10 Stupid Laws (Possibly Still on the Books)

stupid lawsCredit: skeggy (via Flickr)

Politicians do some downright stupid things. Sure, we all do. But these are the people who draft our laws — the ones who decide how the rest of us should live and behave. Maybe you consider wars you disagree with to be “stupid” decisions. Perhaps it’s the latest report of infidelity from politicians that’s getting under your skin. But today let’s have some fun and look at the lighter side of government gaffs by exploring some incredibly stupid laws that may still be on the books.

Please note that I am not saying all of these dumb laws are still in effect (or even were). But they’re examples reported for various states in the U.S. and some international laws as well. Maybe they’ll make more sense to you than to me. Or perhaps you’ll also find them good for a laugh.

1. In Pennsylvania it’s illegal to have more than 16 women live in the same house — doing so makes it a brothel.


I wanted to kick things off with an example of a dumb law from my own home state. I’m not sure if the specifics reported are right, or if it’s still the case (as opposed to an old law). But I do remember the topic coming up periodically when I was in college. It was a concern for sororities where groups of “sisters” would share a sorority house.


2. In Sweden it’s claimed that it’s illegal to paint a house without a painting license from the government.


Well, if that’s the case I’m glad I don’t live in Sweden. I just painted my place this spring, and am planning to do some more paint touch-ups soon. While this sounds like a pretty stupid law, I could maybe understand it if it’s outdated and became law out of concerns over lead-based paint or something.


3. It’s reported that in San Antonio, Texas it’s illegal to use your eyes or hands while flirting.


Why not just ban flirting altogether? Outdated, still on the books — I don’t know. But this is one where I can’t even begin to understand the logic if it’s true… not even in a historical context. You?



Credit: love♡janine (via Flickr)

4. Don’t send the kiddies trick-or-treating on Halloween in Virginia.


It’s reported that doing so is illegal. Again, I’m not sure if this is legit or current. But the idea doesn’t really surprise me. I know where I live Halloween trick-or-treating is very different than it was when I was a kid. They’ve put strict limits on the time kids can go out, and I seem to remember them deciding trick-or-treating should be a different day at some point — maybe if Halloween was on a school night. So no, if this is true, it wouldn’t really surprise me. Just for curiosity’s sake, have you seen changes in trick-or-treating since you were a kid too? Or do I just live in a dud of a town?



5. In Singapore, oral sex is illegal (unless it leads to the real deal).


Let’s be honest here. Sex laws can sometimes be the funniest. It’s usually a case of them being outdated, based in times when public opinion was quite different. And when it comes to international sex laws, I’m pretty “forgiving,” because I certainly don’t understand every culture out there. What sounds crazy to me might be perfectly normal there. But this one? I really hope it’s just a joke or at least off the books now. Oral sex is illegal, unless you use it as foreplay. Why do I suspect only a man could come up with that idea?




6. While we’re talking about Singapore, tourists take note: it’s also illegal to pee in an elevator.


Because apparently we need a reminder….



7. Way to go Fairbanks, Alaska! (They cleaned up filthy moose sex on city streets!)


Credit: gainesp2003 (via Flickr)

This is one of those reported laws that’s so incredibly stupid I can’t help but hope it’s true (because that makes it all the funnier). As if animals give a moose’s behind what our laws say. If it works, maybe my local officials can write a law that would stop those damned birds from crapping on my car.



8. In Canada, it’s reported that it’s illegal for clear and non-dark sodas to be caffeinated.


Ironically, just this morning I was talking to someone about caffeinated beverages (yes, my life is so relevant to my work!). I never actually knew that Mountain Dew had caffeine (haven’t had it in years either). It was pointed out to me that it’s indeed one of the most caffeinated sodas here in the U.S. So when I saw this stupid law I immediately thought of Mountain Dew. And I just had to look it up — is Canadian Mountain Dew different from “real” Mountain Dew? And it seems that it is (or at least was)! I don’t understand why the law was created in the first place, but I found it to be one of the most interesting. Yes. I find soft drinks fascinating. Shut up.



