California Health & Safety Code 12702 imposes criminal penalties for selling, giving or delivering “dangerous fireworks” to minors.1
HS 12702 supplements other California statutes regulating possession and use of illegal fireworks.
The legal definition of furnishing dangerous fireworks to a minor in California
You are guilty of the California crime of providing dangerous fireworks to a minor if you do the following:
- Sell, give, or deliver,
- Any “dangerous fireworks,”
- To a person under eighteen (18) years of age.2
“Dangerous fireworks” means any of the following:
- Fireworks that contain certain dangerous chemicals, such as arsenic sulfade, boron, chlorates or phosphorus;
- Skyrockets and rockets;
- Roman candles;
- Sparklers more than ten (10) inches in length or one-fourth (1/4) of an inch in diameter;
- All fireworks designed to create the element of surprise upon the user (such as auto-foolers and exploding golf balls);
- Fireworks known as devil-on-the-walk;
- Torpedoes which explode on impact; and
- Fireworks kits.3
Example: Juan has recently moved to California from a part of Mexico where it is traditional to set off fireworks on Easter.
In preparation for Easter, Juan purchases several Roman candles from a street vendor. He gives these to his teenage grandchildren.
Juan has no idea that what he has just done is illegal—but in fact he has just violated HS 12702 by giving dangerous fireworks to his grandchildren.
(And if his grandchildren then violate any laws in their use of the fireworks and are charged with a crime in juvenile court, Juan could also be charged with Penal Code 272 PC contributing to the delinquency of a minor.)
Example: Mary makes a living by traveling to states with more lenient fireworks laws, purchasing fireworks that are considered “dangerous” in California and sneaking them into the state. She then re-sells them, finding customers discreetly through word of mouth (just as some people engaged in the sale of controlled substances do).
One day Mary delivers an order of illegal fireworks to a young man who seems very mature and describes himself as owning his own business. But Mary later learns that he is in fact only 16.
Mary may not be guilty of furnishing dangerous fireworks to a minor if she can show that a reasonable person would have believed that the young man was an adult.
Penalties for providing a minor with dangerous fireworks
Violating Health & Safety Code 12702 HS by furnishing a minor with dangerous fireworks is a California misdemeanor.4
The potential penalties for a first offense are:
- Misdemeanor (summary) probation;
- Up to one (1) year in county jail; and/or
- A fine of at least five hundred dollars ($500) and no more than one thousand dollars ($1,000).5
For a second or subsequent conviction for furnishing dangerous fireworks to a minor, a defendant will face an additional fine of five thousand dollars ($5,000) and will not be eligible for probation or a suspended sentence.6
Legal defenses against Health & Safety Code 12702 charges
Our California criminal defense attorneys are familiar with the most common legal defenses to charges of selling or furnishing illegal fireworks to a minor.
According to Newport Beach criminal defense attorney Elisa Guadan7:
“In a large number—maybe the majority—of cases where someone is charged with furnishing dangerous fireworks to a minor, the defendant didn't know that the person they sold or provided fireworks to was under 18. When this is the case, we can help them use the ‘mistake of fact' legal defense to persuade prosecutors to drop the charges.”
The legal defense of “mistake of fact” can be especially helpful in cases where the minor lied about his/her age or used a fake ID.
In Health & Safety Code 12702 cases where the defendant was arrested as part of an undercover “sting” operation, s/he may also want to explore the legal defense of entrapment.
“Entrapment” occurs when an undercover law enforcement officer (posing as a minor who wants to buy fireworks) behaves in an overbearing way—and as a result the defendant commits a criminal act that s/he otherwise would never have committed.8
Call us for help…
For questions about the crime of Health & Safety Code 12702 furnishing dangerous fireworks to a minor, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
We have local criminal law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
For more information on Nevada “illegal fireworks” laws, please see our page on Nevada “illegal fireworks” laws.
