The 38 Weirdest Laws From Across the U.S.
These surprising statutes and regulations will blow your mind.
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 the absolute weirdest laws on the books, look to the small towns of America. Did you know, for instance, that there's a law that prohibits 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.) Read on to learn about more super strange laws and where you would have to abide by them.
Out-There, Totally Weird Laws in the U.S.
1. Frowning is illegal in this Idaho town.
Pocatello, Idaho passed this weird law after an exceptionally hard winter as a little joke, and it 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."
2. Underage culinary students are allowed to drink wine in Illinois.
Culinary students in Illinois are technically allowed to drink while underage, but only if they agree to spit it right back out. The bill, which was dubbed "Sip and Spit," authorizes students over the age of 18 but still under the legal drinking age to use alcohol as part of their education but prevents them from becoming intoxicated. Unfortunately, those attending culinary school in other parts of the country are still limited to non-alcoholic options.
3. Hitting a vending machine is prohibited in 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.
4. Biting your landlord is banned in 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.
5. Painting sparrows is prohibited in this part of Michigan.
Painting or dyeing birds 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.
6. Giving beer to elephants is banned in Mississippi.
Once upon a time, a man in Natchez, Mississippi invited folks 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?
7. Parking in front of Dunkin' is not allowed in South Berwick, Maine.
There's no room for parking in front of the Dunkin' in South Berwick, Maine, but that apparently didn't stop people from trying, so the town passed a law about it. And that's not the only law on the books featuring Dunkin', which must be an extremely popular place to visit. Another law prohibits Chicago drivers from making a left turn out of another Dunkin' parking lot. Hopefully, that business never shutters or the city is going to have a few laws to amend.
8. Riding ugly horses is illegal in 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.
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9. Fighting words are not allowed in Boulder, Colorado—unless it's with the cops.
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.
10. You can have roadkill for dinner in West Virginia.
According to West Virginia State Code §20-2-4, you are allowed to keep and cook any animal accidentally killed on the road—so long as you tell law enforcement within 12 hours from when the incident occurred. You must also obtain a free permit from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR). However, not every wild animal will make it onto the menu. Protected birds, elk, spotted fawn, and bear cubs are not allowed to be taken home.
11. Letting chickens cross the road is forbidden in 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 in this part of the Peach State. Of course, these chickens can't be punished, but the owner will be held accountable for letting his or her chicken fly the coop.
12. Fancy bike riding is banned in parts of Illinois.
In Galesburg, Illinois, you have to ride your bike with both hands on the handlebars and cannot do any acrobatics. Both feet must remain on the pedals, and don't even think 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 to adults, which ranges from $30 to $100.
13. Playing with silly-string is banned in public in this part of Connecticut.
The use of Silly String is banned in Southington, Connecticut at carnivals, parades, and public spaces. The ordinance banning the stuff was created after a bunch of people sprayed a parade with Silly String, which stained clothing, messed up the paint on some motor vehicles, and nearly caused two police officers to lose control of their motorcycles. Using Silly String is punishable by a fine of $99.
14. Owning a gun is mandatory in this Colorado town.
In 2013, the town of Nucla, Colorado, passed an ordinance requiring the head of every household in town to own a gun, for the sake of public safety. 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, less than 600 people.)
15. Ice skating is forbidden in June and August in Moline, Illinois.
Ice skating on the Riverside Pond in Moline, Illinois, is against the law in June and 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.
16. Dressing "inappropriately" is outlawed if you're a hot dog vendor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Hot dog vendors in Fort Lauderdale need to keep their outfits modest; they can't have exposed cleavage, wear G-strings, or do their job in a bikini, according to the Sun Sentinel.
17. Tailgating is illegal after midnight on Fenwick Island, Delaware.
Despite having no professional sports teams and a population of just 437 people, it is against the law to tailgate between the hours of midnight and 6 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.
18. Eating watermelon in the park is banned in this Indiana town.
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 of a hassle to take it off the books. Hence why it's still around.
