Crazy Laws in All 50 States That Still Exist

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Crazy Laws in All 50 States That Still Exist
Graphic: Nathaniel Blum

Crazy Laws in All 50 States That Still Exist

Emily Long
July 28, 2021

When you visit a new city, you probably don’t think about the possibility you could be committing a crime by honking your horn at the wrong time of day or cursing in public where others might hear you. But there are some weird laws in the United States—even if not often enforced, they’re still officially on the books and carry penalties and fines.

“You can find a lot of pretty weird ones on the internet,” says Branka Vuleta, founder of LegalJobs.io. “There’s something important to say about some of them, and that is that most of them have been repealed, and some are just misinterpretations of the actual laws.”

Here’s a list of real life, crazy laws in every state.

Crazy, funny laws by state

Alabama

Folks in Mobile, Alabama, may have a difficult time carrying out pranks. The city has a ban on silly string, plastic confetti and stink balls that create “disagreeable odors.” Violations of misdemeanor codes carry a fine up to $500 or imprisonment of one year.

Alaska

Bar-hopping in Alaska could get you into some trouble: State law prohibits a drunk person from “knowingly” entering or remaining in a licensed bar. Doing so is a Class A misdemeanor, which may cost you up to $10,000 or a year in prison.

Arizona

In Arizona, it’s illegal to manufacture or distribute fake drugs—even if you believe them to be the real thing. Making and/or selling an imitation controlled substance is a Class 6 felony, which may carry a prison sentence of up to two years for first-time offenders.

Arkansas

In Little Rock, be careful if you venture out for a late-night snack: It’s illegal to honk your horn outside of sandwich shops or anywhere cold drinks are sold after 9 p.m. Doing so could carry a fine of up to $1,000 (and $2,000 for each additional offense).

California

In California, it is illegal to own, sell, buy or give away a horse with the intent of killing (or having someone else kill) the animal for human consumption. Doing so is a felony punishable by 16 months in a state prison.

Colorado

In Colorado, you must have a permit to change the weather. You may be wondering who is modifying the weather and how—it likely applies primarily to places such as ski resorts that make snow. Permits go only to operators who have extensive experience in meteorology.

Connecticut

Arcades in the town of Rocky Hill aren’t allowed to have more than four “mechanical amusement devices,” such as pinball machines, shuffleboard or coin-operated table games.

Delaware

Delaware pawn shop owners are prohibited from accepting artificial limbs or wheelchairs as payment. Doing so is a misdemeanor that could cost you up to $10,000.

District of Columbia

In Washington, it’s a misdemeanor to deface, break or destroy a “registered” milk carton or bottle. This carries a fine of $50 for the first offense and $100 for each subsequent offense.

Florida

Drivers in Sarasota have some strict parking rules to follow. Crossing the line of a parking space—or taking up more than one spot—will cost you $35. This also shouldn’t have to be said, but there’s a law for it: There’s no parking on sidewalks or in any place that would obstruct traffic.

Georgia

Gainesville’s prohibition against eating fried chicken with a fork is something of a legend, but it has actually been enforced (and immediately dismissed) in one instance as a practical joke. An old city ordinance requires you to consume fried chicken with your fingers.

Hawaii

Hawaii has a strict limit on billboards along its roadways. In general, you won’t find any signs advertising products or services like you would on other states’ highways. The only billboards allowed are those with very specific purposes, like conveying public safety information or directions to historical sites.

Idaho

Cannibalism is explicitly banned in Idaho. The law defines any person “who wilfully ingests the flesh or blood of a human” as a cannibal. This offense will land you in prison for up to 14 years.

Illinois

The town of Galesburg has outlawed trick riding of bicycles. This means you cannot do any acrobatic moves or “fancy riding,” and you must have both hands on the handlebars and both feet on the pedals at all times. Violations will cost you $1 as long as you pay within 24 hours of receiving a citation.

