Laws have been passed, adjusted and rescinded throughout the centuries to protect the public, to safeguard property, and reduce violent crime. But there are dozens of outmoded laws still on the books which don’t really make any sense in a modern context. These laws may have had some practical use when they were first enacted but today they serve to baffle people who learn of their existence for the first time, and infuriate those who are actually arrested for breaking them.
One thing most people will know about the following ridiculous laws is that not all of them are strictly enforced. With so much high-profile crime in America and around the world, there just isn’t enough time, money, or resources to enforce every crazy law that’s still technically active. In other words, you won’t find many people going to prison for the following innocuous acts, but that doesn’t mean police authorities couldn’t enforce them if they really wanted to.
Even if you consider yourself the most law-abiding of citizen, it’s certain that you’ve broken at least a few of these fifteen baffling laws which are still technically in place in parts of the Western world.
14. Being Intoxicated in a Bar
There are a few ridiculous laws regarding alcohol in this list, but nothing comes close to a law in Alaska that says no person is allowed to be drunk in a bar, nor are they allowed to be served alcohol while intoxicated. This law is very real.
According to ABC News, Alaskan police started to enforce the law by sending undercover cops into bars to find and arrest drunks. This may sound ridiculous, considering a bar is often the one place to go to get drunk. This law is intended to ensure that patrons only drink a few alcoholic beverages and stop before they take leave of their senses. Of course, there are therefore many ‘criminals’ at every Alaskan bar on any given night.
13. Wearing a Bikini in Public
Laws are not always black and white, including those surrounding bikinis and indecent exposure. It’s common for women in the summer to dress down and hit the beach or pool in their favorite bikinis. But showing too much skin can land women in handcuffs.
In the early 1900s, there were laws that prohibited women from wearing anything that was deemed inappropriate. For example, in 1907, an Australian swimmer was arrested for wearing a sleeveless, one-piece bathing suit. However, there are recent examples of arrests for wearing bikinis in public, including one in 2013 when four women were arrested for indecent exposure for wearing thong bikinis. In Spain, it’s illegal to wear a bikini in public unless near a beach.
12. Using Fake Names Online
The World Wide Web is full of illegal activity, and government authorities have been doing their best to pass laws that protect people from both old and new online crime. Internet fraud is a big one, with email phishing, identity theft, and credit card scams happening thousands of times a day.
Privacy is also a big issue, which is why many people choose aliases and fake names when signing up to websites or chat rooms. However, according to U.S. law relating to fraud and computer activity, using a fake name online is illegal. People still do it though, whether on Facebook or Twitter, without ever realizing they’re doing something technically against the law.
11. Connecting to Public Wifi Networks
According to the same U.S. law relating to fraud and computer activity, unauthorized access to wifi networks (or “wifi squatting”) is most definitely against the law. Most people don’t think twice about joining a wifi network that isn’t password protected (and do it even when it is), especially if they need the internet for only a few moments.
This is even true for wifi networks that are open to the public. According to Wired.com, a man was arrested and charged in Michigan for regularly parking outside a coffee house to use their wifi network without making a purchase. He had to pay a $400 fine.
10. Owning More Than Two Sex Toys
Thousands of people across the United States love using sex toys, for spicing things up in the bedroom or for simple self-pleasure. In past decades, using a sex toy was considered extremely taboo, especially when sex itself was a taboo topic. But now, of course, sex and sex toys are everywhere.
However, Arizona still has a funny law on the books that states no person may own more than two sex toys at a time. It certainly seems unfair, but it’s hard to imagine most women (and men) in Arizona are following this law if toy play is a natural part of their sexual lifestyle.
9. Serving Beer and Pretzels Together
Salty snacks are a staple at bars where patrons combine them with a cold glass of beer. Peanuts are often free and a delicious compliment to a drink. Peanuts might be no problem, but another salty treat is prohibited from being served with beer.
Eating a tasty pretzel with beer in a bar is technically not allowed in the state of North Dakota, where the law prohibiting this combo is still on the books. It’s up to interpretation, and depends on the bar patrons’ age, but people can be breaking the law by serving beer with pretzels under certain circumstances. Fortunately, citizens of North Dakota probably won’t be seeing too many cops busting pretzel eaters and beer drinkers since the law is redundant in that it’s no longer enforced.
