New law makes homeowners and renters liable for illegal fireworks on their property

Local News

A warning from HPD to anyone celebrating the holidays with illegal fireworks. A new law means homeowners or renters can be punished, just for having them on their property.

According to the law the fireworks don’t have to be ignited. Just having them in your house is enough for police to bust you. And depending on the amount, you can be charged with a felony.

Illegal fireworks have been a problem for years in the weeks heading into the New Years Eve celebrations. The new law is aimed at making people think twice about having them in the first place on their property.

“This new law holds the property owners and renters of any real property responsible for any aerial fireworks that is ignited, stored, or released from their property,” said Capt. David Chang of the Honolulu Police Department.

The fine for illegal fireworks ranges from $500 to $2,000. And it is a felony charge if you are caught with at least 25 pounds of them.

HPD is asking residents to submit photos or video which can be used as evidence. HPD says it recognizes that it’s difficult to turn your neighbors in. But with cooperation from the public, police say the new law could be an effective deterrent.

“It’s difficult for you to do that to your neighbor, but if we want real change then people are going to have to start stepping up and being that witness,” said Capt. Chang.

Legal experts say defense attorneys could say the homeowner didn’t know about the fireworks if they were hidden in someone’s bag. But if someone lights the fireworks and the homeowner lets it happen, that’s enough to make the homeowner liable.

“They don’t want to face criminal liability, so hopefully homeowners will say wait a minute and think twice because I don’t want you guys bringing fireworks to my property because now I’m gonna be criminally liable,” said defense attorney Megan Kau.

HPD says it has already seen a drop in the number of fireworks complaints so far. In the first week of December last year, they received more than 300. This year it was down to 170.

Kau adds the true test should come in the weeks ahead if arrests are made and the prosecutor’s office actually moves forward with criminal proceedings.

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