Weird Laws That Still Exist
Here are the weirdest laws in history and some crazy laws that still exist around the world!Society
From telling you which side of the road to drive on, to punishing people for stealing your iPhone, the law is the rulebook that keeps ordered society from descending into chaos. Laws have been laid down for hundreds of years, and some of them were seriously strange; from banning crying at funerals to making Christmas illegal!
But while they may seem outdated, unbelievably some of them are still in force today, alongside newer stupid laws. From fake mustache misdemeanors to poop emoji jail time, let's explore some of the weirdest laws that have ever existed!
Weirdest Laws From Ancient Times
In most parts of the world today, the rule is that you’re considered innocent until proven guilty. Over 5000 years ago, in ancient Egypt, they played the uno reverse card on that assumption, and you were guilty until proven innocent. That’s because they believed a truly innocent person would never have been accused of a crime in the first place.
Worse still were the punishments; instead of serving long sentences behind bars, those found guilty could be exiled to Nubia and put to grueling work in the mines. Although most crimes in ancient Egypt are still recognizable offenses today, such as theft and homicide.
Meanwhile in ancient China, they had a whole series of peculiar laws to punish bizarre acts! In the Yuan dynasty that lasted from 1279 to 1368 AD, butchers had to be careful how they displayed their chickens, as it was illegal to hang one upside down! To do so was seen as disrespecting the emperor, whose zodiac sign was the rooster.
And while these days men like Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr want to appear taller, in the ancient Qin Dynasty that ruled China from 221 to 206 BC, everyone wanted to be Danny Devito’s height! According to the “Eighteen Laws of Qin”, men under 4ft 11 and women under 4ft 8 couldn’t be convicted of any crime!
That’s because birth records of the time were incomplete, so it was difficult to verify one’s age, and therefore height was used instead. So, if someone was planning a crime spree in ancient China, it was best to deploy the trick of tying their shoes around their knees!
But if someone got caught stealing, the worst thing they could do is turn on the waterworks. Under the Qin dynasty, men were forbidden to cry! If an adult man was found crying in public, his beard and eyebrows would be shaved off as punishment!
Because the Qin dynasty was well known for its worship of warrior traditions, it’s believed tears were seen as a weakness, and so this mutilation reflected the temporary loss of the martial spirit.
Over 2000 years ago, the ancient Romans were even stricter, and banned women from crying at funerals! A harsh law to have, but one that served a purpose to prevent funerals getting out of hand. A Roman funeral usually involved a procession, where people would walk down the street with the body. The more people crying meant the more the person was missed.
So, to impress neighbors, wealthy families would hire actors to scream and cry, and even pull out their own hair. The dramatic performances got so extreme that a law had to be passed banning women crying at funerals to prevent families hiring actors!
Weird Laws In The US
The forefathers of the USA laid down the constitution in 1787 to govern all American states. Article 6, Paragraph 2 of the US Constitution asserts the supremacy of federal law over state law, though this is only for state laws that directly contradict the constitution.
Which, in true gun toting, flag waving, Walmart buying American fashion, means there’s nothing to stop state governors from laying down some very specific, and ridiculous, state laws!
For instance, most American teenagers spend their days making TikToks or playing video games, but not this kid in the clip below! Instead of a PlayStation, this kid’s decided to solve his boredom by pouring salt on railroad tracks.
Weird as it seems, this is actually a niche act of teenage rebellion, because thanks to a law passed back in the 19th century, it’s illegal to pour salt on a railway track in Alabama. Very specific, but it did once serve a purpose when Alabama was an open-range state with cattle roaming the land.
Farmers would lure sick cows to the tracks with a tasty salt lick. After the cow was hit by a train, the farmers would sue the railway company for compensation of the price of a healthy cow. So, the law was passed to bring this salty scam to an end.
While this is a state law with an extremely narrow purpose, other state laws have been brought in to apply to literally one person. Such as in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1917 where one tavern owner kept bringing his pet moose into the bar and getting it drunk, before allowing it to go on drunken rampages across town!
Officials weren’t a-moosed by this behavior, and unable to pass a law keeping moose sober, they instead made it illegal for a moose to be on a sidewalk, which prevented the moose from entering the bar! Weird state laws aren’t just a thing of the last century, though.
According to Alabama’s state legislature under section 13A-12-1, it’s still illegal to wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in a church! And since Alabama’s a bible belt state, don’t even think about dressing up like a priest for Halloween! Otherwise, you could end up with a $500 fine or a 1-year jail sentence.
Technically, under the state code, it’s illegal to dress up like a priest or impersonate any member of a religious clergy on any day of the year. So, no Friar Tuck or Sister Act extras here. And Alabama isn’t the only state to get tough on Halloween.