1 Health & Safety Code 12702 HS – Sale or delivery of dangerous fireworks to persons under 18 years of age; dangerous fireworks having total net weight of 7,500 grains or more; penalties. (“Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 12700: (a) A person who violates this part by selling, giving, or delivering any dangerous fireworks to any person under 18 years of age is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon a first conviction shall be punished as prescribed in subdivision (b) of Section 12700. (b) Upon a second or subsequent conviction of the offense, the person shall be punished by an additional fine of five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year or by both that fine and imprisonment. The person shall not be granted probation and the execution of the sentence imposed upon the person shall not be suspended by the court.”)
Health & Safety Code 12505 HS – Dangerous fireworks [definition for purposes of law against providing dangerous fireworks to minors]. (““Dangerous fireworks” includes all of the following: (a) Any fireworks which contain any of the following: (1) Arsenic sulfide, arsenates, or arsenites. (2) Boron. (3) Chlorates, except: (A) In colored smoke mixture in which an equal or greater amount of sodium bicarbonate is included. (B) In caps and party poppers. (C) In those small items (such as ground spinners) wherein the total powder content does not exceed 4 grams of which not greater than 15 percent (or 600 milligrams) is potassium, sodium, or barium chlorate. (4) Gallates or Gallic acid. (5) Magnesium (magnesium-aluminum alloys, called magnalium, are permitted). (6) Mercury salts. (7) Phosphorous (red or white except that red phosphorus is permissible in caps and party poppers). (8) Picrates or picric acid. (9) Thiocyanates. (10) Titanium, except in particle size greater than 100-mesh. (11) Zirconium. (b) Firecrackers. (c) Skyrockets and rockets, including all devices which employ any combustible or explosive material and which rise in the air during discharge. (d) Roman candles, including all devices which discharge balls of fire into the air. (e) Chasers, including all devices which dart or travel about the surface of the ground during discharge. (f) Sparklers more than 10 inches in length or one-fourth of one inch in diameter. (g) All fireworks designed and intended by the manufacturer to create the element of surprise upon the user. These items include, but are not limited to, auto-foolers, cigarette loads, exploding golf balls, and trick matches. (h) Fireworks known as devil-on-the-walk, or any other firework which explodes through means of friction, unless otherwise classified by the State Fire Marshal pursuant to this part. (i) Torpedoes of all kinds which explode on impact. (j) Fireworks kits. (k) Such other fireworks examined and tested by the State Fire Marshal and determined by him, with the advice of the State Board of Fire Services, to possess characteristics of design or construction which make such fireworks unsafe for use by any person not specially qualified or trained in the use of fireworks.”)
4 Health & Safety Code 12702 HS – Sale or delivery of dangerous fireworks to persons under 18 years of age; dangerous fireworks having total net weight of 7,500 grains or more; penalties, endnote 1 above.
See also Health & Safety Code 12700 HS – Offenses; punishment. (“(a) Except as provided in Section 12702 and subdivision (b), a person who violates any provision of this part, or any regulations issued pursuant to this part, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) or more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail for not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”)
6 Health & Safety Code 12702 HS – Sale or delivery of dangerous fireworks to persons under 18 years of age; dangerous fireworks having total net weight of 7,500 grains or more; penalties, endnote 1 above.
7 Newport Beach criminal defense attorney Elisa Guadan is an honors graduate of Western State College of Law in Fullerton. She defends clients accused of a range of crimes, from serious felonies to misdemeanors like HS 12702, in courts in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, including Governor George Deukmejian courthouse in Long Beach, the Compton Courthouse in Compton, and the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
8 See People v. West (1956) 139 Cal.App.2d Supp. 923, 924. ("Entrapment is the conception and planning of an offense [such as the sale or furnishing of dangerous fireworks to a minor] by an officer and his procurement of its commission by one who would not have perpetrated it except for the trickery, persuasion, or fraud of the officer. Persuasion or allurement must be used to entrap.")