Offbeat Adventure

These Are the Strangest Laws in All 50 US States

Laws are usually passed for a reason. Too many car accidents? You probably need some traffic laws. Is a particular animal species dying out? Make it illegal to kill them. But because it's often easier to pass a law than it is to remove it, some obsolete laws simply stand as evidence that something bizarre and horrible must have happened once upon a time. After all, how else do you explain a rule against catching fish in your mouth? There has got to be an amazing backstory behind that. Here are the weirdest, most hilarious laws in all 50 U.S. states.

The 50 Weirdest Laws

Alabama: Going to church? Take off that ridiculous fake mustache if you do — unless, of course, you don't intend to cause laughter. In that case, it's all good.

Alaska: In Fairbanks, Alaska, it's illegal to serve alcohol to a moose. Which seems reasonable, but why did they have to make a law?

Arizona: Your donkey has to sleep somewhere, but it's not allowed in the bathtub. This dates back to a tub-sleeping donkey who was washed away in a flood in 1924 (he survived, but they passed the law anyway).

Arkansas: You'll need a permit to feed your garbage to any pigs you happen to meet out in the world. If they're your own pigs, go for it.

California: If your frog dies during a frog-jumping competition, you'll obviously be distraught. The good news is that it's illegal for any of your rivals to eat your late amphibian.

Colorado: A porch might look inviting, but don't put a couch out there. This law was put in place to prevent college students from lighting couch bonfires.

Connecticut: There's not technically a law stating that pickles must be able to bounce in Connecticut, but a high-profile case of pickle fraud in 1948 revealed that the Food and Drug commissioner used the bounce test to test fake pickles.

Delaware: Cat shavers beware: You will not be able to sell your ill-gotten fur in the state of Delaware.

Florida: Most places, a "Beware of Dog" sign is just a fair warning and a crime deterrent. But in Florida, you can hang a "Bad Dog" sign in your yard and be absolved of any responsibility for canine attacks.

Georgia: Sort of like those Floridian dogs, Georgian llamas have carte blanche to wreak as much havoc as they care to. With very few exceptions, anyone who "engages in a llama activity" forfeits any liability on the part of the llama owner for injuries they might sustain as a result.

Hawaii: It might be a little unusual, but we're going to come right out and say the Hawaiian laws against billboards are a pretty good idea. Nothing kills the tropical vibes like a gaudy advertisement.

Idaho: Again under the banner of laws we aren't sure they needed to put into writing, Idaho wants you to know in no uncertain terms that cannibalism is against the law, except "under extreme life-threatening conditions as the only apparent means of survival." Maybe it's weirder that this is the only state that does outlaw it.

Illinois: Illinois is (mostly) landlocked, but it still has a problem with excessive fish and amphibian ownership. No one may own more than $600 worth of aquatic creatures — that's about 75 salamanders, if you're curious.

Indiana: In French Lick Springs, Indiana, a 1939 ordinance decreed that all black cats must wear bells on any Friday the 13th. It isn't clear if the law is still on the books or not, but this might trump the time an Indiana man tried to legally redefine pi as 3.2.

Iowa: The pride of every Iowa State Fair is the one and only butter cow (and its attendant butter statues). So it's not surprising that they take butter fraud very seriously. If you're spreading margarine or oleo, you'd better not claim to have the real deal.

Kansas: Despite the fact that the law explicitly outlaws the throwing of snowballs, Topeka mayor Bill Bunten made international headlines in 2005 when he declared his intention to overthrow the ban in a hail of powdery projectiles.

Kentucky: Some places have a tradition of selling artificially dyed chicks and baby bunnies around Easter, but not Kentucky. At least, not if you're selling less than six at a time.

Louisiana: When you're down in the Big Easy, nothing hits the spot like a big bowl of jambalaya. Word to the wise, though: If prepared "in the traditional manner for public consumption," the dish is not bound to follow certain sanitation codes.

Maine: If you're playing beano in Maine (not that Beano; it's a game not unlike bingo), you should feel free to take all of the bathroom breaks you need. The beano conductor will play your hand for you unless you're playing high-stakes beano.

Maryland: Pottymouths should watch themselves the next time they're on the Eastern seaboard. In Rockville, Maryland, they'll face a $100 fine for cursing on a sidewalk or road.

Massachusetts: You know how everywhere "The Star-Spangled Banner" is played, a dance party breaks out? Not in Massachusetts, where it is strictly forbidden to dance to the national anthem.

Michigan: Some states put down strict laws about when and where you can sell alcoholic beverages and other controlled substances, but in Michigan, it's cars that can't be sold on Sundays.

Minnesota: It might sound like a lot of fun, but oiled-pig catching contests are absolutely not allowed in Minnesota. The same law outlaws turkey scrambles, when the unfortunate bird is thrown into the air and players rush to catch it.

Mississippi: Okay, this is a very bizarre law (and one made specifically to make a political point). In 2013, governor Phil Bryant signed into law a declaration that no one could ever restrict the size of a cup for sugary drinks.