9. In Washington State, it’s illegal to use x-ray machines to find the perfect shoe fit.


The hilarity of this dumb law is in its specificity. Sometimes when you read about stupid laws, they’re actually just taking general laws and twisting them to sound silly (like a ban on large animals such as big dogs on a beach being twisted to say you can’t take a polar bear to the beach). But this one isn’t one of those. The law specifically mentions shoe fittings, and you can see the actual text of the law in the source for this one. I could completely understand a law banning any non-medical use of x-ray equipment because of the radiation involved. But to specifically call out shoe fittings? What were they thinking? I just can’t imagine so many people in Washington State trying to do this that they felt it necessary to make it illegal.



10. In New Jersey, it’s illegal for a murderer to wear a bullet-proof vest while committing that crime.


Well, I guess if you can’t get him on the other charges….




Remember to take these dumb laws with a grain of salt. They’re meant for amusement more than anything. Do you know more about any of these reported stupid laws? Do you have a favorite silly law that’s still on the books where you live? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Written by
Jennifer Mattern
Join the discussion

  • I lived in Washington state when I was around 5, back in 1950. When we went to the shoe store there was this machine that I loved – you stepped up and slid your feet under the lip and then you could look down at the screen and see your feet outlined in the shoes. I believe it was a flouroscope. Even when I wasn’t the one getting new shoes I would go take a look anyway. I suspect that they eventually figured out that this wasn’t good for growing bones, though I think we moved away before they were taken out of the stores. Am not sure how a flouroscope compares to an x-ray, but I bet that’s where that law came from.

  • The reason that fluoroscopy machines for shoe fitting were banned was because the design of the devices incorporated only a minor amount of shielding, so that both the person being fitted and the operator would get whole-body X-ray doses — 7 to 14 R to the feet for a 20-second exposure, and 30 to 175 mrem at the pelvis for the same exposure; radiation exposure five feet away from these machines averaged more than 100mrem per hour.

  • here is a explanation of the flourascope. and how they are related to the x-ray machines:
    Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique commonly used by physicians to obtain real-time moving images of the internal structures of a patient through the use of a fluoroscope. In its simplest form, a fluoroscope consists of an X-ray source and fluorescent screen between which a patient is placed. However, modern fluoroscopes couple the screen to an X-ray image intensifier and CCD video camera allowing the images to be recorded and played on a monitor
    scource: Wikipedia
    from the Medical Dictionary: fluo·ros·co·py – Examination by means of a fluoroscope. Also called radioscopy

    it was a way of protecting us. since it was found to be dangerous for all who either used it. or worked the machines.

  • I live in stratford ontario, and the law about non dark pops not being caffeinated is definitely wrong. Normal mountain dew is caffeine free, but we have “dew fuel” which has caffeine. We also have 7up, cream sodas, orange pops and more, all with caffeine. Who ever made this up has definitely never be to Canada lol

  • In fact now that i read that website 12 of the 19 “Canadian laws” aren’t even close to true, and the “no working on your car on the street” is only partially true. canadians dont need to have rails for horses, nor are we given any when released from prison. We can play craps all we want, paint logs whatever colour we want, and unless there’s a sign saying you can’t, right turns at a red light are almost always legal. That websites a really bad source.

  • The Washington State law regarding the use of X-Ray shoe sizing likely had to do with the proliferation of the Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope Machine (1930-1940). This machine was widely used in shoe stores before the negative effects of radiation where known. Washington State was likely one of the first to outlaw the use of that machine. Makes sense. Read more here: http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/shoefittingfluor/shoe.htm

  • The UK statute books used to be full of strange laws, but they had a clean-up some years back, and removed most of them.

    Like: If you caught a Welshman within the walls of Chester during the hours of darkness, it was perfectly legal to shoot him with a bow and arrow.

    And: It used to be illegal not to go to church on Sunday, unless you were practising archery on the village green.

