New Firework Laws in Utah

As Independence Day celebrations draw closer, residents should be informed of the new firework laws put into effect this year as well as restrictions specific to their area.

Less days for fireworks

Photo by: David Joyce

Prior to the 2018 legislative session, fireworks were allowed to be discharged 14 days in July: July 1st through July 7th and July 21st through July 27th. The amended laws approved by Utah lawmakers have now reduced lawful firework days to only eight days: July 2nd through July 5th and July 22nd through July 25th. The allowable firework days for New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year remain the same. Although fireworks are allowed throughout Utah on the eight approved days in July, that does not mean they are allowed everywhere.

Restricted firework areas

The state of Utah is currently seeing record high temperatures mixed with low humidity and accompanying winds. These conditions increase the likelihood of wildfires even without the use of recreational flaming explosives. In order to prevent firework use from adding to the growing number of wildfires presently active throughout Utah, there are areas where fireworks are not permitted. Statewide, fireworks are prohibited on state owned as well as federal land. Additionally most areas outside city limits or within close proximity to washes, wooded areas, or other locations where the chance of a brush fire is increased may have restrictions for firework use.

Penalties unlawful discharge of fireworks

Utah Code 53-7-225 states “A person is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, if the person discharges a class C common state approved explosive:

(a) outside the legal discharge dates and times . . . or

(b) in an area in which fireworks are prohibited”.

Residents should consult with their state and city laws prior to firework use to ensure their holiday festivities are in accordance with local laws.

Reduced Penalties for Holding a Raccoon or Coyote in Captivity

Anyone in Utah holding a raccoon or coyote in captivity illegally may now face reduced penalties thanks to S.B. 180 passed in early May.

Holding a raccoon or coyote in captivity

Photo by: Paul Brooker

Some Utah residents interested in having non-traditional pets may trap a wild animal hoping to domesticate it. Other times an abandoned baby animal may be taken in by a do-gooder and raised alongside the family dog. Little do these individuals know, not only is it dangerous to try and home a wild animal, it can be illegal. Thanks to an amended law however, if the wild animal kept in captivity is a raccoon or coyote, the State of Utah has decided to reduce the penalties for those who hold one of these animals without proper authority.

Reduced penalties

Utah Code 4-23-111 reaffirms that “no individual may hold in captivity a raccoon or coyote, except as provided by rules of the Agricultural and Wildlife Damage Prevention Board.” That section of Utah Code has been amended to state: “any violation of this section [is now] an infraction.” This penalty is similar to a minor traffic violation. Prior to the 2018 General Session, holding a raccoon or coyote in captivity was a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. While there isn’t any specific public instance that pushed this law towards leniency, it passed almost unanimously.

Permit required

While an infraction is far better than spending half a year in jail, how do residents of Utah go about keeping a raccoon or coyote in captivity without breaking the law at all? According to Utah Administrative Code Rule R58-14, “upon filing an application for registration with the Department of Agriculture and Food, upon forms provided by the department, a permit may be issued by the department authorizing the applicant to hold in live captivity raccoons or coyotes for research, educational, zoos, circuses, or other purposed authorized by the Department of Agriculture and Food.” It goes on to note that “A separate permit must be obtained from the department for each individual raccoon and coyote possessed”. So although there are some instances when keeping these animals in captivity is allowed, unfortunately it does not apply for pets. Anyone interested in having other non-typical pets is encouraged to research the laws regarding those animals prior to purchase or capture.

Proof of Registration No Longer Needed When Driving in Utah

“License, registration, and insurance please;” is the greeting often heard when being pulled over, yet now that phrase will need to be adjusted as proof of registration is no longer needed when driving in Utah.

Changes to Utah law

Photo by: Fairfax County

While registering a vehicle is still a requirement along with having a license and current insurance, Utah lawmakers have decided to be more lenient by no longer enforcing residents to carry the actual proof of registration in their vehicle. Utah Code 41-1a-214 now states: “For the convenience of a peace officer or any officer or employee of the division, the owner or operator of a vehicle is encouraged to carry the registration card in the vehicle for which the registration card was issued and display the registration card upon request.” While this wording still asks residents to carry their registration in their vehicle, wording such as “must” or “shall” have now been replaced with “[for] convenience” and “encouraged”.

Not needed anyway

Years ago when technology was in its infancy, having proof of registration made it easier for officers to ensure a vehicle being driven was properly registered by a licensed driver. Nowadays, law enforcement does not need to call in plates to check registration as they have laptops in their vehicle for quick access to registration database. Many police cruisers are also equipped with license-plate scanners that further reduce the need for any registration information to be carried by drivers.

Inconvenience and concern

Photo by: Becky Stern

Not only was their no need for proof of registration, representatives in Utah also raised concerns that carrying registration papers in a vehicle at all times may be inconvenient while also being cause of concern for identity theft. Unlike a driver’s license and insurance card that can be tucked safely inside a wallet, registration papers are typically on full letter sized paper, making it unpractical for many to carry with them away from their vehicle.

Protecting private information

Registration papers not only contain a person’s name and physical address, it also includes a vehicles VIN number and the registrant’s signature. When a vehicle break-in occurs, it is not uncommon to find this treasure of personal information taken along with other items of value. Utah now gives residents the option of whether or not to keep proof of registration in their vehicle, and no longer requires such document to be signed. Driving without proof of registration was previously an infraction and is now a choice. For more information on this and other previously changed laws, see the 2018 General Session of the 62nd Legislature.