25 Weird Laws in the U.S
At Far & Wide, we try to be law-abiding citizens. Hopefully, you do, too. That's why you need to know about some of the weirdest laws that you might break completely by accident.
Lots of wacky laws have been written over the years, and they were all written for a reason. Someone, at some point, did something so nutty that people felt compelled to make it illegal.
Admittedly, most of these weird laws are either unlikely to be enforced or unlikely to come up in the first place. But don't worry — unless you're in the habit of taking naps in cheese factories or wrestling bears, you're probably not breaking any of these weird laws in the U.S.
25. You Can’t Drive Blindfolded
Where this law exists: Alabama
Year enacted: 1980
Final verdict: At first read, this weird law seems like it should come with a hilarious reason. The fact that it needed to be made a law means that someone tried it, doesn’t it? We wish this one had a more interesting backstory, but the full law actually makes sense: “No person shall drive a vehicle when it is loaded or when there are in the front seat such a number of persons as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or as to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.”
To translate, you can’t have so much stuff in your car that it blocks your view. A second clause specifies that passengers can’t position themselves in such a way that it impedes the driver’s peripheral vision.
24. You Can’t Let Your Donkey Sleep in the Bathtub
Where this law exists: Arizona
Year enacted: 1924
Final verdict: Where else would he sleep? A barn? How inhumane! This wacky law came about almost a century ago when a ranch owner’s donkey had gotten in the habit of sleeping in the bathtub. Unfortunately, when a local dam broke, the house flooded, and the bathtub floated away, donkey and all. Sounds like an amusement park ride for the donkey, but apparently the town didn’t see it that way.
After the donkey was rescued, the town passed one of the weirdest laws in the country, which forbids donkeys from sleeping in bathtubs. It’s fine for them to take a bath in one, though. Just don’t let them take a snooze in the process, or you might be slapped with a fine.
23. You Can’t Keep a Couch On Your Porch
Where this law exists: Colorado
Year enacted: 2002
Final verdict: Idiotic college students are to blame for this one. What a shocker. Students at the University of Colorado kept getting too lit at frat parties (pun intended). After one too many drunken parties ended in stealing and subsequently burning couches left on porches, the city of Boulder, Colorado took action.
The ban on porch couches is still active in 2021. Why couldn’t they have just forbidden bonfires? Or parties on campus? It’s not like it was the couches’ fault.
22. If a Pickle Doesn’t Bounce, You Can’t Sell It
Where this law exists: Connecticut
Year enacted: 1948
Final verdict: Do you know how to tell if a pickle is legit? See if it bounces. Apparently, two pickle farmers were caught selling pickles that weren’t fit for human consumption back in the 1940s.
The only problem was that no one had defined exactly what qualities a pickle must have to pass inspection. Local officials decided that bouncy pickles were fresher than those that just flopped onto the ground when dropped, and so the law was born. And, yes, two men were fined for having woefully floppy pickles.
21. You Can’t Put a Coin In Your Ear
Where this law exists: Hawaii
Year enacted: 1900
Final verdict: No, someone didn't get a coin stuck in their ear. The reason for this law comes down to respect for cultural traditions.
When Hawaii joined the United States in 1900, it still had its own coinage. Many elements of Hawaiian culture were repressed, so understandably, native Hawaiians didn’t want their coins stuck in people’s ears.
20. Underage Culinary Students Can Drink (Sort Of)
Where this law exists: Illinois
Year enacted: 2012
Final verdict: In 2012, Illinois decided it was OK for culinary students to sample alcoholic beverages as part of their education, as long as they spit it out instead of actually drinking it. The law was fittingly nicknamed the “Sip and Spit” law.
We’d wager that most of the students have plenty of non-educational sipping experience already. This is one weird law that Europeans would definitely laugh at.
19. You Can’t Ride a Horse Faster Than 10 Mph
Where this law exists: Indianapolis, Indiana
Year enacted: 1975
Final verdict: This is one of those weird laws that has no clear explanation. It was enacted in the 1970s to essentially label horses as vehicles. The logic behind it must be similar to the logic behind cyclists having to obey normal traffic laws, only a little less sound.
“No horse shall be driven or ridden on any street in the city at a speed in excess of 10 miles per hour, and every horse shall be kept under control at all times by the person in charge thereof. Such person shall be subject to all applicable traffic regulations that apply to motor vehicles.”
