Are You Sure You Know What’s Legal, and What’s Not?

by | Oct 26, 2018 | Education Feature

We’d all like to think that we’re law-abiding citizens with enough moral and ethical sense to stay out of trouble with the law.  It’s not that hard; just don’t do anything really stupid and violent. Right?  But even the most carefully laid life plans can run afoul of the law – sometimes a law that you didn’t even know existed.

Here are some laws that, although obscure, are still on the books and can end up getting you in more than a little trouble.

No Stink Bombs

Remember when you took chemistry in high school and found out about Hydrogen Sulfide?  This gas is colorless and, actually, quite poisonous, corrosive and highly flammable.  It forms naturally from the breakdown of biological matter, often in swamps, sewers and along tidal plains.  But the most notable thing about Hydrogen Sulfide is that it smells just horrible – very much like rotten eggs.  

In chemistry classes across the country, students encounter this gas early on, when the teacher mixes hydrochloric acid with sulfur to demonstrate that acid’s corrosive effect.  The odor resulting from this simple experiment gets the attention of many students; particularly ones who like to play pranks.

They soon discover that the hydrochloric acid and sulfur from the chemistry experiment can be substituted with common household products, like toilet bowl cleaner and dandruff shampoo, to produce this smelly gas.  These wise guys place a bucket of these interacting compounds near an air inlet of the school’s HVAC system and Hydrogen Sulfide gets pumped into classrooms, smelling to high-heaven, much to their delight.

But they better be sure they don’t pull this prank in Alabama because law enforcement and the legal system there takes Sec. 39-81, Prohibition of Stink or Funk Balls, very seriously and they could end up doing jail time for getting those laughs.

No Spitting

Everyone spits, especially during flu season when our bodies produce copious amounts of mucus.  Recent medical studies report that our stomachs can easily neutralize the bacteria in flu mucus, but still no one likes to swallow it.

But if you are in Arizona, you’d better carry enough Kleenex with you because if you’re caught there, spitting on a public sidewalk or crosswalk, or even out of your car on a public street, you can be fined as much as $2,500 and spend up to six months in prison.

No Crawfish Stealing

Crawfish may be an acquired taste.  To some, the meat is reminiscent of the finest lobster; to others it is a little smellier and more rubbery than it’s larger salt-water cousin.  But to aficionados in Louisiana the theft of crawfish is a very serious matter, punishable by up to $3,000 in fines and 10 years in prison.

So if you’re enjoying a Crawfish Etouffee at friend’s house, just make sure he didn’t steal those little suckers or you could be an accessory to an honest-to-goodness, and pretty serious, crime.

Both Hands on the Handlebars

In the city of Galesburg, Illinois it is unlawful to ride a bicycle with both hands off the handlebars.  As a matter of fact, all manner of “acrobatic or fancy riding” of a bicycle is against the law there.

Like many of these strange laws, this ordinance was probably passed for a reason that was very important to the lawmakers who passed it – and very well may still be so.

Ignorance of the Law

So, although these laws may all seem sort of goofy to us, they are legitimate ordinances that were debated, determined and then voted into law by our democratic representatives.  They are laws whether we like them, or agree with them, or not.

There is a basic legal principle that came from the English Common Law known as Ignorance of the Law asserting that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because that individual was unaware of the law’s existence or its content.

So if you get stopped by police, particularly in a state or district that you are unfamiliar with, and are charged with a crime that seems unjust, unfair, or even kind of silly to you, do not ever try to argue the moral or ethical values of the law with the arresting officer.  He is alleging that you have you have committed a crime. Period.

You need to get on your smartphone and find legal representation immediately.  Contact legal experts, such as and stop talking to the arresting officer.  Remember, anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.  And when cops say that; they mean it.

There are plenty of people in jails who just didn’t believe a law could be that silly.

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