8 Laws Way Past Their Prime
By Jake Rossen
It took a few centuries, but Canada is finally allowing sorcery again. In June 2017, an updated justice bill was submitted for approval that seeks to lift prohibitions on things that are no longer relevant to 21st century citizens, like dueling (fine provided it’s nonviolent), practicing witchcraft (knock yourself out), or mocking religion (possibly tasteless, but free speech is free speech).
With Canadians getting more progressive in their thinking, it might be time to look at a few other laws that once served a purpose but have now been rendered obsolete by common sense. Here are eight codes that are overdue for an overturn.
1. NO WARMING UP YOUR CAR // IOWA
In 1913, Iowa responded to the burgeoning motor vehicle industry by declaring it illegal to leave a running car unattended. The likely thinking was that the law would prevent thieves from making off with a brand-new Model T. Over 100 years later, it’s devolved into being a total nuisance. Iowans battling cold winters often start their cars with remote starters to get them warm enough to enter, making lawbreakers of virtually everyone heading for work on a cold Midwestern morning. While it’s still on the books, police in Des Moines told WHOTV.com in early 2017 that they don’t have the manpower or inclination to enforce it.
2. MINORS CAN’T PLAY PINBALL // SOUTH CAROLINA
From the 1940s through the 1970s, several major U.S. cities had a bone to pick with pinball. The analog arcade game was perceived as a form of gambling, with lawmakers worried that juveniles could be driven to skip school and steal pocket change in order to feed their addiction. Pro-pinball constituents argued it was a game of skill rather than chance, and many areas relaxed their stance. But not South Carolina. To this day, it remains illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to draw the plunger and engage in a game. A bill seeking to repeal this minor infraction is currently under review.
3. A BAN ON SHACKING UP // MICHIGAN
Do you dream of living in Michigan? Do you also plan on cohabitating with your unwed partner in a lewd and lascivious manner? You’d better think twice, unless you like the sound of a $1000 fine and a year in jail. A long-outdated law is still active in Michigan that makes it a misdemeanor for unmarried couples to live together. While it’s not enforced—perhaps authorities would have to catch you in the act—it’s still an active prohibition, and one that has been repeatedly introduced for repeal over the years.
4. VENEREAL DISEASE DISCRIMINATION // NEW JERSEY
With the best interests of the public in mind, New Jersey once decreed that they would place limitations on where people with venereal diseases could live and work. This likely stemmed from a more primitive understanding of how diseases like syphilis could be spread. Despite more advanced thinking, the law survived multiple attempts by the state’s Law Revision Commission to be repealed before it was finally dismissed in late 2014. The bill also struck down a ban on detaining homing pigeons, if you’re into that sort of thing.
5. THE HIGHLY LENIENT CHILD-ABANDONMENT LAW // NEBRASKA
Intended to provide for parents wishing to abandon their infant children without criminal reprimand, Nebraska’s “safe haven” law became something of a national outrage in 2008, when it was publicized that a number of people had dropped off children as old as 17 at area hospitals. Just before the law was repealed to set a strict age limit to infants 30 days old or younger, CNN.com reported that a man flew in from Florida to take advantage of the law and deposited his teenage son in the state.
6. ANTI-LEMONADE LAWS // NEW YORK CITY
While area laws don't specifically prohibit tiny tots selling lemonade at a street stand, anti-peddling laws meant to curb unregulated businesses can still leave a sour taste. In New York City, several stands have been shut down due to a lack of zoning permits, health department concerns, or because they didn't have a license to sell food. Not even the wealthy are exempt: in 2014, police shut down a lemonade business operated by Jerry Seinfeld's kids.
7. REGULATING POSSESSION OF ADULT TOYS // TEXAS
While Texas may be generous when it comes to owning, carrying, and shooting firearms, lawmakers took a more conservative approach to regulating sex toys—specifically, owning too many of them. Texas law stipulates that no one shall own or "promote" more than six "obscene devices." The law, enacted in 1973 during the height of anti-obscenity legislation, is believed to be directed at entertainment or stage performers and may allow for exemptions if the toys are for medical or law enforcement purposes.
8. STRICT HALLOWEEN PROTOCOL // REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE
You think Halloween is about having fun? It can be—provided you adhere to the strict protocol of Rehoboth Beach, which doesn’t tolerate even a single millisecond of mischief. To help keep kids and their candy bags moving along, the town allows just a small window of trick-or-treating: Parents and kids under 14 can only knock on doors from 6 to 8 p.m. Halloween night and no later. Don’t like it? If Halloween falls on a Sunday, then you don’t get to go that day at all—the festivities, such as they are, are rescheduled to the day prior.