The United States of America, the Land of Opportunities. For a long time throughout history, America has been a craze to many and still is. Even though throughout the recent years, its ‘greatest country in the world’ status may have been shaken, it remains to be a dreamland for many.
Like many countries, the USA also went through the building of their Nation. An integral part of it is framing of laws. The USA got its independence in 1776, and their constitution came into force in 1789. During and after this, the nation has managed to make exceptional laws and regulations. Even India has borrowed some great principles from the nation such as Fundamental Rights, Preamble to the Constitution, Independence of the Judiciary and much more.
Even with all this, there are some laws in the great country that raise eyebrows. This article is going to explore 10 strange laws in the USA.
- America and its Bigfoot obsession:
The legend of Bigfoot is as old as time and beloved by the citizens of this Nation. Bigfoot or even known as Sasquatch, is believed to be a 7-foot-tall hairy man, occasionally scaring humans in the forest. There are many stories linked to it and overtime, sighting/ spotting one became America’s obsession.
The obsession is so serious, that the National Guard has a web-page dedicated completely to it. Many started reporting the sightings of Bigfoot and eventually managed to get grainy “photos” and “videos” adding to the mystery. One of the major areas of such sightings is the State of Washington. The State Lawmakers took this so seriously that in 1969 an ordinance was adopted for the protection of the creature. Killing such a creature became a punishable felony with up to 5-years in prison.
Although this law was partially eventually repealed, a revised ordinance came into effect in 1984 (1984-02) which makes the legendary creature an “endangered species”. On top of it, an area in the State is also officially a “Bigfoot Refuge Area”.
- A Shared Netflix Account? Not Here!
It isn’t uncommon to see a Netflix account shared by friends and relatives, thus paying less per person. This is also true with other streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and others. Sharing passwords of memberships with loved ones is a common practice.
Usually, this problem is dealt with by the service providers themselves with techniques such as limiting the devices on each account. However, this did not sit well with legislators in the State of Tennessee. In 2011, the State amended its definition of the word “services” under their criminal statute to include “entertainment subscription service.” The Tennessee Criminal code, under Sec.39-14-104 and 105 criminalizes Sharing of Passwords for entertainment streaming services with fine and jail-time. It also empowers people to report others in-case they encounter such a heinous crime of sharing entertainment website passwords.
However, many entertainment services already seem to have a clause in their terms and conditions prohibiting such multiple device use. Only household members are exempted from it.
It seems unclear as to why the State pushed its nose in the private sector criminalizing password sharing. This is Strange as the law was actually pushed through with the help of recording industry lobbyists trying to stop illegal Music sharing. Further, such a provision would rather be seen as a part of Civil Law, majorly under Intellectual Property services.
- Murdering Someone? Well don’t do that using a Body Vest!
Sounds Strange, right? Well. In the State of New Jersey, it is illegal to wear a body vest – bulletproof body armor – when committing first degree crimes.
As ironic as it sounds, a person cannot be using a body vest while attempting, committing or fleeing after such attempt or commission of a first degree crime. This provision has been made under The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, Sec.2C-39-13: Unlawful use of body vests. It makes wearing a body vest a crime if one is committing most serious grade of offenses such as murder, sexual assault, kidnapping etc.
This is extremely strange because if a person is committing one of the most serious crimes in the Nation, then such accused should be punished regardless of what he/she was wearing during the commission of such crimes. Don’t break a law when you’re already breaking a law. Smart.
- Better say Arkansas Right & Don’t honk near a Sandwich Shop!
This is one Strange Law that may please the hearts of Mumbaikars. Just like many natives of Mumbai religiously preach, “It’s not Bombay, It’s Mumbai”, a similar feeling must have fueled this State Law.
By its spelling, one may think that Arkansas is pronounced as Ar-kan-sas; but in reality it is Ar-kan-sa. To make sure people take pride in its name, the Arkansas State Code, General Provisions, Ch.4, Sec. 1-4-105 – Pronunciation of state name, enforces it. The Statute gives the derivation of the name and explains its correct pronunciation. At one point, there used to be a fine along with incarceration if the name was said wrongly.
While making sure to say the name correctly, also keep in mind to not blow a horn after 9pm near a Sandwich shop. It is normal in many States to ban the use of horns near eateries during the morning hours of Sunday, so as to respect Church-goers after their service. However, this bizarre provision given under Arkansas Code of Ordinances, Sec.18-54 explicitly makes it illegal to blow a horn near a Sandwich shop. Not at any eatery- It must be a Sandwich shop. While it is unclear as to why, doing so may land a fine of $1000.
- No Halloween after 8pm.
Celebration of festivals is greatly loved by people of all ages. In the US, Halloween is one such time of the year. It is a tradition that kids (and even adults) wear costumes and go door-to-door trick-or-treating, thus receiving candy and chocolates from adults. This activity is usually done in the evening hours, after sunset.
