Between state, local, and the national government, thousands of new laws are put forth every year by various legislatures. As part of the process of new lawmaking, many other, older laws are necessarily voided each year. Somehow, however, there always seems to be a plethora of outdated and unsubstantiated laws that somehow manage to slip through the cracks. While some of these laws are troublesome or even dangerous, others are just plain funny. These laws are not only cool in and of themselves, but are also a reminder of the unique history of these areas. As a celebration of these odd little laws which have managed to stay on the books, this list will countdown the 15 crazies laws that are still on the books. In order to be eligible for this list, the law must still be on the books as of the start of 2017. While the location of the law isn’t entirely critical, preference was given to those crazy laws that were more likely to affect a greater range of people. Hopefully this list doesn’t come to the attention of any legislators (I assume that all congressmen spend most of their time perusing the Internet), and these laws are able to stay on the books for the foreseeable future. If you can think of any crazy laws that did not make our list, feel free to mention them in the comments.
15. Cheese Snoozing
It is pretty common for many workplace practices to be ignored by state civil and criminal law, and to instead rely on the employers to regulate the actions of their employees. South Dakota obviously did not get the memo on this, as their state once put forth one of the oddest workplace regulations ever created. As a result, in South Dakota it is still illegal to fall asleep in a cheese factory. The fact that the law specifically names cheese factories leads me to believe that this was in response to a specific incident, but records of said event appear to have been lost. Instead, now all cheese factory workers (and I suppose anyone else who manages to catch a few z’s in the plant) are strictly prohibited from catching a nap while at work.
14. Vicious Policemen in Paulding
While police brutality has recently become a hot button issue, since the expansion of the police during the Prohibition Era, the idea of police discretion has been a staple of the modern police state. This “benefit of the doubt” policy gives police a significant amount of leeway in their actions in the course of their duty. While some examples of this are rather scary, this Paulding, Ohio law likely has a pretty great story to accompany it. In Paulding, policemen are allowed (by law) to bite a dog if “they feel that it will calm the dog down”. I have a one-year-old yellow lab who is quite a handful. However, I don’t know if I am committed enough of an owner to bite him in order to calm him down.
13. Donkey Nap
I think the best entries on this list are the ones where the crazy laws can be directly traced to one particular incident. Our next crazy law is one of these; in Oklahoma, it is illegal to let your donkey sleep in a bathtub. Why would the state be interested in where your livestock sleeps? Well, property rights of course. This law can be traced back to the 1920s when a small town was heavily flooded by the local dam breaking. A rancher’s home was flooded with water and his donkey that he had been letting sleeping in his bathtub (Oklahoma farmers in this period were not the most hygienic lot) was carried away several miles downriver. The idea is that if the animals sleep within a barn or other area, they are going to be more easily recoverable by their owners.
12. No Aspen Catapults
I absolutely couldn’t help but include this entry on our list. You just know that there is some incredible story that led to the creation of this law. In the town of Aspen, Colorado it is illegal to discharge a catapult within the city limits. While the launching of high-speed projectiles is certainly frowned upon in most cities, Aspen for whatever reason, decided to make this restriction official. It is interesting to note that it is not illegal to own a catapult in Aspen; it is merely illegal to discharge your medieval weaponry. Our clever readers will have likely inferred that an adventurous person could merely step outside the city limits before utilizing their catapult. My question is what would happen if someone discharged the catapult outside of city limits, but pointed it towards the city?
11. Chicken Fingers
Most of the laws on this list were (admittedly odd) responses to real issues. Our next entry, however, is a law created in 1961 as a publicity stunt. In that year, Gainesville, Georgia passed a law making it illegal to eat fried chicken with anything other than your fingers. At this time, Gainesville was considered the poultry capital of the world (I was unable to find if it still has this notable moniker), and it must have seemed like a good idea to the city council to pass this law as a reminder to the local media. While this law has very little teeth to it, a tourist was arrested (and subsequently released) in 2009 for using a fork to enjoy his delectable chicken dinner.
10. The One-armed Musician
As a whole, I can imagine that losing one’s arm comes with an array of additional challenges that the average person doesn’t face. This fact is amplified when the disabled person works in a profession that requires a consistent use of both hands. Rather than providing some assistance to these folks, the great state of Iowa at one point decided to make life a little more difficult for some of them. In the 19th century, the Iowa state legislature passed a law saying that any one-armed piano player must absolutely be willing to pay for free. My guess is that this law was never enforced, as this sounds a heck of a lot like slavery which is, of course, prohibited by the Constitutions 13th Amendment.
9. Elephant Plow
While farmers nowadays certainly don’t have things easy, their job is at least significantly easier than it was for their forbearers. In the days before gas powered tractors, farmers were forced to find other, more creative ways of plowing their fields. This apparently caused a bizarre law to be passed in North Carolina, prohibiting the use of elephants to plow one’s fields. Ignoring several logistical problems with transporting and housing the large creatures, their brute strength would make them fairly reliable field animals. With that being said, however, the amount of food that elephants consume may prevent them from being a very cost-effective form of labor. This law was passed in the days before animal cruelty laws, so there must have been some other reason behind this bizarre restriction.
8. Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
A tale as old as time, and perhaps the most famous question in the English-speaking world is “why did the chicken cross the road?” This riddle has an additional meaning in the town of Quitman, Georgia, where it is a criminal offense to allow ones’ chickens to cross a public street. I was not able to find the specific instance that caused this law to be passed, however, from researching Quitman I feel like I have gathered a sense of the law’s origins. As a large farming community, the town of Quitman would understandably have a lot of chicken coops within its limits. While these small birds are normally harmless, they could cause quite a bit of trouble if they were constantly crossing the handful of roads in the town. Throw in the hilly geography of Quitman, and you begin to understand just where this crazy law comes from.
7. Colorado Fire
When I completed by undergrad degree at West Virginia University, the university was just beginning to seriously crack down on the students‘ game day hijinks. For a number of decades, the symbol of WVU debauchery has been the students burning couches. While Morgantown has always viewed this as an inevitable evil, the city of Boulder has enacted a draconian measure to regulate its own local university, the University of Colorado. In Boulder, it is now illegal to put a couch on one’s porch. The idea is that if the students cannot find any couches to burn, then it will limit the amount of game day bonfires. There isn’t much evidence that proves the effectiveness of this law, but I imagine that the fire marshal appreciates any help in addressing this problem which has become emblematic of certain college campuses.
If you’ve been to another country, you know that some local names for things aren’t easy to pronounce when you haven’t known them your whole life. If you’ve been abroad, you likely also know that the locals aren’t very kind to people who butcher their local town name. A certain southern state takes this a step further, however, as it is apparently illegal for anyone to mispronounce “Arkansas” within the state limits. I was unable to locate the source of this strange law, but I have to imagine that it was some misguided attempt at instilling state pride. For those of you making a trip to Arkansas soon, the correct pronunciation is “in three syllables, with the final ‘s’ silent, the ‘a’ in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables.”
5. Pickle Bouncing
I think people would be surprised to learn about the incredibly large amount of laws and regulations in every locality concerning how food is grown, prepared, and stored. One of the more notable food laws is the Connecticut law that a pickle cannot be sold unless it bounces. This odd little regulation emerged in 1948 after pickle packers in the state were caught attempting to sell pickles that were well past their expiration date. According to food regulators, if a pickle bounces, it is far less likely to be unfit for human consumption. The law is pretty specific, stating that the pickle should be dropped from a height of exactly 1 foot to determine its status. I, for one, am not enthusiastic about any pickle that has recently been dropped on the ground.
4. Laughter Inducing Fake Mustaches
In areas with a high crime rate, it is common for there to be laws strictly regulating when any disguises can be worn. I doubt if our next entry comes out of this same group of laws, as its purpose seems to be more odd than practical. In Alabama, it is illegal to wear a fake mustache, but only if said fake mustache causes laughter. The origins of this law are now unknown, but I personally picture a group of sensitive Victorian era lawmakers who were tired of people making fun of their bushy mustaches. Luckily, there is no evidence that this crazy law is currently or was ever really enforced. All that it does is serve as a reminder of this state’s zany past.
3. Nebraska Hair
There has been a recent wave of libertarianism in the United States. Without getting too in-depth into political doctrine, libertarians generally believe that the government should have as little influence over people’s daily lives as possible. While this ideology has some flaws, it is laws like our next entry that have built up such a frustration with government regulation. For a number of years in Nebraska, it has been illegal for a mother to give her daughter a perm without a license. This law was not a response to some horrific hairdos, however, but was instead an effort by the state legislature to protect its beauty salon industry. And if we’re being honest, should the state of Nebraska be the one trying to dictate how people get their hair done?
2. Why Not?
If I had to identify a single state that has the most “strange” laws still on its books, it would have to be Rhode Island. The smallest state in the union, Rhode Island has a unique political and religious history (in many instances these two things were one and the same) which has shaped it into one of America’s oddest states. You can tack up our next entry unto Rhode Island’s history of zaniness, as in the ocean state, it is illegal for a merchant to sell the same person a toothbrush and toothpaste on the same day. Ignoring the fact that this law is clearly not enforced (Walmart would have a heart attack), what could possibly have been the public benefit to this kind of law?
1. Drunk in a Bar
Since this country’s inception, there have been fairly strict laws throughout the U.S. regulating where, when, and in what manner a person can be intoxicated. The state of Alaska appears to have taken this too far, however, as they still have a law on the books which makes it illegal to be drunk…. in a bar. This terribly worded 20th century regulation prohibits people from knowingly entering a bar when they are already intoxicated, or to stay in a bar once it becomes apparent that they have become drunk. One of the saddest facts about this law is that it is still rigorously enforced in certain parts of the last frontier. Alaska has some serious issues with alcoholism in their state, so it‘s understandable that they would maintain some pretty stringent laws to try and alleviate this problem.
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