San Jose residents upset about citations over illegal fireworks

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Dozens of residents in San Jose are being slapped with citations for setting off illegal fireworks. Some say they're innocent and feel the city is handing out fines without real proof.

There were nearly 1,100 complaints of illegal fireworks in June and part of July. A lot of those got tossed out for lack of evidence. But others were slapped with a $500 fine

The fireworks that lit up the skies were frustrating for some homeowners.

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"I don't like them either, they're noisy and sometimes they go on really late at night," said Amy Guzules.

That's why she was shocked when she received a citation in the mail telling her she owed $500 for setting off fireworks illegally.

"I was just furious," she said.

Guzules immediately called and spoke to the fire marshal to tell him they had the wrong house.
"He said, 'If two people report you in the online system, they don't need photo or video, that's enough to consider you guilty,'" she said. "And I almost couldn't speak."

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She wonders if a comment she posted on NextDoor in June led to the citation. People were posting about loud bangs in the neighborhood and Guzules wrote, "Warriors just won the NBA Finals, nothing to do but ride it out." She was one of 45 people who were issued citations during the enforcement period this summer.

"The process the city is using does have legal standing and we've confirmed that with the city attorney office," said city spokesperson Cheryl Wessling.

The city says citations were issued based on if neighbors sent in photo or video, or at least two people reported it at a certain address, and if the reporting party was willing to testify. Guzules and others, who feel they've been falsely accused, want the city to review the process. She must now pay $500 to appeal.

"I would say pay your fine, go to the hearing officer, and contest it," said Councilwoman Dev Davis. "If there isn't enough evidence and the hearing officer agrees with her, then that fine will be refunded."

Guzules is meeting with her councilman in her district this weekend. We also spoke with that councilmember who told us he's open to looking into whether changes need to be made, especially if his constituents feel they've been treated unfairly.

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