It makes sense to require people to stay in control of their animals, but it’s not like there were lawless horses breaking the speed limit before they made this funky law.
18. You Can’t Marry the Same Man Four Times
Where this law exists: Kentucky
Year enacted: Unknown
Final verdict: This weird law sounds like something made up by a fed-up best friend. If you broke up three times, why would a fourth try be any different? Quit getting married. Quit getting divorced. Just quit it. Consider this law a sign.
We’re not sure what prompted the law to be made in the first place, but it’s not the worst law written. Luckily, after you’re finally over your ex, it’s perfectly legal to marry someone else.
17. You Can’t Surprise Someone With a Pizza
Where this law exists: Louisiana
Year enacted: 1999
Final verdict: If you’re trying to surprise your friend with a pizza, do it with caution. Sending someone a pizza can cost way more than the delivery fee but only if you do it wrong. This law was enacted to prevent people from being forced to foot the bill for food they didn’t order. It’s considered harassment, as it should be.
So, as long as you’re gifting the pizza to someone and it’s paid in full, it should be fine. If you’re just being a jerk, it’ll cost you $500. Plus the cost of the pizza.
16. You Can’t Park in Front of Dunkin’ Donuts
Where this law exists: South Berwick, Maine
Year enacted: Unknown
Final verdict: Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee are as American as it gets, and so is this weird law.
In South Berwick, Maine, the parking lot was perpetually jam-packed. It got to the point that it became a massive traffic jam and an ongoing driving hazard, so the town forbade parking there at all. Only in America would a donut chain require a new law like this to be written.
15. You Can’t Tell Fortunes Without a License
Where this law exists: Massachusetts
Year enacted: 1983
Final verdict: It’s tough to imagine fortune-tellers being taken so seriously that a law needs to be made about them. That said, some people swear by psychics and will pay top dollar for a reading from an experienced fortune-teller.
To prevent any old Joe from masquerading as one, though, Massachusetts requires fortune-tellers to live in the state for a minimum of a year before applying for a license. It’s nothing like passing a driving test, but at least it takes some work before a psychic can start selling predictions. Shady psychics probably won’t bother jumping through all the hoops.
14. You Can’t Serve Margarine Without Consent
Where this law exists: Wisconsin
Year enacted: 1895 (ish)
Final verdict: Technically, it was Wisconsin’s downright war against margarine that began in 1895. When it was first invented, Wisconsin banned the yellow butter substitute, thinking that it was a threat to their thriving dairy industry. The laws lightened up over the years, with margarine sales remaining a criminal offense until 1967.
One lighter margarine law, however, stuck around: Restaurants were forbidden to substitute margarine for butter unless a customer requested it for fear of triggering allergic reactions. Despite attempts to repeal the law in 2011, the margarine ban has stuck. Now, that's something Europeans can probably get behind.
13. You Can’t Sell a Car on a Sunday
Where this law exists: Michigan
Year enacted: 1953
Final verdict: This weird law is tied to religious beliefs. Michigan has a large Christian population, and in their faith, it’s believed that Sunday should be reserved for rest, family time and church.
So, hopefully, your old car works well enough to make it home from mass because you won’t be able to buy a new one until Monday morning.
12. You Can’t Have Muddy Tires
Where this law exists: Minnesota
Year enacted: Unknown
Final verdict: We’re not sure how this law originally came to pass, but we can tell you why. Dirty tires that leave a trail of mud on the street are considered a public nuisance.
That begs the question: Who had tires so muddy that people took the issue to city hall? Regardless, next time you camp in Minnesota, make sure to hose off your tires if you’ve taken an off-roading expedition. Or else!
11. You Can’t Wrestle a Bear
Where this law exists: Missouri
Year enacted: 2000
Final verdict: Here’s yet another weird law that we wish was a joke. Sadly, it’s not. People used to set up bear-wrestling rings. Before you worry about the people, remember that they signed up for the match while the bears did not.
The poor bears were also subjected to inhumane practices, like removing their claws and teeth, to prevent them from killing their human opponents. This law is weird, but it’s a very reasonable response to a very unreasonable, unethical practice. The law is still upheld today.