    Mind you, a lot of our current health and safety regulations in the UK are still ridiculous

  • Yeah, as becky notes, the shoe-fitting x-ray machines were where that law originated from.

    (I can’t think of shoe fitting without thinking of that one Simpson’s episode:

    Marge: They need a good, stiff, all-purpose dress shoe. Something for church, but also for doctors appointments, dental checkups, piano recitals, building dedications, visiting elderly relatives, haircuts, and shoe shopping!
    Gil: Well, we have a brown shoe.
    Marge: You hear that kids, brown!

  • In fact the flouroscope did use x-rays
    X-Ray Shoe Fitting Machine

    Simplex fluoroscope machine made by
    X-Ray Shoe Fitter, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    and most likely used in a Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin shoe store, c. 1945-1955.

    At the same time, other research discovered that a high percentage of the nearly 10,000 fluoroscopes in use in the United States emitted dangerous levels of radiation for both customers and clerks. Various health and industrial hygiene organizations began recommending against using the devices. On November 24, 1950, Milwaukee became one of the first cities in the nation to regulate the operation and location of the machines, and in 1957 Pennsylvania became the first state to outlaw their use. By 1960, 34 states had banned the machines.

  • I live in Canada and I can tell you that Mountain Dew is definitely caffeinated. I don’t know where you heard that law but it’s completely false.

  • Yeah, the shoe fitting law was because in the good ol’ days, before we figured out that X-rays weren’t the healthiest things to be exposed to, shoe stores would have a machine that you could put your feet in and see how your shoes fit, using X-rays. Most of the time, when you have a weirdly specific law like that there’s a historical basis. My favorite “I wonder why they had to write THAT one” law comes from the California Title 19 Public Safety regulations. The signage for an explosives stockpile has to be positioned in such a way that a bullet penetrating the sign won’t hit the stockpile.

  • Actually, the law quoted here regarding caffeine in Canadian soft drinks was correct — to a point — until recently. Before this year, the only carbonated soft drinks allowed caffeine were colas and only colas (with a specific exception made for so-called “energy drinks”). However, as of March Canadian soft drink manufacturers are allowed to add caffeine (up to 140PPM) to any soft drink — including regular Mountain Dew, which was non-caffeinated. Mountain Dew Fuel was classified as an energy drink to get around the law.

  • Thanks for all the info on the x-ray / shoe fitting issue folks. Always nice to learn something new. 🙂

    As for those saying the Canada / caffeine law was incorrect, sorry but it actually was — and that’s precisely why the article noted that not all of these laws are necessarily on the books now, but that they were reported to have been at some point. Rallymodeller already gave some additional information, but it’s backed up by other sources as well. Caffeine in drinks like Mountain Dew is a relatively new thing in Canada compared to here in the US.

    Wikipedia has the non-caffeinated version as being current in Canada (as per the link below), but we’ve heard enough anecdotal evidence that it isn’t true today (and as Rallymodeller noted, it’s a fairly recent change). – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Dew

    It looks like caffeinated versions WERE available starting a few years back, but as Rallymodeller already noted, they had to be marketed as energy drinks. Here’s a blog post from 2005 detailing that and listing some of the energy drink warning label info that had to be included at the time – http://foo.ca/wp/2005/05/20/mountain-dew-becomes-drinkable/

  • “We also have 7-up, cream sodas, orange pops and more, all with caffeine”…i need to move to Canada, those are all typically decaffeinated drinks (like root beer)

  • Have lived in Singapore, the law regarding peeing in an elevator is quite necessary. In the projects, kids would often get on the elevator and relieve themselves. It’s quite disgusting but also quite common.

    I remember one story where they installed sensors in the elevators wherein once it was detected that urine was being expelled (don’t ask me how), the elevator would immedietely stop and go into lockdown mode while it notified the police.

    Weird but True.

  • Hello from Sweden..

