Despite the popularity of fireworks, it is illegal for non-professionals to set them off in many U.S. states. While some states permit the use of fireworks without limitation, others prohibit the personal use of fireworks to ensure public safety. Although laws vary by state, penalties for the unlawful use of fireworks can range from simple fines to community service and jail time.
As of May 2011, five U.S. states ban the use of consumer fireworks completely. New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Maryland laws declare it unlawful to operate any sort of pyrotechnic device, including novelty items such as sparklers and smoke bombs. The only exception to these laws are when the fireworks are operated by local authorities who are in the possession of a permit. Operators must also be recognized as competent in the use and operation of fireworks and pyrotechnics as the result of formal training.
Some states permit the "safe and sane" use of fireworks for personal use. As of May 2011, 18 states within the U.S. permit the use of specific types of fireworks that do not fly or explode and are deemed as less likely to cause extensive personal injury or property damage. Examples include the use of sparklers, ground spinners and ground snaps. California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Delaware, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland and Georgia all permit the use of these types of devices; however, users must be 14 years of age or older to legally purchase them.
Some states permit the use of hand-held and ground-based novelty fireworks such as sparklers, sparkling fountains and illuminated torches, but prohibit the use of flying or exploding devices. As of May 2011, it was legal to purchase and operate novelty pyrotechnics in Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Arizona, Maine and Vermont without the use of a permit and without restriction as long as use complies with local fire safety and prevention ordinances.
As of May 2011, the states of South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska allow the possession and personal use of most types of fireworks. Texas, Montana and Washington, however, issue age limits on the ability to purchase and prevent the detonation of rockets for personal use.