CEDAR FALLS — Refunds are being issued for people who were fined during Cedar Falls’ crackdown on Independence Day fireworks.
And officials are now considering revamping the city’s fireworks ordinance to comply with state law.
In July, the city announced it had filed 34 citations under the ordinance for lighting off fireworks after approved hours or in prohibited places like public sidewalks, parks and school property.
But Cedar Falls later asked the courts to dismiss the citations. Those who have already pleaded and paid the penalty – a $375 fine plus $95 in additional court costs – are getting refunds. Those with pending cases are receiving letters informing them that the citations will be voided.
The reason behind the dismissal is because the citations were written as municipal infractions under the city ordinance.
But, according to records filed in connection with the dismissals, state law already covers fireworks violations, making the offense a simple misdemeanor. State law prohibits cities from creating municipal infractions if the conduct is already a misdemeanor or felony under state law.
In a letter sent to the court seeking to void the citations, city officials said they “lacked the power to punish the ordinance as a municipal infraction.”
In a news release issued in July, City Attorney Kevin Rogers said Cedar Falls still had the option of pursuing the cases by refiling them as misdemeanors under state law. But he said the city decided against going that route.
“Due to the success of the city’s fireworks education campaign, the low number of citations, and the overall compliance of the community, the city has elected not to issue such new citations,” Rogers said in the release.
The Cedar Falls ordinance will be amended to update the penalty to a simple misdemeanor in accordance with the state law. Officials said they intend to continue strict enforcement of the fireworks ordinance.
Waterloo’s fireworks ordinance has provisions for pursuing the charge as a simple misdemeanor or a municipal infraction, both which carry a $375 fine. The city issued one charge for a fireworks violation during the 2022 Independence Day timeframe, according to police.
Photos: Cedar Valley Jaycees Fireworks Festival 2016