The Weirdest Laws In Small-Town America
Laws should keep us safe, but human silliness and petty bureaucracy often derail the best intentions. For instance, the strangest small-town laws in America prove regulations don't always have to make sense. From protecting elephants in the Deep South to regulating the height of weeds in the Rockies, America's most bizarre state laws confirm the nation's penchant for overreaching Big Brother-ness at the micro level.
Weird laws are nothing new in the United States. Many of these stretch back hundreds of years - they are typically outdated and rarely, if ever, enforced. But these odd laws are worthy of a good laugh.
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Greene, NY: No Eating Peanuts And Walking Backwards At Concerts
This one is a real head-scratcher. The city of Greene, NY, specifically bans eating peanuts while walking backward, but only during concerts. Little evidence exists to put this law into any context, but it's safe to assume lawmakers saw the discarded peanut shells and backward-walking as safety hazards. Why the ordinance only applies to concerts remains a mystery.
- 2262 VOTES
Topeka, KS: Never Scream In A Haunted House
The city of Topeka, KS, has strict rules when it comes to haunted houses. They've implemented regulations that prevent attendees from screaming or creating any disturbances, ensuring they are "orderly at all times." Violating this law can result in a disorderly conduct charge, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to one month in prison, or $500 maximum in fines.
- 3227 VOTES
Wilbur, WA: No Riding Ugly HorsesPhoto: Jussi You-S-See / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 2.0
In the town of Wilbur, WA, equine appearances are important. The city has an active law making it illegal to ride an ugly horse within city limits. The local council has not discussed the reasoning behind this law. It's also unclear who's responsible for determining a horse's repulsiveness. But one thing is known: If you violate this ordinance, you face a fine of $300.
- 4232 VOTES
New York, NY: Jumping Off A Building Is Punishable By - Wait For It - DeathPhoto: Emiliano Marin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
When it comes to nonsensical laws, this one is near the top of the collection. In New York City, someone who jumps off a building can receive the death penalty - but only if they survive the jump. Many think the outdated law originally meant to discourage would-be jumpers from leaping. However, why would a double threat of death stop someone intent on jumping off a skyscraper?
- 5113 VOTES
Pocatello, ID: Not Smiling Is Forbidden
Pocatello, ID, passed a city ordinance in 1948 making it illegal not to smile. The community had emerged from a harsh winter, and the place's overall mood was downright depressing. The law was a lighthearted attempt to buoy the townspeople's spirits.
If someone broke this law, authorities would issue a tongue-in-cheek "arrest." Pocatello's ordinance has since garnered the nickname "US Smile Capital" - tough luck if you're blessed with RBF.
- 6156 VOTES
San Francisco, CA: You Cannot Store Your Own Belongings In Your GaragePhoto: DBPerko / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
Silly laws are not just the domain of small towns. San Francisco, CA, has an unusual law on the books - it states you can't store your belongings in a garage. Chapter 6 of the housing code explicitly declares public or private garages cannot store any items other than an automobile. Breaking this law results in a fine of up to $500, but as one writer points out, this is a tough law to uphold for San Francisco's many cyclists.