The only thing more incredible than the stupidity of some of our elected representatives is the sheer dumbness of some of the laws they pass. Sometimes the stupidity of a law is intentional, and sometimes it is simply a side effect of legislations. Unfortunately, all of the laws we mention below are very, very real.
Eleven of the dumbest laws in the United States include:
1. The federal prohibition on unlocking your smartphone. Under federal copyright law you can face up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine for doing this. It’s perfectly legal to do it with an old-fashioned flip phone but not with a smartphone. What’s worse is that the prohibition wasn’t put in place by Congress; instead it was created by a ruling from an unelected bureaucrat, James Billington, the 84-year old Librarian of Congress, Guardian writer Derek Khanna noted. Billington banned unlocking by reinterpreting a law. Congress is trying to change the law but the change being considered will expire in 2015.
2. Laws against car manufacturers selling cars directly to the public. In several states, including Virginia, Texas, New Jersey and Arizona, it is illegal for manufacturers to sell cars to the public. That means Tesla Motors can operate showrooms in those states but it cannot sell cars from them.
When asked what the real purpose of such laws is by The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tesla’s vice president of regulatory affairs, James Chen gave a blunt answer:
“They (car dealers) want to protect their monopoly,” Chen said. “If there’s one crack in the door — the argument they’ve put forth is other manufacturers could do the same thing.”
3. “Equal weapons” for self-defense. If you’re attacked in Arizona you’re only supposed to use the same weapon as the attacker. That means it would be illegal for a person being attacked with a knife to use a gun or a bat to defend himself. It’s a legal doctrine called escalating violence.
5. In New York City, it is illegal for any business to serve coffee to customers. The owner of a tobacco shop learned this the hard way when he set up a coffee machine for patrons. A city official told him fines can range from $200 to $2,000. He could get a restaurant license and serve coffee – but then smoking would be banned.
6. Another brilliant law in Oregon makes it illegal for a dead person to serve on a jury. News stories don’t say whether any vampires or zombies have sued the state for discrimination.
7. Laws against selling cars on Sunday. In Colorado, a so-called blue law makes it illegal for dealers to sell cars on Sunday. You can sell almost anything else in the state on Sunday including marijuana, alcohol and pornography.
8. In Michigan it is illegal to sell cars on Sunday if you live in a city with more than 130,000 people. Small town car dealers are allowed to remain open on Sunday in that state. The same law lets Jewish or Seventh Day Adventist car dealers stay open on Sunday if they close on Saturday.
9. In Pennsylvania it is illegal to hunt any animal except foxes, crows and coyotes on Sunday.
10. Greased pig contests, that staple of old time county fairs, are illegal in Minnesota. The same statute makes it illegal to run a greased pig or turkey contest. That means a greased dog contest would apparently be legal in the statute.
11. It is illegal to get drunk in a bar in Alaska. Undercover police in the state have actually arrested persons getting drunk in bars in the nation’s northernmost state.
These are just a few dumb and bizarre laws on the books in the United States. Unfortunately, they are only the tip of the iceberg.