Laws lend order and social organisation to a society, along with serving a variety of other functions and purposes. Contrary to what one may believe, the law of the land, however, is not always understandable or completely reasonable. Some laws in the various states of the US, having withstood the test of time, continue to be written into the letter of the law despite their irrelevance in today’s context. Researchers at the Olivet Nazarene University provided a list of such unique and bizarre legislation that continue to govern people in the States.

In the South-eastern state of Alabama, it is illegal to wear a fake moustache in Church; this law is enforced to maintain the decorum in Church services. People’s annoyance at the mispronunciation of Arkansas seems justified as it is strictly prohibited to pronounce “Arkansas” incorrectly. Thus is because its pronunciation is said to reflect the state’s heritage. The state of Hawaii prohibits people from placing coins in their ears, whereas the state of Indiana can legislate against particular kinds of facial hair for people, especially those who have “a tendency to habitually kiss others”. In the state of Nebraska, it is illegal for a mother to give her daughter a perm without a state license and in New Hampshire, as of 1973, it is forbidden to collect seaweed from the beach at night. Sharing one’s Netflix password with others is illegal in Tennessee, as hackers had started to sell passwords in bulk in 2011. For reasons unknown, all these laws are still in place.

A number of unique laws are in relation to animals. For instance, it is prohibited to wake a sleeping bear to take a photo in the largest state of US, Alaska. It was declared illegal for donkeys to sleep in bathtubs in Arizona in 1924. According to the California Fish and Game Code, a frog that dies during a frog-jumping contest cannot be eaten; and a horse cannot be ridden under the influence in Colorado, a man having been charged for the same as recently as 2013. In Florida, if an elephant is left tied to a parking meter, the parking fees has to be paid just as it would for a vehicle; the rationale behind passing this law was to ensure that parking charges were paid for all modes of transportation. Other absurd laws related to animals include the state of Missouri where it is illegal to drive with an uncaged bear, whereas in Nevada it is illegal to ride a camel on the highway. It is illegal to get a fish drunk in Ohio, and wrestle a bear in Oklahoma, as part of a statute against animal cruelty for entertainment.

One might find surprising that the state of Connecticut lays down the legal criterion for a pickle to be considered as one- if the pickle does not bounce, it is not recognised as a pickle, making one reasonably suspect the nature and sobriety of the law. The Prairie State of Illinois makes it legal for a minor to drink as long as he or she is enrolled in a culinary program. An abysmally worded statute in Kansas states that “If two trains meet on the same track, neither shall proceed while the other has passed”, leaving its citizens in a state of confusion. Speaking of confusing laws, in Kentucky one may not dye a duckling blue and offer it for sale unless more than six are for sale at once; and one may only sleep in a cheese factory if the cheese provided is sold in closed packages in South Dakota.

Doing some prior research on the local laws and traditions while travelling in the US is often suggested, since many laws declare mundane activities as offences that are punishable under law. For instance, the melting pot of French, African, American and French-Canadian cultures, Louisiana, fines its citizens $500 for sending a pizza order to someone’s house without that person’s knowledge. Not strictly limited to pizza, this legislation is in place to protect people from receiving any goods or services without their knowledge. In Maryland, specifically to Baltimore public parks, it is a violation wear a sleeveless shirt, and a fine of $10 is imposed on the offending person. Similarly, one may be fined up to $100 for using profane language in public places in Mississippi, however, this law lacks regular enforcement. Other serious penalties for such absurd offences include the state of Montana, where guiding a sheep on to a railway platform with intent to injure the train is subject to a fine up to $50,000, and serving at most five years in prison.

These odd prohibitions have been in place over the years and as each state has its own legislative history, there are bound to be some laws that need discarding, having no use in present times. Biting off someone’s limb will result in 1-20 years in prison in Rhode Island; although this law is stated casually, it was intended to protect body disfigurement and mutilation. The harassing of Bigfoot, Sasquatch and similar other undiscovered subspecies is a felony, since 1969, in the state of Washington, punishable by a fine and/ or imprisonment. Women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth in Vermont, and in Michigan, it is illegal for women to cut their own hair without their husband’s permission. Mercifully, this law is no longer enforced.

 

Sanjana Hooda

Sanjana Hooda

Sanjana Hooda is a student of law at O.P. Jindal Global University. Her interests include literature, culture, travel writing and gender studies.

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