Three Laws So Weird You Almost Want to Break Them

legal statuteIt can be pretty difficult to understand the legislative intent of any particular legal statute for a variety of reasons. First of all, many legal statutes are written in Legal English, a dialect of lawyers in English-speaking countries that’s loaded with obtuse jargon, syntax, and odd punctuation choices. Secondly, some legal statutes are so old that they’ve lost their context. This means that the issues they were meant to rectify have since been resolved, rendering the legal statutes obsolete despite the fact that they remain on the books.

For these two reasons, you may come across certain legal statutes in your legislative history research that seem — in a word — odd. Listed below are a few examples for your amusement.

Bear Laws
Alabama, Alaska, and Missouri all have weird laws about bears, if you can believe it. In Alabama, bear wrestling isn’t only a terrible idea, it’s also a felony. In Alaska, it’s explicitly forbidden to wake a sleeping bear to take a photo with it. In Missouri, it’s illegal to drive around with a loose bear in the car — but a caged bear is perfectly acceptable.

Food Laws
Believe it or not, there are laws out there telling people what, when, where, and how they can’t eat their food. Thankfully, these are all highly specific, and more than likely will never happen.

For example, mourners in Massachusetts aren’t allowed to eat more than three sandwiches at a wake. Meanwhile, it’s illegal to walk backwards while simultaneously eating a donut in Marion, Ohio. Similarly, citizens of Carmel, New York can’t eat their ice cream while standing on the sidewalk.

Driving Laws
In Memphis, Tennessee, women aren’t technically allowed to drive unless a man walks ahead of them waving a red flag. Whether the action is meant to warn other motorists or to announce the lady’s passage with a special fanfare isn’t mentioned.

Meanwhile in Las Vegas, driving a car is still technically illegal. Before they became the primary mode of transportation for the vast majority of people, the city of sin made driving them illegal because the noise they made would scare the horses. The craziest thing about this legal statute, though, is that it’s still on the books because it’d be too costly to repeal. Naturally, everyone just ignores it.

If you’ve ever come across a bizarre legal statute in your own legislative research, feel free to share in the comments.