Laws don’t always have to make sense. And no, we’re not talking about the Constitution or the U.S. Code or any of the political diatribes you may have seen on the news and social media. If you’re on the hunt for some truly wacky, totally-out-there laws, look to the small towns of America.
Did you know, for instance, that there’s a law out there prohibiting parking in front of a popular coffee chain? Or that there’s a place in the continental United States where it’s illegal for a chicken to literally cross a road? (No word on if that particular statute was passed for logistical purposes or to simply put an end, once and for all, to a tired joke.) Herein, we’ve gathered the 40 craziest small town laws—all legitimately still on the books in 2018—from around the country. And if you think these are totally crazy, don’t miss The 47 Weirdest Laws from Around the World.
Eating Peanuts and Walking Backwards During a Concert Is Banned; Greene, NY
Apparently, you can eat peanuts and walk backwards any time there isn’t a concert happening, but once the band strikes up, you better turn around and walk right in Greene, NY.
Illegal Not To Smile; Pocatello, Idaho
Pocatello passed this law after an exceptionally hard winter as a little joke and somehow managed to remain on the books. A local reporter wrote about it in the Idaho State Journal, and news of the law spread around the country. The American Bankers Association found out about the law and used the town in a national advertising campaign, which led to the town being known as the U.S. Smile Capital. The punishment for not following the ordinance is a joke “arrest.” And to find out more about how each state is different, check out The Craziest Fact About Every U.S. State.
No Fancy Bike Riding; Galesburg, Illinois
In Galesburg, Illinois, you have to ride your bike with both hands on the handlebars and no acrobatics or anything like that. Both feet must remain on the pedals, and don’t even thing about doing anything “fancy.” Riders under the age of 16 who get busted for fancy riding will be fined a staggering $1, which they have 24 hours to pay. After that, the fine goes up to… $3. And if the fine isn’t paid up after 72 hours, it then leaps to the rate that is charged adults, which ranges from $30 to $100.
Hitting a Vending Machine Is Prohibited; Derby, Kansas
The folks in Derby really want you to fight your every animal instinct and resist the urge to hit a vending machine, even if it rips you off. Doing so is a Class A violation, which is punishable by up to a year in the county jail. And to avoid vending machine rage altogether, discover The 5 Best High-Protein Snacks for Men.
Don’t Bite Your Landlord; Rumford, Maine
It should go without saying that you can’t bite your landlord, but apparently it needed to be said in Rumford, Maine, where they explicitly put that law on the books. Fighting with your landlord will earn your home the designation of a “disorderly house,” which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500.
You Can’t Paint Sparrows; Harper Woods, Michigan
Painting or dyeing birds in order to market and sell them as another type of bird is against the law in Harper Woods, where—and this is just a guess, for the record—somebody probably tried to make a fortune marketing gussied-up sparrows as parakeets. Selling painted birds is a misdemeanor.
Don’t Give Beer to Elephants; Natchez, Missouri
Once upon a time, a man in Natchez invited the town over to his place for a live elephant show. Turns out, somebody got the elephant drunk first, which inspired the town to pass this law. Interestingly, the law states that you can’t give beer to the elephant on the street. Maybe if you did so in your backyard it would be fine? And if you think that’s weird, you may want to take a look at The Strangest Law in Every State.
No Parking in Front of Dunkin’ Donuts; South Berwick, Maine
There’s no room for parking in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts in South Berwick, Maine, but that apparently didn’t stop people from trying, so the town passed a law. And that’s not the only law on the books featuring the Dunkies, which must be an extremely popular place to visit. It’s also against the law to make a left turn out of the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. Hopefully that business never shutters, or the city is going to have a few laws to amend.
Stay Off Ugly Horses; Wilbur, Washington
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you better make sure everyone thinks your horse is good looking in Wilbur, Washington, where it’s against the law to ride an “ugly horse,” whatever that means. Doing so is punishable by a fine of $300.
Fighting Words Are Okay With Cops; Boulder, Colorado
In Boulder, Colorado, it’s against the law to tease, taunt, or threaten somebody with the hope that your words will start a fight. There is one exception, though. It’s perfectly legal to say fighting words to a cop, until the cop asks you to stop, at which point you are legally required to knock it off. The law has been amended a few times over the years, to make sure it’s constitutional and doesn’t restrict anyone’s First Amendment rights, so now the intent to harass or annoy must be very clear.
The Chicken Can’t Cross the Road; Quitman, Georgia
In Quitman, Georgia, the answer to “why did the chicken cross the road” is “because the chicken is a criminal.” Yes, it’s against the law for a chicken to cross an open road. Of course, the chicken can’t be punished, but the owner will be held accountable for letting his or her chicken fly the coop.
