Strange laws in every state

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April 3, 2019
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Strange laws in every state

States have created some odd laws over the years, from prohibiting the sale of musical instruments on Sundays to outlawing fishing for trout from the back of an animal. Some of these laws are simply outdated, such as the one requiring public officials to promise they have never fought in a duel with a deadly weapon. Others have left some outright perplexed—it’s actually illegal for unmarried persons to fornicate in Virginia, regardless of age or consent.

Each state has its share of strange laws, but many of the ones seen circling around on the Internet are myths. Stacker researched government websites and credible news sources to bring you real odd laws from each state. Some of them have been repealed since they were created, but many of them exist and are still being enforced.

See the strange laws from your state to make sure you don’t get in trouble for taking a selfie with a tiger, for example.

You may also likeMajor laws passed the year you were born


The state banned card-playing, gaming, hunting, racing, and other activities on Sunday. Those caught doing so would receive a fine between $10 and $100, and face up to three months in jail or hard labor. This strange law was eventually repealed in 2015.


It’s illegal for a drunk person to knowingly enter or remain on a premises where alcohol is served. Police started enforcing the law in 2012 by arresting drunk customers and the employees that served them. 


Donkeys are forbidden from sleeping in bathtubs. As the legend goes, one man used to let his donkey sleep in an old tub. One day, the animal—while in the tub—was washed a mile down the valley when the town of Kingman flooded in 1924. The donkey survived the incident, but the town spent a lot of money, time, and manpower to rescue it. 


Even if you’re having the luckiest streak of your life, it’s still illegal for a pinball machine to give away more than 25 free games to a player who keeps winning. The law was formed to regulate gambling when valuables are being exchanged. 


Dogs are not allowed to pursue bears or other large mammals in California. The law went into effect in 2012 because some hunting practices were deemed cruel and unnecessary.


It is illegal to ride a horse while under the influence. In 2013, Colorado police arrested a man suspected of riding his horse while intoxicated.


Plagiarizing your schoolwork will get you more than just an honor court sentencing in Connecticut. It is flat-out illegal to sell a term paper, essay, dissertation, thesis, or any other kind of academic work.


It is unlawful in the second degree to sell cat or dog fur. If caught, one could face a $2,500 fine and be barred from owning a cat or dog for 15 years.


The state banned the controversial sport of dwarf-tossing in bars in 1989. It was a popular activity until David Wilson, a dwarf, died of alcohol poisoning. A legislator attempted to unsuccessfully repeal the law in 2011.


In Gainesville, people are required to eat fried chicken with their hands—one 91-year-old woman was nearly arrested for to trying to eat it with a fork. The law was originally passed in 1961 as a public relations stunt to promote the city’s chicken industry.


Billboards became illegal in Hawaii in 1927 through the efforts of local urban-beautification club The Outdoor Circle. There have been 18 exceptions to the law since it was passed.


It used to be illegal to fish for trout from the back of any animal in Idaho. The law was formed during the early 20th century, but it has since been repealed. However, it is still illegal to chase fish up or downstream.


Minors enrolled in a culinary program are allowed to sip alcohol beverages—as long as they spit it out afterwards. The law was passed in 2012 because culinary school directors argued students need to learn how to taste wine during their early years of school, regardless of whether they were 21 years of age.


Liquor stores are prohibited from selling chilled water and soda, but they can sell the beverages at room temperature. Lottery tickets and tobacco products are fair game, however.


It is illegal to try to pass off margarine as butter in the state of Iowa. The law helped maintain transparency through the butter vs. margarine debate as the dairy-free alternative gained popularity in the mid-20th century.


It’s illegal to catch fish with your hands without a permit. The permit only allows people to handfish flathead catfish—also known as “noodling”—from sunrise to sunset from June 15 through Aug. 31. Other states have deemed handfishing illegal as well. Flathead catfish are considered “top game,” and regulated as a result.


Public officers, legislators, and lawyers are required to take an oath stating they have not fought in a duel with a deadly weapon. The law was created in 1849 to deter men from participating in the once-popular tradition.


Florists are required to obtain a license in Louisiana before beginning work. The exam to obtain the license costs $150 and the licensing fee costs $75.


A person conducting or assisting in Beano—a form of Bingo—is allowed to play the cards for a player taking a restroom break. However, the law does not apply to high-stakes Beano.


It’s a misdemeanor to sell non-latex condoms through a vending machine. Doing so can cost you up to $1,000. However, condoms can be sold via vending machine on premises where alcoholic beverages are also sold. 


“The Star-Spangled Banner” must be sung or played in its entirety in Massachusetts. Failure to do so can result in a fine up to $100.


Adultery has been considered a felony in Michigan since 1931. In 2012, Portage police Sgt. James Myers was fired from his job for cheating on his wife while using a city-issued cell phone and email account during work hours.


It is illegal to grease or oil a pig and then release it with the purpose of the animal being captured. It’s also prohibited to release or throw a chicken or turkey with the same purpose.


