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11 Unusual and Outdated Southern Laws

For better or worse, the South is a place where some laws hold strong, even well after they should. For example, many states still restrict the sale of alcohol on Sundays, some barring it completely while others only allow it after 12:30, when church lets out. And loopholes allow for casinos to exist in some places but only if the buildings are considered boats. They don’t have to actually sit on a body of water but must be able to float if water ever comes. The casinos also have to employ a captain. But if these weren’t weird enough, here are just a few laws still on the books in the South to make you say, “What?”

Alabama: Bear wrestling matches are prohibited.

Who was wrestling bears in the first place that made the state turn this into a law? Was there a hearty debate before it was passed? Did the bears rise up in protest? HB 497 passed in 1996 after animal rights groups and fears of lawsuits from injuries shut down the bizarre sport.

Arkansas: Alligators may not be kept in bathtubs.

You may not have realized that alligators had such a presence in Arkansas. I didn’t either. We can’t find the law that started this rumor, but, if true, should discourage pet owners with alligators who think their claw foot tub is a suitable habitat for their scaly friends.

Florida: Women may be fined for falling asleep under a hair dryer, as can the salon owner.

If you’ve ever had an early morning hair appointment, you could be at risk for arrest in Florida if you (gasp!) nod off. Again, this may be more rumor than an honest-to-God rule. But keep this in mind when you visit the Sunshine State!

Georgia: No one may carry an ice cream cone in their back pocket if it is Sunday.

How many of you have done this? I know that I constantly carry my ice cream cone in my back pocket and sometimes do it on Sundays, forgetting what day it is. Not sure why Sunday is the only day when this isn’t allowed and why the back pocket, either. Rumor has it that these laws connect with former blue laws.

Kentucky: A woman may not buy a hat without her husband’s permission.

This one is a city law in the town of Owensboro. What if your husband has terrible taste in hats? You might end up taking home a Russian style fur hat or an over the top feather monstrosity.

Louisiana: A law was passed with the specific intent of stating the punishment for stealing crawfish.

I can absolutely see why this exists after having some delicious crawfish. This law was passed in 2001 and affects theft of crawfish of $500 or more. Punishment includes fines and even hard labor. All for some seafood!

Mississippi: A man may not seduce a woman by lying, and claiming he will marry her.

Men never lie to women, right? This law is certainly outdated but made sure that men who said they would marry a woman actually followed through. This law dates back to the 1800s, of course.

North Carolina: Elephants may not be used to plow cotton fields.

According to Our State, this law dates back to a publicity stunt put on by circus owner P.T. Barnum. We can’t find the law still on the books, but the rumor has been mentioned many times online. We like to think it’s that someone was thinking of the welfare of these sweet animals.

South Carolina: It is perfectly legal to beat your wife on the court house steps on Sundays.

This law is often quoted as an unusual law on the books, but I still can’t find where this law is on the books. The saying goes that a man can beat his wife only on Sundays on the courthouse steps and only with a stick. Needless to say, I’ve never heard of this taking place or being enforced.

Tennessee: More than 8 women may not live in the same house because that would constitute a brothel.

This law was allegedly on the books in a number of Southern states, including South Carolina, where I went to college. While Mental Floss seems to have debunked it, this misconception might be why many universities still don’t have sorority houses.

Virginia: It is illegal to tickle women.

I can agree with this one. Please don’t tickle me. You might end up with an elbow to the face. The only claim I found about this law being enforced was a message board, so it’s difficult to say if this is a real thing or not.

Have you heard of any of these absurd laws in your state? Share below!

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