Though fireworks displays are often seen as harmless and playing with fireworks may be considered a youthful rite of passage, fireworks cause hundreds of injuries every year. Consequently, many states have opted to regulate the possession, sale and use of fireworks. Pennsylvania prohibits citizens from possessing fireworks in most circumstances and state law provides for criminal penalties when citizens violate fireworks safety laws.
Consumers and corporations in possession of fireworks banned by Pennsylvania law may be forced to pay a fine not to exceed $100. Citizens can complain to police officers or prosecuting attorneys about others in possession of fireworks. Police who witness a person illegally possessing fireworks may cite the person, arrest them and confiscate the fireworks.
Pennsylvania law states that any person or business who sells fireworks prohibited by state law is guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor. People rarely serve time in prison for misdemeanors, but they can be arrested and a judge has the option to sentence them to a brief stay in jail.
Display fireworks are fireworks that are used in professional fireworks exhibitions and are typically more dangerous than standard consumer fireworks. Thus, the sale of these fireworks is prosecuted as a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are generally considered less severe felonies. While people are commonly arrested for this variety of felony and may sit in jail for a few days, they are not typically sentenced to serve time in prison if it is their first offense.
There are several exceptions to Pennsylvania's fireworks laws. Hand-held and ground sparklers are not considered fireworks, and neither are items classified as "novelties" or "toy caps." Pennsylvania residents may purchase a display permit in local municipalities where they plan to create fireworks displays. When they do this, they are permitted to both buy and possess fireworks. Non-residents are also permitted to purchase fireworks as long as they can provide proof that they don't live in Pennsylvania. These fireworks must be immediately transported out of the state and cannot be used for displays without a fireworks display permit.