Indiana

Winter is a bummer in Warsaw, where it’s illegal to throw snowballs across a street or sidewalk. This city ordinance also prohibits tossing stones and other hard objects.

Iowa

In Iowa, real dairy is really important. Imitation butter for sale must be labeled as “renovated butter” in text printed at least three-fourths of an inch in height and one half-inch in width. Margarine and imitation cheese must be clearly labeled as such.

Kansas

In Kansas, hunting and fishing are two separate activities. It is illegal to kill game or “furbearing” animals from a motorboat (or a plane or car) unless you carry a handicapped hunting and fishing permit. This is a Class C misdemeanor, which brings a fine starting with the second offense.

Kentucky

Kentucky has a law against snake handling in church. Any person who uses a reptile as part of a religious service will face a fine between $50 and $100. This provision may be covertly violated more often than you might expect—snake handling is a common practice in some faith traditions.

Louisiana

Louisiana has explicit protections for crawfish. According to state laws about livestock theft, it is illegal to take, transport or sell crawfish (among other types of animals) without paying for them. Only dogs and cats are exempt from livestock theft regulations. These acts carry a penalty of $5,000, 10 years in prison or both.

Maine

In Maine, bars that serve alcohol have to have specific permits for music, dancing, and entertainment. Only music played over the radio and dancing while doing karaoke are exempt from this rule.

Maryland

Watch your mouth in Rockville: Profane cursing, swearing and obscene language are prohibited in public where someone else could overhear. This misdemeanor could cost you $100 and/or 90 days in prison.

Massachusetts

If you’re going to play or sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in patriotic Massachusetts, you better do the whole piece. Cutting it short or altering it in any way—or using it as dance music—is punishable with a $100 fine.

Michigan

In Michigan, it is illegal to be drunk on a train. So, if you’re thinking about taking a to-go cup or ordering an extra beverage from the dining car, you may want to reconsider.

Minnesota

Minnetonka drivers should keep their cars clean. City code states mud, dirt, sticky substances and litter deposited by trucks on streets and highways are considered a public health nuisance. Violations are misdemeanors.

Mississippi

In Mississippi, there’s no limit to how much sugary soda you can get on tap. In fact, businesses are not allowed to deny you any portion of a food or beverage you order. Known as an “anti-Bloomberg law,” this provision says only the state (but not counties and towns) can control portion sizes.

Missouri

This law hopefully isn’t violated often, but in Missouri, it’s illegal to wrestle a bear. You also cannot allow or promote bear wrestling on your property, nor can you train a bear to wrestle. Violating this is a Class A misdemeanor.

Montana

Take care with your frisbee golf equipment in Helena. Throwing a disc at night outside of a designated course is prohibited by the city’s folfing regulations.

Nebraska

Nebraska has a law against marrying if you have a venereal disease. The same statute mandates that both people in the marriage must be at least 17 years of age.

Nevada

If you’re walking around Reno and need a break, make sure you find a bench. Sitting or lying down on downtown sidewalks is prohibited by city ordinance. Doing so is a misdemeanor.

New Hampshire

In the Live Free or Die state, you can hunt with your dog but not your pet ferret. State law prohibits anyone from hunting (or on their way to or returning from hunting) from possessing a ferret.

Another wild New Hampshire hunting law: If you shoot and injure or kill another person, you must help them and report the incident to the authorities. Failure to do so is a Class B felony, and you have to forfeit your hunting license for life. You also might face other criminal penalties.

New Jersey

Mount Laurel residents are not allowed to get drunk and annoy other people, even in the privacy of their own homes. City ordinance outlaws drunk and disorderly conduct in both public and private.

New Mexico

In New Mexico, it is illegal to intentionally trip a horse, mule or donkey. Doing so is a misdemeanor, but if you injure the animal, that charge could get bumped up to a fourth-degree felony.

New York

There’s no better place than New York to get a good bagel, but you pay a slight premium if you order one with butter, spreads or other toppings. New York taxes count bagels as sandwiches, while bagels sold whole are exempt from the extra fee.

