Obey this SignA friend of mine recently emailed me a list of weird State laws.  Aside from being pretty entertaining (ie. in Texas, it is illegal to take more than three sips of beer while standing; in Arizona, a donkey can't sleep in a bathtub; and in Georgia you can't say "Oh Boy" in public), most of the "laws" were pure urban legend.  Despite what this list said, you are able to wear a fake mustache to church in Alabama.  It is true that there are some strange laws on the books, but don't believe everything you read (especially on the internet).  The weird laws that get blogged about seem to fall into 1 of 3 categories:

  1. Half truths - for example, in Alaska you need a permit to carry a concealed slingshot...in truth, you need a permit to carry any concealed weapon and a slingshot is considered a weapon; 
  2. Common Law ruling on a narrow set of circumstances - in this situation, a legend is created around a mundane ruling.  For example, in a  civil case, a judge may find a dog owner liable if they allow their pet to bark at all hours for extended periods of time.  This then morphs into "dog's can't bark after twilight" on the internet.
  3. Historical laws that are on longer on the books - such as the law in Massachusetts where all men must carry a rifle to church on Sunday.  This law was repealed in 1637 but many sites continue to report that this is still an active statute.  

This got me wondering about which actual laws are the most unusual.  After doing some digging, I found that the most entertaining laws seem to come out of Florida, Texas and West Virginia.  Here are my 10 favorites from across the USA:

Road kill can not be donated to charity in Wyoming
Comment I am pretty good with this one, however in West Virginia, roadkill CAN be taken home for supper (the law is specific to deer and was introduced to keep the highways cleaner).  Note to self - never accept an invitation to supper in West Virginia.
Law as written
2011 Wyoming Statutes
35-7-1302. Donation of game animals.
 WY Stat § 35-7-1302 (1997 through Reg Sess)
(vii) Shall not come from any road-kill animal and any road-kill animal shall not be eligible for donation under this section.

You can't play Crazy 8's on Sunday in Alabama
In reading the statute below, it looks like it would be extra illegal to hunt for a deck of cards so that you can play Crazy 8's while volunteering at a Gun Club on a Sunday
 Law as written
Certain acts prohibited on Sunday.
Any person who compels his child, apprentice or servant to perform any labor on Sunday, except the customary domestic duties of daily necessity or comfort, or works of charity or who engages in shooting, hunting, gaming, card playing or racing on that day, or who, being a merchant or shopkeeper, druggist excepted, keeps open store on Sunday, shall be fined not less than $10.00 nor more than $100.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail, or sentenced to hard labor for the county, for not more than three months.

A person may be placed in jail for up to six months for making fun of someone who does not accept a challenge in West Virginia
Comment This was repealed in 2010.  I love that it took until 2010 to pull this law off the books.  Wow.
 Law as written
2009 West Virginia Code 
§61-2-24 Taunting for nonparticipation in duel; penalty.
If any person post another, or in writing or in print use any reproachful or contemptuous language to or concerning another, for not fighting a duel, or for not sending or accepting a challenge, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail not more than six months, or fined not exceeding one hundred dollars.

Men can not dress in women's clothing unless given permission by the Sheriff (California)
 Comment  I can't imagine why this would be a law, but there you go.
 Law as written
Walnut City Code 
17-31 Male dressing as female.
No man or boy shall dress as a girl or woman without a permit from the sheriff, except for the purpose of amusement, show or drama. 

You can be fined $1 for every time you swear in West Virginia
 Comment The State must have a huge swear jar where people put their fines.
 Law as written
2009 West Virginia Code 
§61-8-15. Profane swearing and drunkenness; penalty.
If any person arrived at the age of discretion profanely curse or swear or get drunk in public, he shall be fined by a justice one dollar for each offense.

You are not allowed to sell your children in Florida
 Comment If the real estate market is dead and you can't sell your kids, how are they supposed to make ends meet in the Sunshine State?  Most of the State is on a fixed income for crying out loud.
 Law as written
The 2012 Florida Statutes > Title XLVI > Chapter 847 > Section 0145 847.0145 Selling or buying of minors; penalties.(1) Any parent, legal guardian, or other person having custody or control of a minor who sells or otherwise transfers custody or control of such minor, or offers to sell or otherwise transfer custody of such minor...With knowledge that, as a consequence of the sale or transfer...shall be guilty of a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. 

You are not allowed to launch a torpedo in Destin, Florida
 Comment If I am reading this correctly, you can have a torpedo but you just can't set it off.  Got it.  
 Law as written Sec. 15-38. Behavior. No person in a park shall: (a)Fireworks and explosives. Have brought, or have in his possession, or set off or otherwise cause to explode ordischarge or burn, any firecrackers, torpedo, rocket, or other fireworks or explosives of inflammable material, or discharge them or throw them into any such area from land or highway adjacent thereto. 

You can only get a tattoo for medical purposes in Wisconsin
 Comment I am struggling to come up with a good medical reason for getting a tattoo - I don't think "looking tougher" is a bona fide medical excuse. 
 Law as written
9.08.090 Tattooing prohibited.
No person shall conduct any establishment where tattooing is practiced nor engage in the practice of tattooing; provided, however, that tattooing may be performed for medical purposes by a person licensed to practice medicine or osteopathy in the state. The word "tattooing" as used herein means the marking of the skin of a person by insertion of permanent colors through puncture of the skin.

In Mississippi, you are not allowed to teach others about Polygamy
 Comment If anybody in Mississippi is reading this, Polygamy is a board game like Monopoly but way less fun - you would probably hate it.  There, I won't be fined $25 and need to spend a month in jail.
 Law as written
97-29-43. Polygamy; teaching of.
If any person shall teach another the doctrines, principles, or tenets, or any of them, of polygamy; or shall endeavor so to do; or shall induce or persuade another by words or acts, or otherwise, to embrace or adoptpolygamy, or to emigrate to any other state, territory, district, or country for the purpose of embracing,adopting, or practicing polygamy, or shall endeavor so to do, he shall, on conviction, be fined not less than twenty five dollars nor more than five hundred dollars, or be imprisoned in the county jail not less than one month nor more than six months, or both.

Biting off another person's arm will cost you 20 years in Rhode Island
 Comment I wonder if they created this law after the Mike Tyson/Evander Holyfield boxing match in 1997 where Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield's ear.  
 Law as written
Criminal Offenses
SECTION 11-29-1
Penalty for mutilation or disabling.
Every person who shall voluntarily, maliciously or of purpose put out an eye, slit the nose, ear, or lip, or cut off, bite off, or disable any limb or member of another, shall be imprisoned not exceeding twenty (20) years nor less than one year.

This was a pretty fun article to research and I hope you enjoyed it.  If you enjoy this type of trivia, you may enjoy this very funny book about the 101 oddest laws in the US.  If you live in a place with a strange or unusual law, I would love to hear about it.  Please share your unusual laws in the comment box below - if there are enough suggestions, we can put together a follow-up article.  Perhaps even an Internal version?