CA Fire Marshal.
CALIFORNIA CHILD ENDANGERMENT FIREWORK RELATED INJURIES TO MINORS
In the state of California, crimes involving children are prosecuted very aggressively. Upon conviction, an individual could face up to six years in state prison, a $10,000 fine and loss of child custody.
California’s child endangerment law is broader than the traditional crime of child abuse. As such, exposing a child to a significant risk of harm as operation of an illegal firework may be sufficient to trigger a child endangerment prosecution.
To be convicted for Child Endangerment, the prosecution must prove one of the following acts:
• Willfully inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child.
• Willfully caused or permitted a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering and was criminally negligent in doing so.
• Willfully caused or permitted a child or a child’s health to be injured while the accused had care or custody of the child and was criminally negligent in doing so.
• Willfully caused or permitted the child to be placed in a situation where the child’s person or health was endangered while the accused had care or custody of the child and was criminally negligent in doing so.
The last three definitions allow the prosecution to prove that the accused caused or permitted the child to be injured or endangered by exposure to the illegal firework.
To establish criminal negligence, the prosecution must prove two things:
• The accused acted in a reckless way that created a high risk of death or great bodily harm; and
• A reasonable person in the position of the accused would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.
This 4th of July be safe, and only purchase Safe and Sane fireworks, to avoid injuries and potential criminal exposure. Happy Independence Day!