Legislation regulating the release of balloons
Mass release of balloons is illegal in several states and cities. Jurisdictions that have laws in effect dealing with balloon releases include:
Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, California and Virginia.
Cities of Ocean City, Maryland; Louisville; Huntsville, Ala.; San Francisco; and Baltimore.
Legislation has been considered in other states including Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin
Below are some of the balloon-related laws. (If you can provide information on other laws, please contact Clean Virginia Waterways at email@example.com.) Click here to go to "Balloons as Litter" web page.
Release of lighter-than-air balloons restricted. Penalty Title 26> Chapter 490 > § 26-25c
a) No person, nonprofit organization, firm or corporation, including the state and its political subdivisions, shall knowingly release, organize the release of or intentionally cause to be released into the atmosphere within a twenty-four-hour period ten or more helium or other lighter-than-air gas balloons in the state.
(b) Any violation of subsection (a) of this section shall be an infraction.
372.995 Release of balloons
(1) The Legislature finds that the release into the atmosphere of large numbers of balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gases poses a danger and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals.
(2) It is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to intentionally release, organize the release, or intentionally cause to be released within a 24-hour period 10 or more balloons inflated with a gas that is lighter than air except for:
(a) Balloons released by a person on behalf of a governmental agency or pursuant to a governmental contract for scientific or meteorological
(b) Hot air balloons that are recovered after launching;
(c) Balloons released indoors; or
(d) Balloons that are either biodegradable or photodegradable, as
determined by rule of the Marine Fisheries Commission, and which are closed by a hand-tied knot in the stem of the balloon without string, ribbon, or other attachments. In the event that any balloons are released pursuant to the exemption established in this paragraph, the party responsible for the release shall make available to any law enforcement officer evidence of the biodegradability or photodegradability of said balloons in the form of a certificate executed by the manufacturer. Failure to provide said evidence shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this act.
(3) Any person who violates subsection (2) is guilty of a noncriminal infraction, punishable by a fine of $250.
(4) Any person may petition the circuit court to enjoin the release of 10 or more balloons if that person is a citizen of the county in which the balloons are to be released.
History.--s. 1, ch. 89-113.
§ 29.1-556.1. Release of certain balloons prohibited; civil penalty.
A. It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly release or cause to be released into the atmosphere within a one-hour period fifty or more balloons which are (i) made of a nonbiodegradable or nonphotodegradable material or any material which requires more than five minutes' contact with air or water to degrade and (ii) inflated with a substance which is lighter than air. Any person who violates this section shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed five dollars per balloon released above the allowable limit, which shall be paid into the Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Endowment Fund established pursuant to § 29.1-101.1.
B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to (i) balloons released by or on behalf of any agency of the Commonwealth, or the United States or pursuant to a contract with the Commonwealth, the United States, or any other state, territory or government for scientific or meteorological purposes or (ii) hot air balloons that are recovered after launch. (1991, c. 607.)
This law is in Title 29 of the Code of Virginia, enforced by local law enforcement and prosecuted by local Commonwealth’s Attorney. So, if you know of any plans to release a large number of balloons into the air, notify local law enforcement. Be sure to quote the Code section...they may not be familiar with it.
Here is the text of the law in California regarding balloon releases. It is CALIFORNIA
PENAL CODE SECTION 653.1. You can also see this law on www.leginfo.ca.gov
653.1. (a) No person shall sell or distribute any balloon which is constructed of electrically conductive material, and filled with a gas lighter than air without:
(1) Affixing an object of sufficient weight to the balloon or its appurtenance to counter the lift capability of the balloon.
(2) Affixing a statement on the balloon, or ensuring that a statement is so affixed, that warns the consumer about the risk if the balloon comes in contact with electrical power lines.
(3) A printed identification of the manufacturer of the balloon.
(b) No person shall sell or distribute any balloon filled with a gas lighter than air, which is attached to an electrically conductive string, tether, streamer, or other electrically conductive appurtenance.
(c) No person shall sell or distribute any balloon which is constructed of electrically conductive material and filled with a gas lighter than air, which, is attached to another balloon constructed of electrically conductive material and filled with a gas lighter than air.
(d) No person or group shall release, outdoors, balloons made of electrically conductive material and filled with a gas lighter than air, as part of a public or civic event, promotional activity, or product advertisement.
(e) Any person who violates subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) shall be guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100). Any person who violates subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) who has been previously convicted twice of violating subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(f) This section shall not apply to manned hot air balloons, or to balloons used in governmental or scientific research projects.
In 2004, the Maryland legislature considered, but did not pass the following bill (House Bill 1029)
AN ACT concerning
Criminal Law - Large-Scale Balloon Release - Penalty
FOR the purpose of prohibiting a person from knowingly releasing or causing to be released in the outdoors a certain number of certain balloons as part of a public or civic event, promotional activity, or product advertisement; establishing a certain penalty for a violation of this Act; and generally relating to the prohibition against a large-scale balloon release.
SECTION 1. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND, That the Laws of Maryland read as follows:
Article - Criminal Law
(A) A PERSON MAY NOT KNOWINGLY RELEASE OR CAUSE TO BE RELEASED IN THE OUTDOORS 20 OR MORE BALLOONS THAT ARE FILLED WITH A GAS LIGHTER THAN AIR AS PART OF A PUBLIC OR CIVIC EVENT, ROMOTIONAL ACTIVITY, OR PRODUCT ADVERTISEMENT.
(B) A PERSON WHO VIOLATES THIS SECTION IS GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOR AND ON CONVICTION IS SUBJECT TO A FINE NOT EXCEEDING $500.
SECTION 2. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That this Act shall take effect October 1, 2004. (NOTE: BILL DID NOT PASS, AND IS NOT IN EFFECT AS OF JULY 2004)
If you can provide information on other laws, please contact Clean Virginia Waterways at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compiled by Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University, Farmville, VA 23909