Crazy Laws

Posted November 26, 2008 in Government by

A few weeks ago I talked about laws that made it illegal to wear baggy pants in public.  It made me shake my head a lot but I quickly forgot about it until a couple of days ago.  Some relatives are visiting from out of town and I got to hear that where they’re from it’s illegal to buy anything but food in some stores before a certain time of day.  Apparently, you can shop at their 24-hour Wal-mart at any time, but if it’s in the morning, you won’t be able to buy most things in the store.  After I stopped laughing I started thinking about other crazy laws, some of which have been in effect for years.  I started to take a look and was floored at just how many wacky laws there are and how many books and websites have been devoted to them.

Some of these laws are easy to understand.  For example, there are old laws still on the books that specify a limit to the number of livestock you can drive down a city street.  A hundred years ago this would have made sense.  However, I don’t see anyone trying to drive sheep down Hollywood Boulevard today.  Lots of laws prohibit doing certain activities on Sunday.  These are a holdover from a time when many believed that to do anything besides go to church on a Sunday was a sin.  Some laws, however, are not as easily explained.

In South Carolina you have to be over 18 to play a pinball game (Section 20-7-8915).  Apparently South Carolina isn’t the only place which has it out for pinball games.  In El Monte, California, it is illegal to possess a pinball machine or any machine designed to simulate a horse race (Section 9.24.020).  I can’t even guess at the reasoning here.

In Maine it is illegal to put advertisements in cemeteries.  What scares me is this – did they make this law because someone actually tried to?  Can you say morbid?

Okay, the only reason this one is funny is because of the state it is in.  Yes, Nevada, the state that has legal prostitution, has made it illegal to sell sex toys in Reno (8.14.040).  I wonder how they decide where to draw the line?

In Washington, it is illegal to risk spreading a contagion (RCW 70.54.050).  In other words, it is illegal to go out in public if you have a cold.  You know, come to think of it, this might not be so much crazy as impractical.  I mean, after all, can you imagine what would happen if every person who thought they had a cold didn’t go to work?  During the winter, the economy might just grind to a halt.  Even worse, nobody’s Christmas presents would be delivered on time so long as they were coming by way of mailman, UPS guy, or anyone not answering to the name "Santa Claus".

Also from Washington, in Spokane it is illegal to wear a life jacket near the Spokane River (Listing 10.19.010).  Upon closer inspection, this is because swimming in the river is illegal and possession of a life jacket near the river is seen as evidence that you were planning on getting into the river.  Makes me wonder, though, what happened to all those people sporting the kind of lifejacket looking vest worn by Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future films.  "I swear, Officer, it’s just a fashion statement!"  And right back we are to the Fashion Police from last time.

I know, this look at crazy laws is not overly deep or thought provoking, but in these uncertain times and with the craziness of the holidays upon us we could all use some more laughter.  I guess, though, there is something that we can take away from this.  Why is it that we’re constantly coming up with new laws to regulate and constrict our lives, but not getting rid of ones that are clearly outdated?  Just a thought.

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