8. Buying Drinks For More Than Three People
Nevada is the home of Las Vegas, otherwise known as “Sin City”, where gamblers flock to bet it all in world-famous casinos. It’s the city that has been called America’s playground, and what’s America’s favorite toy? Alcohol. Party goers in Las Vegas are lucky, but in other parts of Nevada the good times aren’t rolling quite so easily.
Like in the city of Nyala, where generous drinkers are breaking a little-known law when they buy drinks for more than three people at a time. Any establishment that serves alcohol is legally responsible for the safety of their customers, so this law does have practical use by limiting alcohol consumption. But that doesn’t mean bar owners actually abide by it, especially when most are thinking of the bottom line.
7. Playing a Pinball Machine Underage
Kids seem to miss out on all the fun, but at least they can play just about any game they want without being judged for it like an adult would be. Any game except pinball, that is.
In South Carolina, it is illegal for a person under the age of 18 to play a pinball machine. That’s very odd, considering pinball seems to be a game designed for young people to enjoy. Don’t expect to see people in South Carolina stopping kids at a local arcade when they pull the pinball lever. The law would probably never hold up in a modern court of law.
6. Possession of Markers on Private Property
Graffiti is a big problem for many cities that have to scramble to erase tags, profanity, and other inappropriate vandalism on public and private property. In most cases, graffiti is done with spray paint because it’s easy to use and fast drying. But just about anything can be used for vandalism, including markers or Sharpies.
That’s why the Oklahoma City Police Department arrested a 13-year old boy for using a permanent marker in class, a violation of a little-known city bylaw. The boy was using the marker on paper which bled through onto the desk. Many cities ban markers to help stop rampant graffiti. If you have one on private property without the property owner’s permission, you could be in trouble.
5. Singing Off-Key
We don’t all have the voice of angel. Even professionals singers sometimes make mistakes, either hitting the wrong pitch or fumbling over syllables. The vast majority of people can’t sing like a professional, which is bad news for citizens North Carolina. Although there is very little chance you’ll be arrested for singing badly in the shower or while walking down the street, singing off-key is technically against the law.
According to CriminalJusticeSchoolInfo.com, a 1980 article in Reading Eagle stated that there is a very old law in North Carolina that prohibits singing out of tune, although singing in public is not generally illegal anywhere in the United States.
4. Falling Asleep With Shoes On
After eating too many pretzels and drinking too much beer in your favorite pub, there’s a good chance you might pass out from the excitement of all that law breaking, without undressing first. If you think you might, try to at least remove your shoes.
In North Dakota — a place where crazy laws are plentiful – falling asleep with your shoes on is technically illegal. Obviously this is a law that was passed a long time ago when, perhaps, it was more common to work in areas where it was easy to get dangerous materials on your shoes if you weren’t paying attention. It’s now a wildly out-dated law that many in the state and across America break all the time.
3. Christmas Decorations After Christmas
It may be because of a deep love for Christmas, or just general laziness, but some people put up their Christmas lights well before the holiday, and keep them up long after it has passed. According to the aptly named DumbLaws.com, it’s illegal in the state of Maine to have Christmas lights on your home after January 14th.
That’s a decent amount of time after Christmas Day to take the lights down, but not everyone remembers or cares to take absolutely everything down. And of course, most have no idea of the law. Don’t live in Maine if you have an obsession for a year-round Christmas.
2. Trick-or-Treating on Halloween
Some ridiculous laws go so far as to prohibit trick-or-treating, one of the most beloved annual events for children around America. However, it’s only prohibited for kids aged 12 years or older.
In Belleville, Illinois, a law was put in place in 2008 that limits trick-or-treating to 12-years and under. Granted, trick-or-treaters over the age of 12 might be a little too old to knock door to door for candy, but that doesn’t stop some of the bolder teenagers (and adults) from actually doing it. If they do, they are breaking the law, at least in Belleville, and they can face jail time or a fine of up to $100.
1. Singing “Happy Birthday” in Public
It’s not a proper birthday celebration without singing the “Happy Birthday” song to the person celebrating their big day. It’s one of the very few songs that everyone knows by heart, and can be heard across America in restaurants, bars, and public events.
But the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has a big problem with that. As it turns out, the “Happy Birthday” song is copyrighted, and the association has no problem filing grievances of copyright infringement. They did just that when they sent letters to 16 Girl Scout camps asking for royalties and threatening to sue for performing multiple songs, including “Happy Birthday”.