In the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, it’s illegal for anyone over the age of 14 to go trick or treating to supposedly prevent hooliganism! It’s classified as a Class 4 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $250! The same fine also applies for trick or treating past 8pm. This is a city where officials are just anti-fun.
Meanwhile, in Louisiana, sending a friend a meat lover’s pizza could serve you with a $500 fine! That’s because under Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:68.6, it’s considered harassment, as you’re trying to stick someone with the bill for something they didn’t order.
For even stricter food laws, hop a couple states over to the city of Gainesville, Georgia, where it’s illegal to eat fried chicken with a knife and fork!
Luckily, this law is rarely enforced because it was brought in as part of a PR campaign in 1961 to make Georgia the fried chicken capital of the US. However, this publicity stunt failed, because in America the undisputable king of fried chicken is KFC, and that K stands for Kentucky!
Another state law that has never been enforced is one that applies to a mythical creature! In Skamania County, Washington, it’s illegal to kill bigfoot. Not because he isn’t real, but because he’s technically classified as an endangered species!
Yet another reason for all those bigfoot conspiracists to be disappointed. Hopefully they won’t vent their frustrations down the phone to their friends in Virginia, as under section 18 of the state code it’s illegal to use rude language on the phone!
In fact, Virginia has multiple telephone related misdemeanor level crimes, including causing a pager to ring with intent to annoy. Does anyone who’s not an American TV doctor actually own pagers anymore? By now they probably have died out with the Floppy Disk, the Walkman, and the Dinosaurs.
But as strict as it seems, Virginia state law can’t hold a candle to the United Arab Emirates, where swearing in text messages or social media could get you arrested! Under Article 373 of the UAE Penal Code, “swearing disgraces the honor or the modesty of a person,” and as a result the UAE has some of the world’s strictest cybercrime laws.
It’s a criminal offense to use rude or abusive language in text messages, and that includes rude emojis such as the poop emoticon! Amazingly, one British woman faced up to two years in jail and a $140,000 fine after dropping the F-bomb on her roommate in a private WhatsApp message!
Though luckily her lawyers were able to drop the charges to deportation and a smaller fine of $726. The US may be full of crazy state laws, but at least the Constitution’s 1st Amendment protects freedom of speech! So, Americans are free to use as many poop, peach, and eggplant emojis as they like.
Weird Canadian Laws
Canada is the nation of moose, maple syrup, and extreme politeness. Saying “sorry” is so reflexive in Canada that there are literal laws, such as the Apology Act in Ontario, that declares someone saying “sorry” cannot be used as evidence of guilt in a court case!
But historically, Canada has had some much weirder laws to contend with! In the early 20th century, there were multiple battles between the breakfast spreads in Canada, resulting in margarine being banned from 1886 to 1917. The dairy industry had taken insult at margarine manufacturers adding yellow food coloring to make margarine look more like butter.
The margarine bans were briefly lifted during wartime shortages, but margarine only became fully legal again in 1948. But butter isn’t the only mundane thing Canada’s laws come down hard on. In Kanata, Ontario, a city by-law once made it illegal for you to paint your garage door purple.
A violet garage door could have landed you with a $100 fine! Before it was amalgamated with Ottawa, the laws stated only earth tones like beige, green and gray could be used to paint a property, in line with a city-wide Homeowner’s Association ruling.
While that’s pretty ugly, Canada is full of natural beauty, from its waterfalls to its national parks. But if you plan on taking your pets along for a hike, you’ll need to read the rules first, because it’s illegal to bring a llama into a Canadian national park!
While horses and donkeys can be brought in for “recreational use” under an umbrella permit, llamas require special permits of their own to just be there. It doesn’t say anything about Alpaca’s though; they look similar, but they are different animals. Don’t tell the rangers, but there's a loop in the system here!
However, not all of Canada’s laws are so cute and quirky. Another involves a cruel and inhumane practice, as it’s a legal requirement to listen to Justin Bieber! Playing the Bieb’s music is a mandated form of Canadian patriotism.
By law in Canada, all radio stations have to play Canadian artists on the airwaves at least 35% of the time between the hours of 6am to 6pm Monday to Friday! Many would rather be thrown in jail than spend an hour listening to Nickelback every day.
Meanwhile, a sure-fire way to get arrested in Canada would involve a clown costume, a large cardboard box, and a Royal visit. Can you work out the connection? It turns out that jumping out like a jack-in-the-box would give King Charles a terrible fright! And in Canada, it’s a treasonous offense to scare the monarch!
Previously, this crime could be punished with up to 14 years in prison! However, this law was repealed back in 2018. So, you can go and get your clown costume ready for the King’s next North American tour.
