© Olesya Turchuk | Dreamstime.com
The United States is a large, vibrant and diverse country in which states and even cities have the power to pass their own laws. This makes sense in many cases because life is different from the East Coast to the West Coast and what needs to be regulated in Alaska is different than in Florida.
However, because states and cities are given legal leeway, that’s led to some pretty outrageous laws getting on the books. Sometimes, they are not really enforced, but no one has bothered to repeal or undo them. If you don’t want to accidentally get yourself into a pickle in Connecticut or be fined for dancing at the Washington Monument, check out the weirdest laws in every state and Washington, D.C.
In the underrated city of Mobile, Alabama, it is illegal to possess, make, sell, give away or throw any non-biodegradable, plastic-based confetti. The law is a code featured in the section on littering. The law was updated in 2018 to specify plastic-based confetti so that citizens could legally enjoy paper confetti or serpentine, coiled paper streamers, during Mardi Gras celebrations. Prior to that, all forms were illegal.
In 1913, the mayor and city council of Fairbanks, Alaska, had had enough of the antics of bartender Pete Buckholtz and his pet moose. Buckholtz refused to stop bringing his oversized pet to work at the local saloon. To prevent the animal from coming inside, officials crafted an ordinance declaring that moose weren’t allowed on city sidewalks, effectively prohibiting the moose from walking on the sidewalk and into the bar or other businesses.
Spitting is a rude behavior that is considered a public nuisance throughout the state of Arizona. But in the city of Goodyear, it's illegal to spit on a public sidewalk, crosswalk or highway or on or in public grounds, parks or buildings. The crime is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 or six months in prison.
There is a legal code in Arkansas that explains how the state’s name should be pronounced. While it’s not technically illegal or punishable to say it wrong with a hard “s” at the end of the state’s name, Arkansas is legally supposed to be pronounced “Ar-kan-saw.”
Some things go without saying, but the city of Chico, California, wasn’t taking any chances. It enacted an official prohibition on the production, testing, maintenance and storage of nuclear weapons. The law was passed when the possibility of nuclear war was a “clear and present danger.”
In the city of Pueblo, Colorado, it is illegal for a landowner to not cut, destroy or remove weeds 10 inches or taller, including sunflowers and dandelions. If they don’t do so within 10 days of being notified, the city will do it for them — then send them a bill.
There are plenty of wacky things that are banned in the U.S., but folks in Connecticut are persnickety about their pickles. According to one of Connecticut’s former food and drug commissioners, one of the tests used to determine whether or not a pickle was legally fit for human consumption was that if you drop it 1 foot, it should bounce.
Many Delaware cities set strict Halloween trick-or-treating hours, but the charming coastal town of Rehoboth Beach forbids any tricks or treats if Halloween happens to fall on a Sunday. According to a city ordinance, if Oct. 31 falls on a Sunday, kids must instead go door-to-door on Saturday night, the evening of Oct. 30.
According to a Florida state statute, with a few caveats, a dog’s owner isn’t liable for damages caused by their pet if at the time of any injury, the owner has “displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words ‘Bad Dog.’” So in the Sunshine State, it’s best not to ignore any “Beware of Dog” signs.
In Dublin, Georgia, it is unlawful for anyone to wear a mask, hood or other item to conceal their face or identity in public places. The only exception to this rule is children 16 years old and under on Halloween. So your kid’s popular Halloween costume is safe.
Hawaii has a handful of strange laws, some of which are meant to protect the spectacular views of its natural landscapes. For example, it is illegal to erect, maintain or use a billboard, or display any outdoor advertising device.
The city of Pocatello, Idaho, has embraced its identity as the "U.S. Smile Capital” after the mayor passed an ordinance in 1948 making it illegal not to smile. The "Smile Ordinance" was passed to jokingly boost morale after exceptionally severe winter weather. The law unintentionally remained on the books until it was rediscovered and became a source of pride for Pocatello.
The city of Galesburg, Illinois, likes things nice and simple, even its bike riding. The city has an ordinance banning bike riders from removing both hands from the handlebars or feet from the pedals or engaging in “any acrobatic or fancy riding on any street.”
Indiana has some peculiar laws. Among them is the confusing statute that says grocery, convenience and drug stores can’t sell cold beer for carry-out. However, if the beverage is not cooled or on ice, it can be sold legally. Businesses have been fighting for more than a decade to get the law repealed.
In Iowa — a landlocked state — drunk surfing or water skiing is prohibited. According to the state’s code, it’s illegal for a person to operate or manipulate any water skis, surfboard or similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or other drugs. Though Iowa isn’t really a surfing destination, it does have many famous, beautiful lakes.
