Monday, June 20, 2016

Weird old laws on the books can still bite you

We've all heard of those old laws that are no longer relevant but are still on the books.  Things like on this site:

"If you're a woman living in Michigan, you might want to check with your husband before heading to the hair stylist. According to state law, your hair belongs to your spouse and you'll need his permission before you can alter it. When visiting Charlotte, North Carolina, don't plan on packing light. According to city law, you must be swathed in at least 16 yards of fabric before stepping out into public. Even in fashion forward New York City, there are laws concerning how a woman dresses. In the Big Apple, wearing clingy or body-hugging clothing carries a $25 dollar fine."

You don't think a person would actually be arrested for any of these technical violations, would you?

But you'd be wrong.
In Michigan in 1998, a man accidentally dumped his canoe, pitching himself into the frigid water.  The sudden shock caused him to let loose a string of curse words.

Unfortunately for him, back in 1897, Michigan enacted a law "making it illegal to curse around the delicate ears of women and children."

Also unfortunately for him, a mother and her two children heard him cursing.

Yep, he received a ticket, which was upheld at his trial.  He was fined $75 and ordered to serve four days of community service.

Fortunately for him, his conviction was overturned on appeal.  The judge wrote:

"Allowing a prosecution where one utters ‘insulting’ language could possibly subject a vast percentage of the populace to a misdemeanor conviction. We find it unquestionable that [the law], as drafted, reaches constitutionally protected speech, and it operates to inhibit the exercise of First Amendment rights."

More dumb laws


  1. Why are there so many insane laws. In my neck of the woods, there is a law that you may not walk your giraffe on a leash. What? So far, I have never encountered anyone with a giraffe here in Georgia. The law is in danger, I think, of becoming meaningless when so many unenforceable and bothersome laws are passed. How do you equitably apply a law that requires you to leash your dog but not your giraffe?

    1. Interesting point. Maybe giraffes don't bite? They sure can kick tho.