The saying “ignorance of the law doesn’t excuse you from it” is a good one. However, sometimes it can be justified, especially if the law in question is unusual, obsolete or just downright weird. Many states suffer from these so-called “strange laws.”
Strange laws are mostly unenforced, but law enforcement personnel sometimes use them to arrest or detain people. This was the case when New Jersey police used an obscure bicycle bell law to arrest someone who happened to be in possession of illegal drugs. Although this particular case ended with an actual criminal under arrest, sometimes these strange laws can be a nuisance to the general public.
Every state has their own bevy of weird laws that are still enforceable, and Texas is one of them. If you are just visiting the Lone Star state, you may not even be aware of these strange laws.
Below are some of these obscure laws that can still get you in hot water.
No Sidewalk Sitting
Most cities have anti-loitering laws, but the city of Galveston takes things one step further. According to one of their laws, you could face a $500 fine just for sitting on the sidewalk. The origins of this law could have stemmed from dissuading loiterers, but it can be problematic if you were simply tying your shoe or catching your breath.
Hand to God
Texas statistically has a higher percentage of religious or religion-practicing residents than the rest of the country. According to the latest census data, 56 percent of people in Texas believe in a religion, a whole 8 points higher than the national average. This could explain why there is a law stating you have to acknowledge a supreme being before you can hold a position in any public office in the state.
Death from Above
Buffalo are some of the most protected animals in the country, after being seriously pushed to the brink by hunters and farmers. Although the species has achieved a stable population and is no longer endangered, it still enjoys many legal protections. Texans have their own strange laws protecting these majestic beasts: it is illegal to shoot a buffalo through a hotel’s second floor window. Puzzling, given that there are very few opportunities to do something like that.
Schedule Your Cheese
Cheese is probably one of the least offensive products in the market, unless you suffer from lactose intolerance. When you think of controlled substances, cheeses aren’t going to be the first thing you think of. And yet, you better schedule your cheese buying runs in Houston. According to city laws, it is illegal for stores to sell Limburger on every day of the week except Sundays. This could be because Limburger is notorious for its very strong odor.
Give Fair Warning
Theft is probably one of the oldest crimes in the books and states often make different distinctions between different types and severity of thefts. Activities associated with theft can also be punishable by law. In Texas, you can’t just be charged with the actual theft, you can also be charged for not giving notice. According to an obscure law, you must give the target of your theft oral or written notice at least 24 hours before you commit your robbery. Doing so may make you the world’s most considerate thief.
Learn to Style
Hairstyles can become controversial, especially when they become the target or evidence of alleged discrimination. Laws regulating hairstyle are very unusual unless it refers to healthcare protocols and even then these laws mostly enforce hairnets or safety precautions. However, in the city of Mesquite, Texas, parents must be very careful when getting their kid’s hair cut because an obscure law bans kids from sporting unusual hairstyles. What constitutes unusual? Who can say?
Mind Your Pockets
Wire cutters are routinely used in repair and engineering because they are very versatile tools. However, they can also be used for larceny and sabotage, making their reputation a little sketchy. This could be why there is a law in Austin, Texas that makes it illegal for people to carry their wire cutters around inside their pockets. This could be because someone thought a person carrying wire cutters around in their pants is up to no good, but it’s bad luck if you were simply a repair man or electrician.
Laws exist for a reason, and they are very much products of their time and of the people conceiving them. However, people and societies change. What can seem sensible today may be ludicrous in a decade or so. Although rarely enforced, these ludicrous and strange laws can be problematic. Until the lawmakers come to their senses, learning about them can be helpful in staying out of trouble.