Many states have specific regulations for hunting and fishing, but a somewhat funny one in Kansas is that it is illegal to hunt any game animal or fur-bearing animal from a motorboat, airplane or motor vehicle.
In the Bluegrass State, it is illegal to dye your bird or rabbit blue, green or any color, unless you are selling them in quantities of six or more. If you’re caught, you could end up paying up to a $500 fine. According to Kentucky’s penal code, it is considered animal cruelty to “sell or exchange, display, or possess living baby chicks, ducklings, or other fowl or rabbits which have been dyed or colored.”
Even before it was the setting of popular vampire TV show "True Blood," the state of Louisiana had a law on the books banning "ingestion of human or animal blood" as part of a ritualistic act. If you’re a movie and TV buff, know there are plenty of famous filming locations around Louisiana.
In Biddeford, Maine, people are dissuaded from trying out any fun, adventurous stunts. It is illegal to ride a skateboard, roller skates or in-line roller blades while attached to any vehicle in a public place. The punishment is up to a $50 fine for a first offense and up to a $100 fine for a second.
There are plenty of antiquated laws on the books in the state of Maryland, but the city of Rockville, in particular, has a few in place to keep things rated PG for its citizens. It is a misdemeanor to profanely curse and swear or use obscene language upon or near any street, sidewalk or highway. So watch out if you’re driving through Rockville with a serious case of road rage. Maybe try using some fun slang instead.
Thinking of hitting up a beautiful golf course? Better watch what you are playing with if you’re in Massachusetts. It is illegal in the state to make, sell or own an explosive golf ball. Golf balls used to be made with liquid centers that were often caustic and could result in an explosion if the balls were cut open. Manufacturers have since switched to solid-core golf balls, but the law still bans the former dangerous design.
Turns out a toxic relationship in some places is illegal. One of the most severe laws still in effect is in the state of Michigan, where it’s a felony to cheat on your spouse. However, prosecutions for adultery are rare. The spouse who is being victimized by the adultery must file a criminal complaint within a year of the offense.
Minneapolis is known for its beer culture, and Minnesotans can imbibe without fear of being arrested for public intoxication, which is a crime in many other states. According to a Minnesota state statute, no person may be charged with or convicted of the offense of drunkenness or public drunkenness. However, drunkenness is not a defense if you commit other crimes or offenses while intoxicated.
There are plenty of archaic laws still on the books when it comes to marriage and children. According to Mississippi state law, if you have more than one child out of wedlock, you will be charged with a misdemeanor and could face a month of jail time or a fine of up to $250.
In the state of Missouri, it is lawful for any person to castrate a bull or ram or boar hog that’s been running loose for three days, provided three residents of the town it is loose in serve as witnesses to its rampaging. It’s obviously illegal before that or with any fewer witnesses, so don’t even try.
If you want to play “folf,” otherwise known as frisbee golf or disc golf, in Helena, Montana, there are some rules you have to follow. No playing at nighttime in any area within the business improvement district that has not been sanctioned as a designated folf course by the city. Violators will be charged with a misdemeanor and face jail time or up to a $500 fine. Folf is actually a good workout and is an exercise that can help you lose weight.
Nebraska is the only state where it is illegal for a bartender to mix other alcohol with beer. That means no boilermakers, bourbon in the barrel of your beer or any other famous cocktail that mixes liquor with beer. The Prohibition-era “boilermaker bill” has been debated in state government but has yet to be overturned.
Nevada has had some strange and specific laws in the past that have since been repealed, including no driving a camel down the highway and no refusing to hire people from the Communist Party. A funny law still on the books is that it’s illegal to throw items from a chairlift. So you can rest assured that you won’t be pelted from above while skiing at Lake Tahoe.
Multiple towns in New Hampshire have made it illegal to have a picnic in a cemetery. If you want to dine with the deceased, you’re better off enjoying a meal at the most haunted hotels in America.
New Jersey is the only state in the United States where it’s illegal to pump your own gas. According to state regulations, only attendants may dispense fuel into the tank of a motor vehicle or any container. Violators are charged up to $250 for a first offense and up to $500 for each subsequent offense.
Patriotic anthems are pretty popular songs at sporting events and other gatherings, but in New Mexico, you better perform them right. It’s a petty misdemeanor in the state of New Mexico to sing only a portion of the national anthem or the state song, “Oh Fair New Mexico.” Both must be sung or played “as an entire or separate composition or number.”
Suffolk County, New York, passed a resolution banning the intentional release of helium-filled balloons. Don’t worry if a stray balloon escapes your grasp, however. The measure restricts releasing 25 or more balloons in a 24-hour period to protect its local beaches and marine life.