19. You can't use livestock to damage trains in Montana.
Montana law specifically states that farmers or anyone else with access to livestock may not use the herd to harm corporations or persons associated with the railroad. Intentionally driving animals onto a railroad track can result in either a $50,000 fine or up to five years in prison.
20. Eating fried chicken with a fork is forbidden in parts of Georgia.
You are legally required to eat fried chicken with your fingers 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).
21. Horses must not exceed 10 mph in Indiana.
Anyone traveling by horse throughout the state of Indiana must limit their pace to 10 miles per hour or less, according to the state judiciary. The law, which was passed back in 1975, is believed to have helped reduce the chances of a "public nuisance" breaking out on account of horse racing.
22. Whistling loudly is forbidden in Waterbury, Connecticut.
Whistling (or singing) 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.
23. Letting dogs mate near a church is a violation in Los Angeles, California.
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.
24. In Washington, it's illegal to give someone your cold.
At least, not on purpose. According to the state's RCW 70.54.050, intentionally exposing anyone to an infectious disease—including the common cold—is considered a misdemeanor crime. Exceptions are only made when said exposure is deemed "necessary" and done in a manner that does not endanger public health.
25. Women need written permission from their husbands before getting false teeth in Vermont.
Yes, that's an actual law and it actually applies to the entire state of Vermont (although it is no longer enforced). The ruling stems from the case of Gilman v. Andrus, which went to the Vermont Supreme Court back in 1865. The details involve a set of false teeth and a husband unwilling to pay the bill. The legislature at the time figured the best path forward was to pass a law requiring women to provide their dentists with a permission note penned by their husbands before ordering dentures.
26. Honking in front of a sandwich shop at night isn't allowed in Little Rock, Arkansas.
After 9 p.m., please have some manners, and don't honk your horn 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 expensive pretty fast if you're really laying on the horn.
27. Growing dandelions over 10 inches is banned in this part of Colorado.
You can have dandelions in your yard in Pueblo, Colorado, but the moment they're more than 10 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.
28. Whispering in church is wrongful behavior in this Delaware town.
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.
29. Dancing with a hat on is illegal in Fargo, North Dakota.
You can wear a hat to a club in Fargo, North Dakota, but don't wear it on 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.
30. Throwing snowballs count as weapon use in parts of Utah.
It's 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, buildings, and through the air in a way that might startle someone. The town averages 43 inches of snow each year, so there's definitely a lot of temptation on the ground.
31. Bringing peanuts to church is prohibited in 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).
32. Carrying a lunch box is banned in some parts of 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, it was possibly created to help local businesses.
33. Dancing too close to another person is prohibited in this Utah town.
In Monroe, Utah, you can't dance too close to your partner—and also maybe not at night at all. There must be enough space between dance partners for sunlight to be visible. Otherwise, you're being indecent, according to the law.
34. Being an alcoholic is illegal in some parts of 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.
35. Eating peanuts and walking backward during a concert is banned in this area of New York.
Apparently, you can eat peanuts and walk backward any time there isn't a concert happening in Greene, New York, but once the band strikes up, you better turn around and walk right.
36. Eating in a burning building is banned in 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.
37. You can't seduce someone under the promise of marriage if you don't mean it in South Carolina.
According to South Carolina's Code of Ethics, any man 16 years or older is strictly prohibited from seducing single women with promises of marriage without the intention to actually follow through. According to state literature, the crime is punishable by up to one year in prison.
38. You can't collect seaweed after dark in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire's Fish and Game Laws Title XVIII has a list of specifications regarding seaweed collection, which state that no resident may participate in the activity past dark and below the high water mark. If you think you might have better luck grabbing the goods from a salt marsh or flat instead, think again. Doing so "without leave of the owner" is also prohibited under the law.
That's it for our list of weird U.S. laws, but be sure to check back with us soon for even more trivia. You can also sign up for our newsletter so you don't miss out on what's next.