Missouri: If a bull or ram of a certain age is able to roam free for three days or more, at least three townsfolk report it, and the owner does not claim it, then anyone can feel free to capture and castrate it without facing liability for damages.

Montana: Our favorite laws are the ones that offer a glimpse of what life was like in eras past. Apparently, in Montana's past, train jackers stopping a locomotive with a herd of grazing animals was a major problem.

Nebraska: To be perfectly frank, this law seems illegal, immoral, and hard to enforce. But if you're following the letter of the law, then anyone with a sexually transmitted disease is forbidden to get married.

Nevada: Back before we wrapped our minds around how dangerous radiation could be, every shoe store was outfitted with an X-ray-based fitting machine. But you won't find any in Nevada — they've been outlawed since 1960.

New Hampshire: In New Hampshire, the seaweed that washes onshore can be collected and turned into fertilizer for a profit. But if you're thinking of heading out to the beach in the early hours before the crowds, think again — you can't collect seaweed at night.

New Jersey: Bulletproof vests are legal in New Jersey unless you're wearing one while committing a crime. In other words, bank robbery is super illegal, but it's even more illegal if you have body armor on.

New Mexico: Indecent exposure is illegal to some degree almost everywhere, but in New Mexico, the law specifically mentions every body part that counts as indecent — and if you want to walk around with your butt hanging out, then go right ahead.

New York: Despite facing many legal challenges since being written into law in 1845, New York's regulations against wearing masks in public is still in place. You get special dispensation for costume parties.

North Carolina: Remember that episode of "The Simpsons" when Bart and Homer stole a bunch of grease from local kitchens? It might have been hilarious in cartoon form, but it was a serious problem in North Carolina until stricter penalties for grease theft were written into the books in 2012.

North Dakota: We couldn't quite track down this law in the legislature, but it's one of the most cited "weird laws" online: Allegedly, it's illegal to lay down in public and fall asleep without taking your shoes off first.

Ohio: Despite what you might have read elsewhere, it is legal to get a fish drunk in Ohio. But don't worry, these lawyers have plenty of other weird ordinances, like how you need a license to kill a fly within 160 feet of a church.

Oklahoma: Here's a blast from the past. In Oklahoma, the Cold War is still being waged in a state statute that claims that "there exists an International Communist conspiracy which is committed to the overthrow of the government of the United States."

Oregon: Apparently, at some point there was an issue with people heading into graveyards and cemeteries with a kind of deadly intent. In Oregon, it's illegal to go hunting in a cemetery.

Pennsylvania: The world is full of laws that say you can't buy, sell, or exchange a human being. But in Pennsylvania, they had to put the icing on the cake: You can't barter with a baby. The "good" news? It's only a misdemeanor.

Rhode Island: If you bite off the limb of a friend or family member, you could face between one and 20 years in jail — assuming you did so intentionally and with malice.

South Carolina: Pinball might not seem like the most serious offense the vice squad investigates, but you've got to be 18 or older to take a spin in the state of South Carolina.

South Dakota: The strangest law we could find in South Dakota was an ordinance allowing farmers to launch fireworks as pest control, but it was recently repealed. The strangest law we couldn't find any confirmation for at all was the oddly specific forbiddance against threatening a pacifist to change their beliefs by challenging them to arm-wrestling.

Tennessee: You know how you and all your friends share one account for Netflix, HBO Go, and Hulu? Not if you live in Tennessee, you don't.

Texas: Apparently, in order to run for political office without facing a religious test, a politician has to affirm their belief in a "Supreme Being." Sounds just a smidge unconstitutional.

Utah: We're not sure what was happening to bus drivers in Utah in 1999, but they apparently faced the not-insignificant threat of having things hurled at them at bus stops. Now, only security officers and officers of the peace are allowed to chuck stuff at buses.

Vermont: If you think you're going to pass legislation outlawing the use of clotheslines in Vermont, then you'd better think twice. The solar powered dryers are here to stay.

Virginia: They say that Virginia is for lovers, but the law books don't back that up. Fornication — that is, having sex outside of marriage — is illegal and punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.

Washington: In Skamania County, Washington, you could be in big trouble if you shoot a sasquatch. Not just because of the $1,000 fine levied by human officials, either — presumably, you'll have to stand trial in sasquatch court as well.

West Virginia: West Virginia lawmakers have some very specific ideas about the right way to go hunting. For example, you're not allowed to use drones or ferrets whether you're hunting birds or anything else.

Wisconsin: Here's a fun trick. Search for the phrase "highly pleasing" on the Wisconsin State Legislature website. You'll find there are many types of Wisconsin cheeses that must meet that standard to bear the name — and this cheese-loving Wisconsinite agrees.

Wyoming: The next time you find yourself purchasing junk metals, rubber, rags, or paper in Wyoming, lean in to smell the peddler's breath. You could be unknowingly committing the offense of buying junk from an intoxicated person.

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There's a lot more weirdness out there. Just ask Mark Moran. In "Weird U.S.," he explores the strangest corners of the 50 states. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Weird Laws from the Other Side of the Pond

Written by Reuben Westmaas September 4, 2018