Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

15 Most Bizarre Laws That Are Still on the Books

Browsing lists of outdated laws and statutes can feel a bit like reading The Onion: Surely, these can’t be real. Can they? The answer: yes, yes they can. Some places don’t always enforce older laws, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone away. As a result, many people wind up breaking laws every day without trying, and while doing things they wouldn’t consider illegal or even dangerous. If you break any of these, you might be able to get off with a warning. Still, why take a chance?

  1. Easy on the horn: The city code for Little Rock, Arkansas, reads in part: "No person shall sound the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9:00 p.m." The mind reels. Was there an epidemic of horn honking at sandwich shops that threatened the public peace? Was service that bad? Plus, the modifier’s a little iffy: does the law mean you can’t honk after 9 p.m., or that you’re prohibited from honking at any time of day when at a shop that sells sandwiches past 9? Better just stay out of Little Rock altogether.
  2. God and guns: Chalk it up the fact that Tennessee’s constitution was drawn up a couple centuries ago, but there are some weird stipulations included. Members of the clergy aren’t eligible for seats in state congress because they "ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions." On the other hand, "No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State." So basically you need to believe in God — or at least an afterlife based on moral living — but not actually be a preacher. You’re also forbidden from holding office if you participate in a duel. Good to know.
  3. Hands on the bars, son: The citizens of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, take their bicycle safety seriously. Riders aren’t allowed to "proceed in any street in the city by inertia or momentum" with their feet off the pedals. In other words, no coasting, you rotten kids, with your happiness and care-free ways. Riders also have to keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. As expected, tricks are also a no-no, as is letting someone ride on the handlebars.
  4. Working blue: There’s apparently a law in Michigan (whether it’s state or local is fuzzy) that prohibits people from swearing in front of women and children. Presumably, women and children are themselves allowed to swear, just not in the presence of their colleagues or while looking in a mirror.
  5. They shoot horses, don’t they?: In Reno, Nevada, it’s illegal to conduct or participate in a marathon dancing contest or marathon walking contest where participants receive money for their involvement. In other words, you can still hold marathons for charities, or just for fun (if you’re crazy), but if you set it up as a contest that pays out cash and prizes, you’re in for legal trouble.
  6. Is that a rifle in your pants, or …?: Kentucky law prohibits someone from carrying a concealed weapon that’s more than six feet long. Now, laws regulating concealed weapons are good things, but isn’t this a redundant statute that just defies common sense more than anything? How is someone supposed to conceal something that’s more than six feet long on their person? Heck, even a weapon longer than two feet provides logistical concerns; six feet is taller than most men. Kentucky, maybe think things through next time.
  7. Love, honor, and obey upon pain of death: New Hampshire lawmakers really wanted to make sure their citizens respected the institution of marriage, so rather than offer counseling services or talking to people about how to find the right person without settling for something less, they decided to make adultery illegal. Not just that, but the original penalty for cheating on your spouse was 39 lashes! In 1992, the penalty was adjusted to a monetary fine up to $1,200, but the act is still illegal. They’re talking about changing that, but for now, watch out.
  8. Don’t drink and … stand: Texans love their beer, but some of them at one point decided to make sure we all enjoy it responsibly. There’s a law there that says you can’t take more than three sips of beer at a time while standing. The purpose of this is anyone’s guess; maybe it forces drunks to more carefully plan their drinking-and-walking excursions in hopes of reducing fights? Regardless, if you’re in the Lone Star State and in the mood for a cold one, be sure to grab a chair.
  9. B-I-N-G-No: A North Carolina law stipulates that bingo games can’t run longer than five hours unless they’re being held at a fair. You also can’t have more than two sessions per week, so, uh, pick your battles.
  10. Don’t even pretend to kill that animal: Making it illegal to torture, mutilate, or sacrifice an animal in the presence of a minor is one thing; that makes a certain amount of sense, since it deals with messing with a kid’s head. But it’s just as illegal to simulate any of that, as well. Which raises the question: who would simulate it? Who would think it was fun or worthwhile to pretend to kill an animal in front of a child? How weird is that? You’d have to be determined to traumatize the child but not actually hurt the animal, which seems like the kind of moral line that would elude anyone in this situation.
  11. Bad news for zombies: If you’re ever in Rhode Island, try not to mutilate or disable someone, especially with your hands or mouth. The penalty for doing so — including biting off limbs — can be up to 20 years in prison. Cutting makes sense; that is to say, it’s an understandable thing to prohibit. But the fact that someone had to write down "Please do not chew anyone’s arm off" really makes you wonder what’s going on in Rhode Island.
  12. Pipe down: Fans of the sweet science have to watch what they say in Louisiana: spectators and managers are legally prohibited from mocking boxers at a match, not to mention quoting the odds of the fight. Anyone who does so will be kicked out and (maybe) charged. Advice: save the insults for your blog.
  13. Down in the dumps: Oregon laws prohibit the improper disposal of human waste. That by itself isn’t too weird, but it’s the manner in which they make the claim that raises eyebrows. Specifically, Oregonians are banned from tossing containers of urine or other waste beside the highway, or even just gently placing them there and driving away. We’ve finally tamed the frontier.
  14. Not even in a barrel: As much as you might want to take your gun with you when you go fishing — and who doesn’t? — it’s best to leave it at home, especially in Wyoming. Their law reads, "No person shall take, wound or destroy any fish of Wyoming with a firearm of any kind or nature." So if the fish aren’t biting, that doesn’t mean you can start to waste them with a semi-automatic; it just means to try again later.
  15. Ring in the new year by 11 p.m., or else: Devils Lake, North Dakota, has a law on the books regulating the use of fireworks. Specifically, it states that you can only shoot them off between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m., presumably to curb late-night noises. However, that makes for a pretty lame New Year’s Eve. People probably still fire them off up to midnight and after, but doing so means running afoul of the law. That’s a risky proposition in the state adjacent to Deadwood.