Seven Things I Didn't Know Were Illegal

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China's recent ban on reincarnation without government permission "“ "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation" "“ inspired our research editor extraordinaire Kara Kovalchik to dig up more examples of bizarre legislation on the books.

Being a Cow and Lacking ID in West Bengal, India

To prevent the smuggling of cattle into Bangladesh, Border Security Guards are issuing mandatory ID cards to cattle owners. The BBC explains: "Valid for two years, each laminated cattle ID card displays the picture of the animal and its owner. It also carries vital information about the animal, such as its color, height, sex and length of horns, the owner's name and address and sometimes other details about the animal "“ like one 'horn missing' or 'half tail lost.'"

This has not been easy on the cattle owners.

"I spent two whole days to get their pictures in a studio," Farid Hussain told the Toronto Star. "One of my cows damaged the lighting system of the studio and I had to pay 800 rupees "“ half of my month's income "“ in damages."

Wearing a Bullet-Proof Vest While Committing a Murder in New Jersey

bulletproof.jpgThou shall not kill. But if thou does, thou shall not have any unfair advantage. "A person is guilty of a crime if he uses or wears a body vest while engaged in the commission of...murder, manslaughter, robbery, sexual assault, burglary, kidnapping, criminal escape or assault."

Seeking West Virginia Political Office with a Duel on Your Resume

duel.jpgWest Virginians want elected officials who will metaphorically fight for their constituents. But not if they've ever actually fought. "Any citizen of this state who shall...fight a duel with deadly weapons, or send or accept a challenge so to do...or knowingly aid or assist in such duel, shall ever thereafter be incapable of holding any office of honor, trust or profit in this state."

Sagging Your Pants in Mansfield, Louisiana

sagging.jpgYou've got nine more days to show off your crazy, sexy and/or cool underwear in Mansfield, a Louisiana town of 5,500 located forty miles south of Shreveport. Starting September 15th, anyone caught wearing sagging pants that expose underwear will be subject to a fine of up to $150 plus court costs "“ or face up to 15 days in jail.

Discouraging the Use of Manual Flushing Devices for Urinals in Utah

urinal.JPGKeeping with yesterday's public restroom theme, don't let the Utah government tell you you can't flush it yourself. "The department shall not promulgate any rules which either directly or indirectly prohibit the use of manual flushing devices for urinals. The department shall take steps to encourage the use of manual flushing devices for urinals." Power to the pee-ers.

Wearing a Hooded Sweatshirt in the Bluewater Shopping Center in Kent, England

dukesweatshirt.jpgI would imagine you can find hooded sweatshirts for sale somewhere within this massive shopping mecca. But don't get caught trying one on. Since 2005, Bluewater has banned hooded tops and baseball hats to prevent thuggish teens from hiding their true identities from security cameras. I guess the mall security detail does not have the power to enact actual legislation, so this is more of a code-of-conduct kind of thing. Regardless, they've also banned swearing.

Chewing Gum Without a Prescription in Singapore

singapore.jpgSingapore's 1994 caning of American Michael Fay was a big international incident to me. Even though I rarely left New Jersey, I was terrified of accidentally winding up in Singapore and breaking a law I didn't know existed. Fay's punishment was for vandalism, but every news story seemed to mention Singapore's strict war on gum. The penalty for smuggling gum was a year in jail and a $5,500 fine. So this one I knew, but hadn't heard the latest.

As part of a 2003 trade deal with the United States "“ with lots of help from the powerful gum lobby "“ Singapore agreed to relax the ban. However, gum is only allowed with a medical prescription.

For more weird laws, check out Becky's previous post on this subject and all the great comments underneath. And if you know of or have been cited for breaking any strange laws, keep the list going.

September 6, 2007 - 4:00am
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