Living in a society of positive freedoms that is governed by the rule of law is one of the greatest privileges a person can enjoy. Under the law, all people, from presidents to police officers to peasants (not that we have peasants anymore, per say, but permit me the alliteration) are seen as equal. If you commit a crime, you will do the time, as it were. Or pay the fine, or be banned from the establishment where you offended, and so forth. The law is impartial, equitable, and, for the most part, rational and even wise.
But then at other junctures laws can be absolutely batshit crazy. It’s all well and good that we’re all treated as equal before the law (until we get a presidential pardon, that is. Looking at you, Nixon), but when a specific law itself is either so strange, so specific, or so outright stupid that it either cannot or should not apply to anyone in practice, it does make one question the process of passing laws at a foundational level. Every law that is in the books started off as a bill and was, at least to some degree, discussed, debated, and considered before being passed into actual statute. Yes, even the bizarre laws we’re looking at today, all of which should have died as bills but that went the distance.
15. Bear Wrestling Is Banned
An Alabama law from 1996 (No. 96-468) officially banned the practice of bear wrestling. But it didn’t stop there; the law also went on to criminalize any promotion of bear wrestling matches, and of the sale or training of bears to be used in bear wrestling matches. The violator is committing a Class B felony, no small charge, indeed. Our problem with this law is that it probably didn’t have to exist, as surely other regulations could have been enforced in its place, and also, if anyone wants to wrestle a bear, go ahead and let them do it so Natural Selection can keep working.
14. The USA PATRIOT Act
Never mind for now that many elements of the USA PATRIOT Act effectively strip Americans of privacy rights and put out of mind the fact that this bill would probably have the Founding Fathers stabbing themselves in the eyes with quill pens out of sheer rage, did you know that the name of the bill/law isn’t merely cute, but is in fact an acronym? Yep. It stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. (AKA: Whatever, We Do What We Want!) The government will do anything to get up all in your business.
13. Missouri’s “Shoot Anyone, Anywhere!” Law
Missouri House Bill No. 2126, which passed easily a few years back, essentially permits anyone to use deadly force on anyone else if they feel threatened. The bill was suppose to be an expansion of Castle Doctrine, which basically says that if someone enters your home unlawfully, you can shoot them (or hit them with a stick), that would extend the right to self-defense to people who were lawfully in private property other than their own, such as a babysitter or friend in a residence. But due to amazingly careless phrasing, the law essentially says that anyone in any private property (that includes bars, stores, and dental practices, see?) can shoot anyone who makes them feel unsafe.
12. The Bean Field Law
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this law, but it does serve to give you a look at what is actually going on in our government sometimes. And, for the record, that’s often not that much. A December 2013 Senate bill was dedicated to the proper use and management of a five dozen acre plot of land in Mississippi called the Bean Field Property. It stipulated that the parcel of land that the government had taken over in order to complete a roadway would instead not be used and would be returned to local control. So, in other words, there needed to be an act of congress for the government to commit to not doing anything.
11. Don’t Eat People. Unless You Have To.
Here’s another of those laws that really probably didn’t have to be written, as anyone breaking it was probably also in violation of enough other laws to get them sent away for a while. But nonetheless, in Idaho, thanks to 1990’s law 18-5003 it’s illegal to be a cannibal. In fact, eating human body parts can result in a 14 year jail sentence. The exception to the rules comes if you only ate a person’s flesh to keep yourself alive in a survival situation. Then it’s A-OK. (But it’s not OK if you killed the person first, that’s still illegal.)
10. No Duelling Lawyers In Kentucky
In section 228 of the Kentucky constitution, you will find the official oath that members of the state assembly, state attorneys, and the state government officers specifically bans anyone who has ever taken part in a duel with deadly weapons. That goes for the actual dueller or for anyone who has stood as a second, also, so don’t you go supporting anyone demanding satisfaction if you want to serve in Kentucky. One lucky catch to note: it only says no duelling with deadly weapons, so you can duel using baguettes all you want.
9. Do Not X-Ray Shoes In Nevada
Or go right ahead and do x-ray shoes in NV, but know that you will be in specific violation of a law banning the use of the shoe-fitting fluoroscope. When x-ray technology was first invented in the late 1800s, people couldn’t wait to find new uses for the penetrating rays. One great use was looking at feet within shoes to ensure a proper fit! Except then scientists learned about the whole cancer thing. While common sense should have curtailed their use once and for all after that, it took a specific law in Nevada to ensure shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were relegated to the historical trash pile.
