Laws of the Land
In a constitutional republic like the United States, each state has quite a bit of legislative autonomy. And, in fact, the 10th Amendment to the Constitution explicitly states that the “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” So, using these powers, states enact a countless number of laws every year.
But how many laws are too many? Winston Churchill thought that “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.” Churchill may have been on to something. Here are 10 weird state laws that are unnecessary, and in some cases just downright bizarre.
- Alabama – It is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle. Thankfully they decided to put this one on the books. I was getting so tired of driving through Birmingham and almost being hit by their infamous blindfolded drivers.
- Florida – It is illegal to sell your children. This is surprising coming from a state that is as pro-business as Florida. I mean, if you can’t sell your kids, why have them? You’ve spent all that money feeding and clothing them, and you can’t even get a return on your investment? Not in Florida.
- West Virginia and Tennessee – A person may not hold public office if he or she has ever participated in a duel. Well, that’s just no fun. I’m all for a spirited debate, but, in today’s political climate, dueling may be more appropriate. Imagine the ratings!
- Washington – The harassing of Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or other undiscovered subspecies is a felony punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. This one is a big win for PETIA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Imaginary Animals). Indeed, it is high time that people stop harassing large, out of focus monsters running around the forest.
- South Carolina – It is illegal for a minor under the age of 18 to play pinball. Don’t expect any pinball wizards coming out of South Carolina anytime soon.
- Wisconsin – Margarine may not be substituted for butter in restaurants unless it is requested by the customer. Also, butter substitutes are not allowed to be served in state prisons. Well, Wisconsinites have a long tradition of dairy production and consumption. And no one, not even felons, deserve margarine. It would no doubt constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
- Kentucky – One may not dye a duckling blue and offer it for sale unless more than six are for sale at once. Ok. I have no pithy commentary to add to this one. This law was passed in 1972, so I’m going to assume this was Kentucky’s efforts to stop hippies from selling rainbow colored ducks. If you are selling six or more of them, though, you’re good. Your guess is as good as mine.
- Arkansas – It’s strictly prohibited to pronounce “Arkansas” incorrectly. Although many words are not pronounced correctly in Arkansas in the first place, the state’s name is not one of them.
- Rhode Island – No one may bite off another’s leg. You are not allowed to bite off any other appendage either. I’m sure there is a Mike Tyson joke in here somewhere, but I’ll leave that to you. The good news is that if you do end up biting someone’s leg off, the maximum sentence is 20 years. That’s better than life in prison, right?
- Connecticut – It’s illegal to sell a pickle that does not bounce from the height of one foot. Who hasn’t been to a good old pickle bounce? Pro tip: if you are going to bounce a pickle, make sure that it is just one pickle and not the whole jar. The jar probably won’t bounce very well.
There is no doubt that whichever state you live in, there are some weird and obscure laws on the books. But in the end, laws are really just mechanisms to keep society civilized. So regardless of the weird laws that govern your state, don’t sell your children, drive blind folded, bite off anyone’s leg, and, for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t sell a pickle that doesn’t bounce.
Matthew Groner is a Staff Writer for Sporcle. He enjoys foraging for gourmet mushrooms and calculating the odds of the Kansas City Chiefs winning a Super Bowl in his lifetime.