San Jose Hands Out Illegal Fireworks Fines Without Providing Proof

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Illegal fireworks lit up the sky over San Jose over the Fourth of July weekend, and now city authorities are issuing fines to people they believe shot off those illegal fireworks.

But some residents who got citations say the city has no proof of the violations.

There are some angry residents in San Jose.

A city PR campaign to stop people from shooting off illegal fireworks obviously didn’t work and now the city is sending out fines to people, accusing them of shooting off fireworks even though the city has no proof.

Neighbor Amy Guzules says she hasn’t set off fireworks since she was a child, a time when they were legal.

Guzules said, “I was furious. I couldn’t believe that somebody could report something online and automatically I’d get a ticket.”

And so imagine her surprise when she received a $500 citation in the mail less than two weeks after the Fourth of July.

Three families in her neighborhood received fireworks citations.

The city has been aggressively cracking down on illegal fireworks in recent years, encouraging citizens to report offenders anonymously and even removing the requirement that they have video or photographic evidence of someone setting off fireworks before filing the report.

Guzules and her neighbors say the city policy is poorly designed as it is reliant on anonymous reporting and unsubstantiated allegations that shifts the burden of proof to the accused.

Neighbor Keith said, “I just think it’s not thought out. Did they really think about the outcome?”

All say they are innocent and are furious that they have to pay the $500 fine for a first offense, before challenging the citation in court.

“They’re just issuing these citations. There’s no investigation that’s been done or anything by city officials,” Keith said.

A spokesperson for a city says they received more than 1,000 complaints, but only issued citations when there was photo or video evidence, multiple reports or a high degree of confidence from the reporting party.

Or at the very least a follow-up conversation with the reporting party.

Guzules said, “People who are accusing don’t need proof. But the people who are accused have to pay a fine in order to prove that they’re innocent. It’s backwards and it needs to change.”

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