Silly String Banned in Public; Southington, Connecticut
The use of Silly String in Southington, Connecticut, is banned at carnivals, parades, and public places. The ordinance banning the stuff was created after a bunch of parade goers sprayed a parade with Silly String, which stained clothing, messed up the paint on some cars, and nearly caused two police officers to lose control of their motorcycles. Using Silly String is punishable by a fine of $99.
Horses Must Have Tail Lights; Texarkana, Texas
A law in Texarkana, Texas, brings new meaning to the phrase “tail lights.” If you want to ride a horse through town at night, you’ll need to put some lights on its tail if you don’t want to be in violation of the law. If you consider a horse a vehicle instead of an animal, this law almost makes sense.
Everyone Must Own a Gun; Nucla, Colorado
In 2013, the town of Nucla, Colorado, passed an ordinance requiring the head of every household in town to own a gun, for safety’s sake. Felons, the mentally disabled, and “paupers” are excluded from the law, as are people who won’t own guns for religious reasons. (If you’re curious, the population of Nucla is, per the latest census, just over 700 people.)
No Ice Skating in June; Moline, Illinois
Ice skating on the Riverside Pond in Moline, Illinois, is against the law in June. It’s also against the law in August. It would be pretty hard to violate this law, though, since the average low temperature during the summer months there is in the 60s.
Screaming at Haunted Houses Is Not Allowed; Topeka, Kansas
If you’re going to a haunted house in Topeka, Kansas, try to maintain some composure. It’s unlawful for a person in the audience of a haunted house to make a disturbance. To do otherwise counts disorderly conduct.
Hot Dog Vendors Must Dress “Appropriately”; Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hot dog vendors in Fort Lauderdale need to keep their dress modest; they can’t have exposed cleavage, wear G-strings, or do their job in a bikini. The code also states “inappropriate attire shall also include clothing which shows the portion of the human female breast directly or laterally below a point immediately above the top of the areola with less than a fully opaque covering.” Clearly somebody put a lot of thought into this.
No Tailgating After Midnight; Fenwick Island, Delaware
Despite having no professional sports teams and a population of just 379 people, it is against the law to tailgate between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. In fact, it is illegal to even be in a parked car during those hours. Basically, the town of Fenwick Island wants you to go home.
Watermelon in the Park Is Banned; Beech Grove, Indiana
It might seem like the folks in charge in Beech Grove, Indiana, are out to ruin everyone’s good time, but they say watermelon is banned from parks because the leftover rinds were tearing through trash bags and making messes everywhere. Locals say the law is never enforced, but it’s too much hassle to take it off the books. Hence why it’s still around.
Don’t Throw Knives at Men in Striped Suits; Natoma, Kansas
If you don’t want to get stabbed in Natoma, Kansas, consider walking around in a striped suit. It’s against the law to throw knives at people wearing them. (That said, someone who throws knives at people probably isn’t the type to care if it’s against the law or not.)
Fried Chicken Is Finger Food; Gainesville County, Georgia
You are legally required to eat fried chicken with your hands in Gainesville County, Georgia. And unlike some of the other archaic rules out there, this law is still enforced… sort of. In fact, a 91-year-old woman was arrested on her birthday for violating the law, but was quickly given a pardon (and sentenced to come back to the county often and eat lots of fried chicken).
Whistling Loudly Is Forbidden; Waterbury, Connecticut
Whistling loudly enough to annoy anyone around you or inside their homes is against the law in Waterbury, Connecticut. If you do whistle too loudly, police can issue a citation, and the fee will be determined based on a schedule of fees made by the mayor and aldermen based on the city’s budget that year. So if you do plan on whistling to annoy somebody, make sure to do it during a year when the city is flush.
Don’t Ask for Money to Watch Someone’s Car; Tampa, Florida
If somebody in Tampa asks you to watch their car for them, it’s against the law to ask them for money, so either politely decline or do it for free. Asking for payment is punishable by a fine of up to $500 or 60 days in jail.
Dogs Can’t Mate Near a Church; Los Angeles, CA
It’s against the law for dogs to mate within 500 yards of a church. If your dog gets busted doing this, you could be fined up to $500. Just another reason to keep your dog on a leash in public.
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Honking in Front of a Sandwich Shop At Night Isn’t Allowed; Little Rock, Arkansas
After 9:00 p.m., please have some manners and don’t honk in front of any sandwich shops in Little Rock, Arkansas. The law also states that you can’t honk in front of a place that serves cold drinks either. Honking outside of a shop is a misdemeanor that comes with a fine of not more than $1,000, or double the sum for each time it’s repeated, which could get pretty expensive pretty fast if you’re really laying on the horn.