10. You Can’t Keep a Pet Rat
Where this law exists: Billings, Montana
Year enacted: Unknown
Final verdict: In most of Montana, keeping a pet rat is completely fine. In Billings, however, you can’t buy or sell a rat unless it’s for the purpose of feeding a reptile or bird of prey.
People called out the law as hypocritical and unfair since there was no such ruling against similar pets like hamsters and guinea pigs. According to one petition, the law was originally enacted in reaction to an unpleasant hoarding situation.
9. You Can’t Sit on the Sidewalk
Where this law exists: Reno, Nevada
Year enacted: 1995
Final verdict: Nevada takes itself a little too seriously sometimes. In Reno, it’s illegal to sit down on public sidewalks because the point of sidewalks is “to walk.” No, you can’t lie down on them, either.
Supposedly, it’s a threat to public safety. Exceptions are made for people in wheelchairs, participating in parades or having a medical emergency. So, you won’t get a ticket for having a heart attack. Good to know.
8. You Can’t Take Seaweed From the Beach
Where this law exists: New Hampshire
Year enacted: 1973
Final verdict: This is one of the weirdest U.S. laws because it’s almost entirely pointless. How many sleazy seaweed peddlers have you met?
Rumor has it that seaweed was once used as fertilizer and was “stolen” from public beaches in the night, but no one’s positive how this wacky law really came to be.
7. You Can’t Vote If You’re an Idiot
Where this law exists: New Mexico
Year enacted: 1910
Final verdict: Sounds great, doesn’t it? Why not outlaw idiotic drivers, while you’re at it, New Mexico? Unfortunately, this old law has some pretty outdated and unfair roots. The term “idiot” was once used to describe individuals with intellectual disabilities, making the law both archaic and demeaning.
The original law prohibited "idiots" as well as "insane persons convicted of a felonious or infamous crime" from voting, but a 2010 amendment reversed the ban.
6. You Can’t Wear a Bulletproof Vest While Committing a Crime
Where this law exists: New Jersey
Year enacted: 1983
Final verdict: Amended most recently in 1999, this weird U.S. law forbids criminals from protecting themselves from bullets with a body vest while committing crimes. It states: “Use or wearing a body vest while engaged in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit a crime of the first degree is a crime of the second degree. Otherwise, it is a crime of the third degree.”
Good to know. But that begs the question, what’s the point? We're talking about law-breaking criminals, right? “Wait, I can’t wear a bulletproof vest? I’m out. This murder is canceled," said no murderer ever.
5. You Can’t Drink and Play Bingo
Where this law exists: North Carolina
Year enacted: Unknown
Final verdict: We couldn’t figure out when this law was first enacted, but it reportedly hasn’t been updated in over 30 years. It’s a very real law, and bingo halls can be fined for serving alcohol. Similarly, bars can be fined for allowing bingo.
You can’t even have a beer in the same room as a bingo game, even if you’re not playing. Why North Carolina is so serious about their bingo games, we haven’t a clue.
4. You Can’t Trip a Horse
Where this law exists: Oklahoma
Year enacted: 2014
Final verdict: Why would someone trip a horse? Why? It’s basically a cow with toothpicks for legs. That’s just not right.
Unfortunately, people are terrible. Horse-tripping became a popular event, so much so that Oklahoma had to outlaw the practice, along with 12 other states. On the list of weird U.S. laws, this one we’d like to keep.
3. You Can’t Sleep in a Cheese Factory
Where this law exists: South Dakota
Year enacted: Unknown
Final verdict: Or you can’t lie down to sleep, at least. Standing up and sleeping is fine. The logic behind this weird law was that sleeping around heavy machinery was a bad idea.
We're not sure why it’s any safer if you’re sleeping standing up, but we’ll go with it. As long as we get that sweet, sweet cheddar. No pun intended.
2. You Can’t Share Your Netflix Password
Where this law exists: Tennessee
Year enacted: 2011
Final verdict: This weird law was intended for hackers to prevent people from selling Netflix login details in bulk.
It does that, but it also means that no Tennessee resident can share their password with anyone outside of their household. Not that any of us ever do that...
1. You Can’t Build a Large Building Without Displaying Art
Where this law exists: Wyoming
Year enacted: 1991
Final verdict: The point of this weird law was to help bolster state art agencies. New public buildings that cost over $100,000 have to allocate 1 percent of funds for art displays, thanks to the National Assembly of State Art Agencies.
Picasso would be pleased.