Strange UK Laws
England is one of the oldest countries in Europe, so it’s no surprise there’s tons of old laws in the history books. But did you know there was a law created in the 17th century that literally canceled Christmas? In a move Scrooge himself would be proud of, the English made Christmas illegal!
Following the English civil war, when hated King Charles I had his head lopped off, Sir Oliver Cromwell rose to power and ruled England. Cromwell was a strict puritan, and deemed Christmas to be a wild pagan festival because the 25th of December was not a named day in the Bible! So, in 1647 he made Christmas illegal!
Shops and markets were required to stay open on December 25th. And soldiers patrolled the streets of London, seizing any turkeys, cranberry sauce and mince pies! Despite Cromwell being a total Scrooge, the Christmas spirit could not be dampened! Across the country there were widespread protests and illegal turkeys eaten regardless.
And yet it wasn’t until 1660 that the Christmas ban was officially revoked, when Cromwell was removed and the rightful King of England, King Charles the Second, was returned to the throne. Although a Christmas ban hasn’t been the only law totally ignored in the UK. In fact, there are a series of laws Brits break every single day!
Binge drinking culture is famous in the UK, and people can be seen celebrating happy hour at any time. However, according to section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872, it’s illegal to be drunk in a bar! Even the barman could get into trouble, as under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 it's illegal for the keeper of a public house, aka a Pub, to permit drunkenness on the premises.
And this isn’t some outdated 19th century law. Recent laws have been updated, such as the Licensing Act 2003, which makes it an offense to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk. Who is the UK government fooling? They can impose as many laws as they like, but that’s not going to stop the Brits’ boozy behavior!
Even the Licensing Act of 1872 has special rules to govern the UK’s hard-drinking farmers, as it’s still illegal to be in charge of a horse or cow while drunk. Remember kids, don’t drink and ride!
And when it comes to animal welfare, the UK is surprisingly strict. Don’t get caught sneaking around with a salmon, as it’s illegal to handle a salmon under suspicious circumstances! Though as strange as this law may sound, the Salmon Act 1986 is actually designed to crack down on salmon poaching and prevent the sale of salmon caught from an illegal source.
But the UK’s fish laws don’t end there. According to a medieval law dated back to 1324, the King owns all the dolphins and whales within 3.1 miles of the UK’s coastline. So, he rules over both the nation of Wales and the UK’s population of whales!
Furthermore, the King’s menagerie of animals doesn’t stop at whales or corgis, as he also owns all the unclaimed swans in the country. The King’s flock of swans in the River Thames’ tributaries is counted every year in a 5-day event known as the “Swan-Upping”, where the King gets to learn the number of his fine feathered friends!
Also, if you like medieval cosplay you'll have to steer clear of the UK’s government building, the Houses of Parliament, because since 1313 it’s been illegal to enter Parliament in a suit of armor.
It was enacted after noblemen of the time would come to Parliament armed among rising tensions, so this law prevented them from suiting up and hashing out their differences with swords while on the floor. The law remains active to this day so the only outfit suitable for Parliament now is a suit and tie!
Weird Australian Laws
Australia may seem like it has a laid back, casual culture, but down under the law books tell a different story! Take flying a kite for instance; a perfectly peaceful way to spend an afternoon. But in the state of Victoria, flying a kite could land you with a $550 fine! The law applies to any kite flown ‘to the annoyance of any person’ under section 4 of the Summary Offenses Act 1966.
And Victoria’s strict state laws don’t just restrict your activities at the park; they also come down hard on spring cleaning too! Turns out, it’s an offense to make any “unreasonable noise” with a vacuum cleaner after 10pm. The law even applies to early risers, as it’s illegal to vigorously vacuum before 7am on weekdays and 9am on weekends!
This is under Section 48A of the Environment Protection Act 1970, a breach of which could result in a whopping $13,200 fine! That’s a steep price to pay to clean up some late-night cookie crumbs.
Midnight vacuuming isn’t the only thing that could land you a hefty fine in southern Australia, though. If you’re ever invited to an Aussie wedding, when the priest asks if anyone has any objections, keep your mouth shut! Otherwise, you could end up with a $7000 fine or worse, 2 years imprisonment!
This is according to the Summary Offences Act 7A, which states that any person who intentionally disturbs a wedding or a funeral is committing a criminal act! And if you thought the law might be more relaxed in Sydney, then you’d be mistaken, because the cops double up as fashion police.
Back in 2016 a taxi driver was fined $70 by the police for wearing the wrong color shoes! Sydney police viewed brown shoes as a crime against fashion and fined the taxi driver under the NSW Passenger Transport Act 1990, which requires an “approved network uniform”. Though the Act says nothing about brown shoes, specifically.
