While we all know that committing murder is a crime and so is robbing a bank or your neighbor’s home, some of the criminal laws on the books are a bit more out there. You might not think it’s against the law to carry markers or express your opinion, but in some states it is. Some of the laws on the books are just plain wacky and I’ve yet to see anyone actually charged for breaking them.
In 2003, the US Supreme Court ruled that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional in the Lawrence v. Texas case. That didn’t stop Louisiana from keeping anti-sodomy language on the books or from enforcing its own laws. In East Baton Rouge, more than a dozen men were arrested from 2010 to 2013 as part of a sting. Finally, in the summer of 2013, there was a push to fix up the law and the sheriff apologized to the men arrested. If you’re ever charged with sodomy, be sure to call a criminal defense lawyer. Since the Supreme Court’s ruled it unconstitutional, it’ll be hard to make the charge stick.
Vagrancy in Chicago
Another strange but true law: a person can be arrested for vagrancy in Chicago if they have less than $1 on them. I guess an easy way to get around this law is to keep a dollar bill tucked in your pocket or sock at all times, just in case you find yourself out in Chicago without your wallet.
No Bathtub Alligators
Just so you know, it’s illegal to keep an alligator in a bathtub in Arkansas. A few states over, in Florida, alligators are a protected species, meaning that a person needs a license and permit to keep one as a pet. In August 2013, a man was arrested and charged with alligator poaching, when his mother called the police to report that her son was keeping a baby alligator in the tub. The man claimed that he was holding it for a female friend, who hadn’t returned to collect it yet.
No Cohabitation in Florida
While we’re on the subject of Florida, here’s another crazy law. Chapter 798 of Title XLVI of the state’s statutes classifies living with a person of the opposite sex in a “lewd and lascivious” manner, without being married to them, as a misdemeanor of the second degree. In 2011, state representative Ritch Workman filed HB 4021, which would have struck down the law. Strangely enough, the bill died in subcommittee, meaning it’s still technically against the law to cohabitate in Florida. It’d be fun to represent a client who’s charged with the terrible crime of cohabitation in court.
Be Careful Where You Eat Fruit
In the state of California, you can’t eat an orange in your bathtub. Before you step into the tub, fruit in hand, I’d recommend making sure that all cameras are turned off and that no one’s watching.
Kentucky requires everyone in the state to shower or bathe at least once a year. This is another law that I’m not sure can be enforced. I would also hope most people would shower a bit more frequently anyway.
In contrast, Lander, Wyoming, limits the amount of baths people can take in the winter. Children are prohibited from bathing while adults are limited to one bath a month. This definitely sounds like a law that’s left over from the time of the pioneers and ranchers, when taking a bath meant heating up buckets of water and hauling them out to a giant outdoor tub.
Drinking and Commuting
Here in our home state, it’s against the law to ride on a train while drunk, according to Act 68 of 1913. If a person does board a train when intoxicated, the conductor has the legal power to arrest them. My recommendation: if you’ve had a bit too much to drink, call a friend to give you a ride home, or take a taxi.
Speaking of laws dealing with traveling, in Augusta, Maine, it’s against the law to walk down the street while playing the violin.
No Illegal Gambling
If you like to make bets or wagers with friends, be careful who overhears you. In 2006, Sal Culosi, an optometrist in Virginia, was ambushed and shot by a SWAT team. The reason? A detective overheard him making a $50 bet among friends, then befriended him and over the course of a few months, got him to make bets of more than $2,000, enough to violate the state’s laws. Culosi ended up being charged with running an illegal gambling operation and the result was a tragedy. The moral of this story is: don’t make bets with friends.
Keep Your Thoughts to Yourself
You’ve heard of banning books, but what about banning student’s essays? It’s against the law for people to write what others might find disturbing in Chicago. In 2007, a high schooler, Allen Lee, was charged with disorderly conduct after his English teacher deemed his paper disturbing.
Leave the Markers at Home
Carrying a Sharpie in your pocket or purse might seem innocent enough to you. But, anti-graffiti laws in New York City prohibit people from carrying permanent markers into public areas, if they have the intent of defacing any property. Be on the safe side and leave your markers behind if you’re heading to a museum or other public facility in NY.
Atheists Not Allowed
A law still on the books in Massachusetts can mean up to a year in jail for anyone who blasphemes against God. Although it’s still a law, no one has been charged with blasphemy in the state in a long time.
Your Eye is Not for Sale
It’s a class A misdemeanor in the state of Texas to sell your eye or another organ. Of course, if you’re looking to help out, you can always donate your organs after your death.
In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, pretending to sleep on a bench on the boardwalk violates section 198-30 of the criminal code. It’s also against the law to really sleep on a bench on the boardwalk. If your time at the beach makes you tired, I’d recommend checking into a nearby motel.
No Bingo for You
Being convicted of any other crime means that you can’t run a Bingo game in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. I suspect that law doesn’t cause any trouble for the majority of people.
Real Names Only, Please
Celebrities better be careful if they plan on staying in hotel in New Hampshire. Section 353:10 of Title XXXI states that using a fake name when checking into a hotel is viewed as an attempt to defraud.
Whether you’re charged with breaking a law, ridiculous and obscure or not, I’ll work hard to protect your rights.