In the City of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, it is illegal for kids under the age of 14 to be trick-or-treating before 6pm and after 8pm on Halloween day. Thus, the City is actually enforcing a time to celebrate the festival. The Code of City of Rehoboth Beach, Sec.198-33 provides for the same. It also states that in case of Halloween falling on a Sunday, the restriction is enforceable on the previous day, making people celebrate Halloween a day early.
One could have made an attempt to understand this provision in case it prohibited parents from sending their kids alone after sunset, but that is not the case. With or without a parent, trick-or-treating is to be done between 6-8pm or not at all. Breach of the same can carry a fine of $500.
- Georgia & their Chickens
There are two chicken laws in the State that just make one laugh. One of them is an actual provision in a statute while the other passed as a PR stunt; both enforced.
According to Sec.8-21 of the Code of Ordinances City Of Quitman, Georgia, any person owning Chickens, Ducks or Geese may not have them run around at large. Doing so will land a fine under the Statute.
The city of Gainesville made a PR stunt law back in 1961 in an attempt to promote the City as the Poultry capital of the World. This really made it unlawful to eat Fried Chicken with cutlery. If one wanted to eat fried chicken, it should be done using their hands only. Although it doesn’t quite carry a fine or incarceration, the police enforce it many times as a practical joke. One such time was in 2009, when a 91 year old was “arrested” and made to eat her fried chicken by learning the proper technique.
Bingo is a luck-by-chance game enjoyed by many around the world. It is also known to be a favorite pass-time of many senior-citizens who hold weekly gatherings just to play it. However, there are two States where there are strict laws governing the game.
The State of Pennsylvania has enacted the Bingo Law in 2017 to lawfully conduct it. Although it is a game of chance, one cannot necessarily call it gambling. It is just a simple game enjoyed by all ages. On top of it, the City of Bensalem in Pennsylvania, in its Code of Ordinances Sec.105-14 prohibits a felon to play Bingo. Thus, if one is a felon, even if years ago for smaller crimes, such a person may not play or conduct Bingo. This also includes violators of the Bingo Law.
Next, the State of North Carolina puts a bar on the number of hours one can play Bingo. It’s General Statute under Sec.14-309.8 – 8 states that no person shall play more than 10 hours of Bingo each week. Even the organization holding such Bingo cannot hold it for more than 5hrs each session and no 2 sessions in a period of 48hrs. This is so that gambling can be limited. Legal action can be taken on such persons.
Who knew a person could break the law on a simple game of Bingo!
- No Road Rage Cursing in this State
It is very normal to hear angry drivers hurling abuses at one another in the event of rash driving. This is entirely prohibited in the State of Maryland. In fact, this is not just while driving, rather profanity and obscene language to be used “upon or near any street, sidewalk or highway within the hearing of persons passing by, upon or along such street, sidewalk or highway.”
Thus, being clear in your language is a must. No person should hear curse words or abuses on the street, road or highway, thus making it a felony. A person breaking this law can get up to 6 months in prison and $1000 in fines.
- No Greasy Pigs and No bird throwing
The Minnesota Statute Sec.343-36: Greased Pig Contests and Turkey Scrambles. Yes, the provision is as weird as it sounds.
The Minnesota State criminalizes the practice of greasing a pig and conducting/ participating in contests where such pig is to be captured. It really makes a person wonder what sort of games people must be playing, running behind an oil-coated pig.
The second part, ‘Turkey Scrambles’ criminalizes the practice of throwing a turkey or a chicken in the air where the object is to capture them mid-air. One can only wonder as to why people find it amusing to throw a 10kg, 3ft tall bird in the air.
- Don’t get drunk in a Bar!
A bar is said as a place in which refreshments and drinks are served, thus consumed.
It is very natural that people go to a bar and get drunk. While in many places it is common for bartenders and servers to deny serving more drinks if a customer crosses the safe limit.
However, in the State of Alaska it is completely prohibited for a drunk to “knowingly” enter a bar under Sec. 04.16.040 of the Alaska Statute. It also states that a person cannot knowingly remain in a bar if they get drunk.
Seems quite ironic to not allow people to get drunk at places where people go to get drunk.
The list actually goes on. One can find a list of weird laws coming from every state of the country. Some others also include things like not getting a Moose drunk, no stealing of catfish, to even some obvious laws expressly stated, like no selling of children in Florida, and no nuclear bombs in California.
Many-a-times, it’s not just one law, but multiple strange and laughable laws. Some originate from the long standing history, while others just have a funny story behind them. People have also realized the weirdness of some of them and are not strictly enforced, but are also not repealed.
Rajat Rajan Singh
Advocate at Allahabad High Court Lucknow
Editor in Chief at Law Trend
Sai Kulkarni- Intern