    A little note about that paint law. You need permission (better word than licence) to change the appearance of the house to make a major difference. If you live in a yellow house, and want to paint it green, you need permission. You’ll get it most of the time. If you want to paint your house pink with blue dots, you won’t. It’s about neighbourhood aesthetics and stuff..

    You do not need a licence to fix and touch up the paint of your house otherwise. That law is slightly mis-translated.

  • I think it is funny that you would choose the X-ray law from Washington state, when a more irreverent law is still on the books. In Seattle, Washington, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon of more than six feet in length. Having grown up there, you have no idea the numbers of hours devoted to pondering that as a child. Who is tall enough to hide a pike under their trench coat? Was someone caught trying to smuggle spears onto the ferry? Why six feet, and not, say, four? I am pretty sure a broadsword is just under six feet, and even if not, this law doesn’t protect against other swords. So, was it written to protect the powerful sword swinging lobby? My other thought was cannon, but who walks down the street with one? Endless internal debate, let me tell you.

  • What I found odd was the trick-or-treating law in Virginia. I am currently living in VA, and I was shocked when I found out that law (possibly) existed. I came here to see if other people claim it right, and I think it may be. The last time I went trick-or-treating was about 2 or 3 years ago, and i never remembered any kind of law about that. You know, most of these stupid laws I don’t even think exist. Like, in Norfolk, VA someone said that after sundown, women must wear a corsette and be accompanied by a male. I guess I broke the law when I went there last. And on one of my iTouch apps (weird laws) it says that in one city in, I believe Pennsylvania, it is illegal for women to wear pants. I mean, maybe it was an amish city or something, I dunno. But, like you said Mr. Article Writer Dude, take these laws for a grain of salt, because I obviously didn’t get arrested before, and I don’t think I’m going to ever get arrested.

  • There was a law here in Missouri back in the horseless carriage days that when an automobile encountered a person on horseback on a road, the motorist had to get out of the vehicle and remove all four tires to let the horseman pass. It is my understanding this law was still on the books in the 1950’s. I don’t know about now.

  • Another note on the silly Swedish house painting law – it only applies to houses that are within an urban planning area (or city plan or whatever the term might be). So it’s still a bit silly, but not as stupendously daft as it seems at first. 🙂

  • When I was growing up in Detroit, there was still a law on the books stating that the operator of a horseless carriage was required to get out, walk to the intersection with a lantern and make sure that there were no approaching horses before proceeding.

  • As for the bulletproof vest bit (#10)–there are plenty of laws against criminals taking steps to make their crimes safer.

  • I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that in Sacramento, CA, it’s illegal to kick the heads off of snakes.

    Sacramento originally had wooden sidewalks, and apparently snakes would pop their heads up between the boards or through the knots. Kicking the heads off these snakes made for a mess.

    Like I said, not sure if it’s true.

  • Laws should be made to improve the level of discipline among the people. I have found some laws that are made in my area and are considered as legal. But these laws are really stupid. Some of these laws are.

    1. Dogs may not bark after 6pm.
    2. No vehicle without a driver may exceed 60 miles per hour.
    3. It is unlawful to walk backwards after sunset.
    4. It is considered an offense to shower naked.

    You can also find some more stupid laws from here.


  • i work in a fish and chip shop in the u.k and some lady rang up asking if i was serving fish, i knew what she was getting at straight away, i said yes and she replied did you know it was illegal to sell fish on a sunday under a medievel law, i said i knew that but the law is no longer in enforcement, though its still illegal, i also said to her that in york it is legal to kill a scotsman except on a sunday unless he is drunk or carrying a weapon with which you can kill him but not with a bow and arrow, i said are you going to go to york and kill a scotsman because its within the law, she replied are you crazy i said no but you must be if you have taken the time from your pathetic life to ring me up and recite a stupid law no longer in enforcement, millions of children dying of thirst and starvation, a recession that this world has never seen before and this idiot is ringing me up thinking she is clever, where have peoples values and mentality gone nowadays