While states like Nevada are all about the bright lights and gambling, North Carolina’s gambling laws are fairly strict. Playing more than 10 hours of bingo in a week actually violates North Carolina’s gambling statutes. Organizations can only conduct or sponsor two bingo sessions per week for no more than five hours each. And no two sessions of bingo can be held within a 48-hour period of time.
Residents of Devils Lake, North Dakota, have to find another way beside fireworks to ring in the New Year. It’s illegal to set off, explode or detonate any fireworks other than between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. between July 1 and 5.
If only every state had laws as specific as Ohio’s about providing adequate office supplies. The state has a statute mandating that each operator of an underground coal mine must provide an adequate supply of toilet paper with each toilet.
While cow tipping is an urban legend, "horse tripping" is a real enough problem for multiple states to ban it. Horse tripping is actually a rodeo event that some states consider animal cruelty. According to Oklahoma's Animal Protection Act, it's a misdemeanor "to cause an animal of the equine species to fall or lose its balance with the use of a wire, pole, stick, rope or other object."
Some fun laws have colorful backstories, while others you’d rather not know the story behind. That’s definitely the case with Oregon’s state law asserting that you can’t dispose of human waste while operating or riding in a motor vehicle. This misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum fine of $250.
It is illegal to transport alcohol purchased in other states across the border into Pennsylvania. It’s a law that’s a little stuck in time as a holdover from the Prohibition days of bootlegging. Although it has been rarely enforced in the modern era, lawmakers have not decriminalized out-of-state alcohol.
If you have something valuable to sell it’s best you take it to an official auctioneer. It’s a criminal offense in the state of Rhode Island to impersonate an auctioneer. The penalty is a fine of between $20 and $100.
There are plenty of great things for families to do in South Carolina, but if you are planning on strolling down a classic boardwalk you better check local laws. It’s unlawful for a minor under the age of 18 to play a pinball machine.
In Huron, South Dakota, there’s an entire chapter of codes regulating static electricity. It is unlawful to cause static that interferes with television or radio broadcast receiving equipment. But only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
In the state of Tennessee, it's technically illegal for individuals to share login credentials for streaming services with anyone who doesn't live under the same roof. This applies to Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Spotify and more. The “Tennessee Login Law" was passed in 2011 to prosecute hackers selling off passwords and hasn't actually been used to target anyone still using their ex's HBO Go account.
Though to deny someone public office because of their religious beliefs would be unconstitutional at the federal level, the state of Texas still has language in its constitution that says officeholders must believe in a higher power. It reads: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”
Utah is home to some beautiful college campuses, but its students have to apply for permits if they want to throw a keg party. The state has a keg beer law that prohibits anyone other than a licensed beer retailer from possessing beer in containers larger than 2 liters.
A Vermont state statute defines clotheslines as energy devices based on renewable solar power and forbids any governing body from passing laws prohibiting them.
Though there are some exceptions, it is unlawful to hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, with a gun, firearm or other weapon on Sundays. Hunting with permission from a private landowner or hunting waterfowl is allowed — except within 200 yards of a house of worship. And anyone dealing with a pesky pest of a raccoon can hunt them until 2 a.m. on Sundays.
In 1991, Whatcom County, Washington, declared itself an official Sasquatch Protection and Refuge Area. That means if a resident does come across a mythical Bigfoot, they are not to kill or harm it.
Washington, D.C., is a must-visit destination for history buffs because many of its iconic, historic landmarks are free to visit. However, visitors are not free to bust a move. Demonstrations are prohibited at the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and other parks in the National Capital Region. “Demonstrations” include expressive dancing or other entertainment that attracts a crowd of onlookers.
If you see roadkill in West Virginia, it is completely legal to take it home and cook it for supper. The state law says that wildlife “killed or mortally wounded as a result of being accidentally or inadvertently struck by a motor vehicle” is fair game. This law was created to help clean the streets and decrease the amount of resources spent by state officials. It may come as a surprise, but more than 20 states allow roadkill salvage.
As “America’s Dairyland,” Wisconsin takes its milk, cheese and other dairy products seriously. The state has a law on the books that prohibits serving margarine at a public eating place as a substitute for table butter — unless it is explicitly ordered by the customer. Violators can be fined between $100 and $500 and/or imprisoned up to three months.
It might be common sense not to mix skiing and drinking, but Wyoming officially has it on the books as a misdemeanor with a punishment of up to 20 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $200. The law states that no one can take a ski lift or use any ski slope or trail while impaired by alcohol or any other drug. Whether you like to ski or not, taking a ride on the Aerial Tram at Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Teton Mountains. The tram climbs more than 4,000 feet in just 12 minutes, making it one of the coolest man-made marvels in America.
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