In fact, after the taxi driver, who worked for Uber which has no set uniform, contested the fine, charges were soon dropped. Looks like the only offense here was committed by the Sydney Police, who had a criminal lack of taste!
Also, surprisingly, under the Marketing of Potatoes Act 1946, police had the authority to stop and search any vehicle suspected of carrying more than the wonderfully specific amount of 110lbs of potatoes.
That’s because the Potato Marketing Corporation held a lot of sway back in the day, and made it illegal for anyone to sell, buy, or deliver more than 110 lbs of potatoes without them knowing.
And though this law may seem starch raving mad, it remained in force in Western Australia up to 2021! Makes you wonder what dirt the Potato Marketing Board has on the lawmakers over there.
One of the weirdest of the country’s laws of all also comes from Western Australia, where it’s illegal to collect seabird or bat poo without a special poo collector’s license under section 387 of the Criminal Code Act 1913! This may seem like a totally gross law, because who goes around collecting poo? But you’d be surprised what a big business this used to be.
Known as guano, the fecal matter collected from seabirds such as penguins and cormorants, as well as bats, was a highly desirable fertilizer. This poo is jammed packed with nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, all key nutrients that plants need to grow.
However, this fecal excavation resulted in the loss of millions of seabirds as their habitats were destroyed. So, this law was brought in to restrict the poop business. Meanwhile, the use of guano these days has largely been replaced by chemically manufactured fertilizers. So, the penguins can finally poop in peace!
European Strange Laws
Europe is a hugely diverse continent, spanning from warm sunny Greece to the icy cold depths of Russia. And with such a rich history tied to this land mass, there are lots of loopy laws that have been laid down over the years!
Take 17th century Russia, where you might think one of the worst crimes was theft; but instead pulling out the monopoly board could’ve landed you in even more trouble! Tsar Alexis, who ruled from 1629 to 1676, adored foreign board games like chess and checkers. But in an attempt to keep up his strict pious appearance, he banned all board games for his citizens under the 1649 Council Code.
Though the mad laws of Russian rulers didn’t stop there, as following that in 1698, Emperor Peter I enforced a beard tax! In order to conform with what he believed to be European ideals, he required that townsmen be charged 60 rubles annually to keep a beard, roughly equivalent to about $50 at the time, which would now be around $3,000. The police were ordered to shave any man who refused to pay the tax!
And while the Tsar’s police force was armed with razors, in 20th century Greece the police patrolled the streets with measuring tapes. The dictatorship of General Theodoros Pangalos was exceptionally brief, only lasting from 1925 to 1926. Though in that time he laid down draconian laws and forbade women to wear skirts higher than 10 inches off the ground.
Fortunately for the Greek woman, this skirt law lasted as short a time as General Pangalos’ rule. Though modesty laws weren’t a strictly European invention either! As in the US, there were a series of laws in the 1920s that banned women from showing their legs in swimsuits!
While during WW2, a shortage of nylon used to make modesty-guarding stockings meant women had to resort to using marker pens to draw seam lines on the backs of their legs! To be seen bare legged in those days was a social scandal.
Times have changed, but not all of the laws are up to date. Imposed in 1800, one shockingly old-fashioned law in France banned women from wearing trousers! And required that women needed the permission of the local police to, no joke, “dress like a man”, with the exception of wearing trousers when riding a bike or on horseback.
Though ignored for decades, this law was only officially repealed as late as 2013! Thankfully, this sexist relic of a law has been retired to the crypt, but that leads us to an even weirder French law. Paris may be known as the city of love, but French laws take romance to a whole new extreme as in France, you can legally marry the dead!
Known as necrogamy, it is an official ceremony where one can marry their deceased partner, permitted under Article 171 of the Civil Code. It was an especially common practice after World War 1, when women wanted to ensure the legitimacy of their children after their wartime sweethearts sadly perished on the frontlines. Around 50 requests for posthumous marriages are made in France every year. I guess love never dies!
Marrying the dead isn’t the only way the law tackles the grim reaper. Death may be inevitable, but one law has done the impossible and made death itself illegal! Or at least, one mayor of Lanjarón village near Granada, Spain, tried to in 1999. Back then, he banned any of the village’s 4000 residents from dying!
Though this mayor isn’t as foolish as he sounds. Instead, it was a savvy political move to draw attention to the fact the local cemetery had become full, and the village needed permission to expand. Ultimately, as far as the law can reach, it’ll never manage to throw the grim reaper in jail!
If you were amazed at these weird laws from around the world, you might want to read this article about bizarre things you can't do in America. Thanks for reading!