8. No Use Of Bullet Proof Vest During Criminal Activity
Listen hear, punk: if you’re going to rob a bank, shoot a guy, or assault someone in the state of New Jersey, you damn well better not be wearing a bullet proof vest while you do it! Wearing a bullet proof vest during the commission of a crime is considered a secondary offense. And if you flee from the cops while wearing body armour, that there is a first degree violation. One wonders if premeditation is a factor here; like say you were just wearing your everyday bulletproof vest and then suddenly chose to rob a bank and run from the cops, even though you hadn’t planned to originally?
7. False Promises Are Big Problems In South Carolina
If you are an adult male within the borders of the state of South Carolina, you’d better not ask a woman to marry you unless you genuinely intend to tie the knot. That’s right, it is expressly against South Carolina law to propose to a woman under false pretenses, and doing so can lead to fines and could even lead to jail time. Not that it ever does lead to any of that in the modern era, but still, it’s on the books. So if you’re in SC, you better be true to your woman or you will apparently land in jail. So, just show up to the alter when it’s time to say “I Do.”
6. No Hanky Panky In Connecticut
Or rather, there’s no sex allowed in Connecticut unless you are married to the person with whom you are engaged in coitus. An old but as of yet still active law in the state statutes states (heh) that no persons who are not legally married can legally have sexual intercourse. And, as it’s a law, you know that every single unmarried person in the entire state of course abides by it. Wouldn’t want to break an unenforceable and ridiculous misdemeanour, right? I mean is there a bedroom police roaming around somewhere in Connecticut right now busting in on unmarried couples like they kind of did during the Medieval times?
5. Nudity Is Fine, But Not Stripping
Ah, Vermont. So here’s the deal: stripping naked in public is illegal in the state of Vermont. But being nude in public is not an issue at all, at least in the eyes of the law. So Vermonters are free to take their clothes off in private and then venture into public spaces, but are in violation of the law if they get nekked while out and about. It’s all about the letter of the law, not the spirit, really. Now, here is the question that matters the most: is streaking okay? If the stripping happened in-doors then yes? You know what, we will say yes to streaking in Vermont.
4. No Beer Without Soup
This law surely made sense back in the days when alcohol sales were more strictly regulated largely as a cause of religious and/or cultural conservatism, but it makes little sense now. (It’s also not enforced often, so don’t worry.) In Nebraska, it is technically illegal for an institution to serve beer if the location is not also simultaneously preparing soup. As in a pot of soup must be actively simmering at all times that beer is being sold and distributed. Good news for people who like soup, but not for bars whose owners like being normal.
3. No Pet Rats In Billings, Montana
If you love your pet rat, then don’t accept that job offer in Billings, Montana, because there are no pet rats allowed there! According to Ordinance No. 90-4829, “It is unlawful for any person to sell, offer for sale, harbour, raise or give away rats as pets, toys, premiums, novelties, or for any other purpose except as feed for reptiles or birds of prey or both.” It is OK to harbour rats for research, though. So basically Billings is a bad place to be a rat. Now if you actually hate rats (I think this applies to a huge percentage of people) then Billings is your heaven on earth.
2. Watch Out for Free Wi-Fi
According to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (U.S. Code 18 1030, FYI), it is technically illegal for you to hop onto an unsecured wireless network, even if that network is designated as free for the public, if you are not within the specific location for which the network was created. So if you were to pick up the Wi-Fi signal from a restaurant as you were checking your laptop on a park bench nearby, you would in fact be breaking federal law. Now does this law stop anyone at all from feverishly looking at their phones for free Wi-Fi access when they feel the need to check their Instagram for the 117th time that day? Nope, it does not.
1. Religious Freedom As Long As You’re Religious
This is the second decade of the 21st Century, so of course the Texas legislature is progressive enough not to force someone to be religious if they want to serve the state, right? Well… sort of. According to Article 1, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution Bill of Rights, you can’t be excluded from holding office for any religious “sentiment” just so long as you are willing to solemnly swear that you “acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” Which is totally different from enforced religion, you guys!
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