Cursing in front of two or more people in public can land you in jail for up to 30 days and/or fined up to $100. The same consequences apply for being drunk in front of two or more people in public.


Up until recently, if you wanted to braid hair for profit in Missouri, you needed to obtain a license, which required 1,500 hours of cosmetology classes and could cost at least $12,000. This law was considered unjust, as it mostly impacted women of color. In June 2018, lawmakers signed a bill saying braiders would now (46 hours). 


Guiding animals onto train tracks with the intention of injuring the train corporation is punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and five years in prison. In 2011, more than 800 antelope and deer were killed on Montana’s train tracks during winter, but there was no mention of the animals being intentionally brought on the tracks by a person.


It is illegal for persons suffering from a venereal disease to marry. Until 2007, the state also required that women applying for a marriage license get a blood test for rubella.


Throwing objects from a chairlift is illegal in Nevada. The law was introduced in 1987 and applies to skiers and snowboarders.

New Hampshire

In 1973, the state banned collecting seaweed at night. Those caught doing so are “guilty of a violation,” but no specific punishment is listed.

New Jersey

It is illegal to wear a bulletproof vest while committing murder or another violent crime. Doing so can bump up the act to a second- or first-degree crime.

New Mexico

It is considered a misdemeanor to improperly use the National Anthem through singing, playing, or rendering the song in a public space. The law also applies to the official state song, "Oh Fair New Mexico.”

New York

It is illegal to take a selfie with a tiger. The law was created in 2014 to prevent maulings at circuses and fairs, where members of the public can interact with tigers. Breaking this law results in a $500 fine.

North Carolina

Bingo sessions are not allowed to exceed five hours, and only two sessions may be held per week at a single establishment. In addition, two bingo sessions may not be held within a 48-hour period. These laws don’t apply to bingo games at fairs, so maybe the state just needed to crack down on retirement homes.

North Dakota

Exterminating pigeons or other harmful wildbirds is considered illegal without a permit from the Fargo health department. They are subject to state-sanctioned pest control, however, because they are considered a public nuisance if they reside “within corporate limits” of a city. 


Underground coal mine operators are required to provide “an adequate supply of toilet paper.” The law was introduced in 1995, but one would hope it should have gone without saying.


It is illegal to wrestle a bear in Oklahoma, and doing so can cost you a year in jail and/or a fine up to $2,000. Horse-tripping—the act of causing the animal to lose its balance using a rope, a stick or another object—is also illegal.


Deer and other wildlife can often be seen roaming in cemeteries, however, hunters shouldn't see this as an opportunity. Hunting in a cemetery is considered a misdemeanor in Oregon.


Fortune telling is considered illegal in the state of Pennsylvania. In 2015, a woman faced trial for 55 counts of fortune telling, theft by deception, and theft by unlawful taking.

Rhode Island

A license is required to play professional sports in Rhode Island on a Sunday. Ice polo and hockey are exempt from this law unless they’re played in a rink or an enclosed building on Sunday.

South Carolina

Musical instruments, television sets, and jewelry are just some items prohibited from being sold on Sundays. It’s also illegal to sell clothing on Sunday unless it’s souvenirs, novelties, swimwear, undergarments, or hosiery.

South Dakota

In the city of Huron, it is illegal to create static between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. The law was created to ensure static wouldn’t interfere with the receiving apparatuses for television and radio broadcasts.


Albino deer are protected in this state, making it illegal to hunt, intentionally harm or trap the animal. It is considered a misdemeanor because albino deer are regarded as extremely rare.


Members of office mustacknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” Through this acknowledgement, they are exempt from taking a religious test in order to hold office.


For a long time, Utah required restaurants to put up “Zion curtains” (7-foot-tall barrier) between the bar and the seating area to keep patrons and children from being tempted by or exposed to alcoholic drinks being made. Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law stating that from July 1, 2017, restaurants can take down the curtains, but have to either ban minors from being seated within 10 feet of the bar. Alternatively, minors can be seated 5 feet away from the bar if there is a barrier.


It’s illegal to prohibit clotheslines in the state of Vermont. Clotheslines are considered a “solar energy device” under this law.


It is a Class 4 misdemeanor for unmarried persons to have sex. Even if it’s consensual and both parties are of legal age, it is still illegal to break this law, passed in 1950 although Lawrence v. Texas “effectively decree[d] the end of all morals legislation,” indicating this would not stand up in court. 


Playing online poker is illegal in Washington State, as is fantasy sports betting. A bill that would allow gamblers to place an online sports bet, but only if physically present at a tribal gaming facility, is currently with the House Appropriations Committee (as of April 3). 

West Virginia

Ferrets cannot be used to hunt, pursue, take, kill, catch, or injure wild animals. Those caught breaking this law may face a $100 fine.


Selling home-baked goods was only recently still illegal in Wisconsin, and committing this crime resulted in hefty fines and prison time. The law was overturned after a successful lawsuit in 2016.


It is a Class A misdemeanor to enter a mine or sawmill while intoxicated. Hunting while inebriated is also illegal—though these just seem like smart safety precautions.

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