Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Decriminalizing Balloon Release

California, Jerry Brown, law, balloon, metallic, criminal liability

I’m sure I disagree with most of the policies California Governor Jerry Brown seeks to propose and impose. But let’s give credit where credit is due. He’s right that people should not be treated like criminals when in a burst of celebratory excess they commit the sin of unleashing helium balloons.

California lawmakers thought it would be smart to make criminals out of toddlers and other Snidely Whiplashes who “willfully release” helium balloons made of electrically conductive material.

The potential problem is real enough. When the balloons collide with power lines, they may cause power surges or brief power outages. Squirrels and birds can also cause power outages, and are far more likely to do so. Luckily, though, nobody (so far) has thought of prosecuting wayward warblers.

In vetoing the legislation to criminalize balloon release, Governor Brown said he didn’t believe “that expanded criminal liability is the best solution to the problem of electrically conductive balloons interfering with power lines. As I have said before, our Penal Code is already far too complex and unnecessarily proscriptive. Criminal penalties are not the solution to every problem.”


Brown’s veto message may seem like simple common sense. But in an age in which kids can be suspended from school for doodling a gun or carrying a maple leaf, we have learned that rudimentary reasonableness is not necessarily standard operating procedure.

Hence, any instance of firmly refraining from lunacy must receive our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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By: CS Admin


  1. Don Pritchard says:

    Okay, I will agree to a point. We don’t need to write a specific law to bar this activity. But we must recognize that this is the same as littering. It is the same as when you throw a styrofoam cup out of your car window on the highway. The cup goes up and then comes down to the ground. The balloon will do the same thing, albeit slower, but inevitably the helium will leak out and the balloon, now classified as trash, will fall to the ground. That is littering and should not be encouraged by anyone. Some may say the release of balloons is akin to throwing rice at weddings. I say nay. The balloons will exist in the environment for years, while the rice biodegrades rather quickly in comparison. (Though I have heard it is better to throw bird seed instead of rice, as the rice can cause digestive problems for bird who might eat it). So, Paul, while I agree there is no need for a specific law dealing with balloons, there is a law against littering and it should be enforced.

    • Pat says:

      What if the release was accidental?    Unless you SEE someone deliberately releasing a balloon, how are you going to enforce the anti-littering statute.   Is it your idea to ban helium balloons completely?

  2. Rocketman says:

    Well, I guess in the governor’s case it’s like the old saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Good going for once Jerry!

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