Frisbee Golf Is a Daytime Sport; Helena, Montana
Playing Frisbee golf—or “folf” as the city code calls it—at night in Helena’s business improvement district. It’s considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail. The city code has an entire section devoted to “folf,” too, by the way, so yes, they’re pretty serious about it.
Dandelions Must Be Under Ten Inches; Pueblo, Colorado
You can have dandelions in your yard in Pueblo, Colorado, but the moment they’re more than ten inches tall, you are in violation of the law. If you don’t cut down your dandelions once they get too tall, the city can do it for you, but they will charge you labor plus $100 to do it.
Don’t Whisper in Church; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
It’s against the law to whisper in church in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It’s also against the law to make too much noise within 300 feet of a place of worship. Yes, church is a very quiet place in Rehoboth Beach. If you are issued a citation for doing this, the fine will be at least $25.
A Husband’s Permission Is Required to Buy a Hat; Owensboro, Kentucky
Women in Owensboro, Kentucky, need their husband’s permission to buy a hat. The law was created in 1922, and frankly would be next to impossible to enforce today.
No Serenading; Kalamazoo, Michigan
A man can’t serenade his girlfriend without breaking the law in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is too bad for guys who’ve memorized the chord progression to “Wonderwall,” but great for literally everyone else. If you get busted serenading, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to either pay up to $500 or get 90 days in the slammer, if you’re found guilty.
Hats Can’t Be Worn While Dancing; Fargo, North Dakota
You can wear a hat to the dance hall in Fargo, North Dakota, but don’t wear it onto the dance floor. There’s an outdated ordinance that prohibits it. Likewise, it used to be illegal in Fargo for girls under 18 to go to dance halls, but that rule is also no longer enforced.
Snowballs Count As Weapons; Provo, Utah
It’s a illegal to throw a snowball in Provo, Utah, which must be a really hard law for kids to not break. Snowballs are categorized as “missiles,” and it’s against the law to throw them at people, or buildings, or just through the air in a way that might startle someone. The town averages 57 inches of snow each year, so there’s definitely a lot of temptation on the ground.
Peanuts Aren’t Allowed in Church; Boston, Massachusetts
Eating peanuts in church is against the law in Boston, probably because so many people were leaving discarded shells on church floors that it was easier to make a law about it than politely remind people every Sunday not to do so. (Yes, Boston is a bustling metropolis. But this law, for the record, was passed when it was but a small colony.)
Lunch Boxes Are Banned From Main Street; Las Cruces, New Mexico
It’s against the law to walk down Main Street in Las Cruces carrying a lunch box. No one knows why the law was minted, but it was, according to popular theories, possibly created to help local businesses.
Water Your Lawn Considerately; Sheboygan, Wisconsin
It’s perfectly legal to water your lawn in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as long as you do it in a manner that doesn’t annoy anyone. Once your neighbors have had it with your sprinkler system, you’re in violation of the law. It’s an offense against peace and quiet, which is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.
No Mustachioed Kisses; Eureka, Nevada
An outdated law on the books in Eureka, Nevada, makes it illegal for a man with a mustache to kiss a woman. This law was created in the late 19th century, and is no longer enforced.
Daylight Must Be Visible Between Dance Partners; Monroe, Utah
In Monroe, Utah, you can’t dance too close to your partner—and also maybe not at night at all. Enough space between dance partners for sunlight to be visible is legally required there. Otherwise, you’re being indecent.
No Funny Stuff Behind the Pulpit; Nicholas County, West Virginia
Church is serious business in Nicholas County, West Virginia, where it is against the law for clergy to tell jokes or humorous stories during church services. Obviously, this law is unenforceable, thanks to our First Amendment rights, so it’s nice to know that pastors can still get away with telling the 30 Actually Funny Clean Jokes for Any Situation.
Alcoholism Is Illegal; Sulphur, Louisiana
It’s against the law in Sulphur, Louisiana, to be an alcoholic. A “habitual drunkard” can be charged with vagrancy, which comes with a fine of no more than $200, or up to six months in jail.
Don’t Eat in a Burning Building; Chicago, Illinois
It doesn’t matter if you’re about to eat the greatest Italian beef sandwich the world has ever known—if you’re in a burning building in Chicago, you are legally obligated to leave the building before you can start eating. And for more on how much our country varies from place to place, find out The One Thing People in Every State Can’t Live Without.
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