North Carolina

North Carolina may have had a grease-stealing epidemic, because it has a law that prohibits the unauthorized taking of restaurant grease. It’s also illegal to claim ownership of someone else’s container of grease. Violations range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the value of the grease.

North Dakota

In Fargo, you should probably keep your trees trimmed. City ordinance considers trees and hedges that could hide or harbor possible criminal activity as nuisances. Fines for not dealing with the issue could run you up to $500.

Ohio

Canton has some “Footloose” vibes—roller skating and skateboarding on city streets are prohibited unless crossing from one side to the other in a crosswalk. Each violation is a misdemeanor of increasing degree.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma has outlawed eavesdropping, meaning you can’t “secretly loiter” with the goal of overhearing someone else’s conversation—especially with the intent of doing harm to someone. A violation is a misdemeanor.

Oregon

The town of Yamhill has taken a stand against the occult, which it considers to be “unsound and unscientific.” It is illegal to conduct fortune-telling, astrology, and other practices with the intent of revealing the past or predicting the future.

Pennsylvania

There shouldn’t have to be a law about this, but Pennsylvania has one: It’s illegal to barter using infants. This means you cannot trade, buy or sell a baby. Surprisingly, this offense is only a first-degree misdemeanor.

Rhode Island

Cannibals and zombies aren’t welcome in Rhode Island, where it’s illegal to voluntarily mutilate or dismember another person. Cutting or biting off a body part could land you in prison for 20 years.

South Carolina

In South Carolina, you need to catch your fish in the usual way. It is unlawful to use dynamite or other explosives to fish. The first offense will get you three months in prison and a $500 fine, with steeper penalties for subsequent violations.

South Dakota

South Dakota has an interesting law about what is allowed. Shops licensed to sell booze are expressly permitted to offer candy and confections that contain 0.5% alcohol or more by weight.

Tennessee

Many of us are probably guilty of this: sharing our Netflix passwords with a handful of friends to avoid paying for individual accounts. Unfortunately, Tennessee covers entertainment subscription services under its state theft protection code, and knowingly avoiding payment is a violation of the law.

Texas

Texans who like to tan should know they can’t use a tanning facility more than once in any 24-hour period. This isn’t once per day—it’s once per 24 hours. That means that if you finish at 3 p.m. on Monday, you can’t go back for another session at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Utah

In Utah, bike messengers and delivery riders cannot carry your takeout in one hand while steering with the other. State law prohibits holding a package that prevents the use of both hands. Plus, all cyclists must have at least one hand on their handlebars at all times.

Vermont

Like Hawaii, Vermont prohibits the erection of billboards that advertise any business, product or service not provided by the state. This means you won’t see traditional highway signs letting you know which fast-food stops are at the next exit—you have to look that up.

Virginia

In Virginia, you can’t call someone to curse them out. State law prohibits “obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious or indecent language” used over the phone or radio with the intent of harassing another individual. Doing so is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could land you in prison for up to a year and/or cost you a $2,500 fine.

Washington

In Spokane, be on your best behavior while riding the bus. It is illegal to spit, litter or play music on public transit. You also cannot gamble while riding or throw objects at a public vehicle. Violations are considered misdemeanors.

West Virginia

West Virginia political hopefuls, take note: If you’ve ever participated in a duel, you’re disqualified from holding public office. This includes anyone who has accepted a challenge to a duel, agreed to act as a second or otherwise assisted with a duel.

Wisconsin

Like Iowa, Wisconsin takes its dairy seriously. State law says certified premium grade AA cheese must be “highly pleasing.” Meanwhile, grade B cheese need only be “fairly pleasing.”

Wyoming

Cheyenne has a city provision against spitting on the floors or walls of public buildings. Provocative language or “fighting words” directed at another person are also prohibited as offenses against public peace and decency.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.