In every American state, there are laws that are at least unusual, and sometimes mind-boggling.

Some of those laws are statewide, while other are municipal in nature. Here is another list of some of them, with (of course) an added comment or two.

•Nuclear bombs are illegal in Chico, Calif.

Now there’s an interesting way to avoid taking unnecessary chances. But if Iran’s top brass is ever in Chico, I feel like they might be a bit less than compliant.

•It’s illegal in Virginia to hunt or kill any wild animal or bird (including any nuisance species) with a gun, firearm or other weapon on Sundays.

Conversely, hunting with permission from a private landowner is allowed – except within 200 yards of a church.

Many laws originate or gain steam due to some sort of incident. I’d like to know what happened to get that church part in there.

•It’s against the law not to smile in Pocatello, Idaho.

Billed as the “U.S. Smile Capital,” the city passed the “Smile Ordinance” in 1948 to (jokingly) boost morale after a period of extreme winter weather.

I kind of wonder what the penalty is if you get busted for not smiling. Maybe viewing dozens of photos and video clips of various types of baby animals in rapid succession?

•Grocery, convenience and drug stores can’t sell cold beer in Indiana.

However, warm beer can be sold legally and businesses have been fighting for years to get the law repealed.

This one isn’t even a joke and I don’t get it at all. How does that positively affect anyone or anything?

Wait, I’ll bet I know the reasoning: “They won’t drink it on the way home if it’s warm.” Sheesh.

•In Kentucky, it’s illegal to dye your bird or rabbit any color, unless you’re selling them in quantities of six or more.

Six or more? You mean it’s illegal to dye a small number of birds or rabbits, but fine and dandy to dye a whole bunch of them?

According to the state’s penal code, it’s considered animal cruelty to “sell or exchange, display, or possess living baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or rabbits which have been dyed or colored.” I guess that only applies in small doses.

•It’s illegal to keep a horse in a bathtub in South Carolina.

What gets my attention here is the “keep” part. So, did someone in the Palmetto State try to prevent a horse from leaving a tub? Stay Seabiscuit, stay!

•It’s illegal to use an elephant to plow a cotton field in North Carolina.

But if you have a team of wildebeest or rhinoceros, I guess it’s plow away!

•Speaking of elephants, it’s illegal to tie a pachyderm to a parking meter in Florida.

If you do, you might have to pay the fee equal to that of actually parking a vehicle. Oh noooo, anything but that!

•Hitting a vending machine is illegal in Derby, Kan.

So if you’re passing through Derby and staying at a motel for a night, try to hold your temper when the pack of Oreos gets stuck in the snack machine.

•Speaking of Derby, Kan., it’s illegal to screech your tires there.

So if you’ve punched a snack machine and are trying to flee from the cops, make sure you don’t let your tires break loose – you’ll only be compounding the issue.

•In Minnesota, it’s illegal to cross state lines with a duck on your head.

Heading for North Dakota today? May I suggest a grebe, a coot or maybe a nice loon?

•Biting while boxing is against the law in Utah.

No wonder Mike Tyson never fought a bout in the Beehive State.

•It’s a criminal offense to impersonate an auctioneer in Rhode Island.

Here in Missouri, where legitimate auctioneers are plentiful, we collectively ask: “Who does that?”

•Speaking of Missouri, it’s perfectly lawful in the Show Me State for any person to castrate a bull, ram or boar hog that’s been running loose for three days, as long as three residents of the town where the animal is on the loose serve as witnesses to its rampaging. 

Run bull, run!

•It’s against the law to hypnotize someone outdoors in Everett, Wash.

Well at least if “you’re getting sleepy” in Everett, you won’t be far from a comfortable place to be unconscious for a while.

•In Ohio, it’s illegal to get a fish drunk.

I can hear the exchange between the bartender and the trout.

“Sorry Mr. Trout, I’m going to have to cut you off.”

“Oh come on, just one more for the rapids!”

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at

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