We have all heard the urban legends from across America about bizarre laws that may not be enforced, but have never been repealed. Some of them are archaic, some are weird and others are so specific there has to have been a story behind them. While many are little more than myths and rumors, there are a handful that are genuine laws still in effect today.
‘In Berkeley, California, it is illegal to whistle for a lost canary before 7am’
Most of us have experienced the gut-wrenching terror of losing a pet and almost everyone could sympathize with someone doing anything in their power to find their companion once more. However, it does beg the question of exactly how much of a disturbance was once caused during the early hours of the day in the hunt for their canary?
‘In Delaware, it is illegal to sell dog or cat hair’
As anyone who has owned a dog or cat will be able to tell you, the hair from your pets gets everywhere: on the couch, in the carpet and even on your clothes. For people with allergies, this can prove to be one of the most infuriating phenomena, and most would gladly pay someone to rid their home of all the discarded fur. But if you were, for whatever reason, to try to accept payment for said animal hair, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a $2,400 fine!
‘In Baltimore, Maryland, it is illegal to scrub your sink’
Spring has officially sprung, we are well on the way towards summer and many of us will be begrudgingly accepting the annual tradition of spring cleaning. After the stove has been scraped, the floors are shining and the dishes have been put away, the logical conclusion is to give your sink a clean. However, in Baltimore, this seemingly innocent act is a violation of the law and counts as pollution as most of the drains enter directly into Chesapeake Bay.
‘In Skamania County, Washington, it is illegal to kill Sasquatches’
The existence of the Sasquatch, or ‘Bigfoot’, is a divisive subject that attracts the attention of some strongly-minded folks. Some insist the legendary creature does indeed roam the wilderness, with sightings dating back hundreds of years, while others scoff and claim the sightings are misinterpreted or simply fiction. For the former category, it is perhaps some comfort to know that a bill passed in 1969 made it illegal for the furtive creature to be killed, threatening a year in prison or a $1000 fine.
‘In Idaho, it is illegal to indulge in cannibalism’
While one would expect such a law to exist in all states, Idaho is in fact the only state to implement an outright ban on the consumption of human flesh. Almost every other state has laws forbidding any of the actions that could lead to the act, like murder or the desecration of a corpse, without explicitly stating that cannibalism is illegal. Is there perhaps a more morbid reason as to why Idaho felt the need to make their position more clear?
‘In Louisiana, it is illegal to send an unwitting participant food’
While the average person might consider free food from a kind stranger a pleasant surprise, in Louisiana it could land you a fine of $500. While it may seem good-natured to send free food to strangers, the law starts to make more sense upon closer examination. The recipient of the food might not have the faintest idea who sent the food or how it could have been tampered with, for example, potentially leading to a liability-infested minefield of possible consequences.
‘In Tennessee, it is illegal to share your Netflix password’
Using someone else’s Netflix password has been a staple of the streaming service since its inception, and many people have never paid for a single month. But Tennessee, famous for being a hub of media content, has clamped down on sharing accounts for media streaming. Netflix itself has no such laws, and its terms of service simply state that the owner of the account assumes responsibility for anyone using their password. If you share your password in Tennessee, you could face fines, jail time, or – if you are found to be a password dealer – even charged with a felony.
While every state has its own stories about archaic laws that are still in effect, it is worth reiterating that many of them are not enforced, and have not been for many years. However, that does not mean that they do not carry severe legal consequences should you find yourself breaking them.
Perhaps it would be sensible to spend some time researching the laws of your state to make sure you haven’t been engaging in something outlawed 200 years ago!