Most of us would like to think that we are law-abiding citizens. As such, a basic knowledge of current laws is part of being an informed member of society. Thomas Jefferson once said: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse in any country. If it were, the laws would lose their effect, because it can always be pretended.” 


Not being a scofflaw requires a modicum of vigilance. This is no easy task because there are some laws and ordinances currently on the books about which the average person may not be aware. 


Some of these deal with the relationships between men and women. If you like a gal in Kalamazoo it's illegal to serenade her. Courtship is even tougher in Detroit because it's illegal to scowl at a woman.


Life is pretty challenging for Michigan women who accept marriage proposals. “If you're a woman living in Michigan, you might want to check with your husband before heading to the hair stylist. According to state law, your hair belongs to your spouse and you'll need his permission before you can alter it.” Also in the personal appearance game, in Vermont women must get permission from their husbands if they want to get false teeth. 


You may not need your husband's permission to update your doo or choppers in some states, but getting to the salon or dentist could present another issue. “In Louisiana, it's illegal for a woman to drive a car without her husband waving a flag in front of it beforehand.” The same law applies in Virginia, but only on Main Street. There, the husband is supposed to walk in front waving a red flag.


Now, a woman could choose to remain single. Pitfalls await here too. In Florida, enjoying the beaches has a limitation. “It's actually illegal to sing when you're in your swimsuit. There's also a law against singing along to the radio while walking by yourself.” 


Another topic that seems to garner some legal attention deals with food. For some reason, in California it's against the law to eat an orange while taking a bath. This makes you wonder if there is 'a list of foods considered to be acceptable bathing snacks.' 

If you get the munchies in Arkansas you need to be discrete about it. “It's illegal to sound your horn at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after nine at night.” 


Meanwhile in Ohio, you have to plan your breakfasts because it's against the law for stores to sell cornflakes on Sundays. You can buy Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, and Cheerios, but the line is drawn at cornflake sales. 


Perhaps the oddest food law is in Connecticut. A pickle cannot be sold unless it bounces. “This law was originally enacted in 1948 to prevent fraudulent salesmen from selling unfit pickles. Today, the law still exists.” 


Even the animal kingdom is not immune from regulations. In Michigan, if you take your pet with you to Detroit, be careful. “In Detroit, you can't tie an alligator to a fire hydrant. Also, pigs cannot run free in Detroit unless they have a ring in their nose.” 


The same type of thing applies in Atlanta, Georgia. “It's illegal to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp. Apparently, at one time lawmakers thought: 'We've gotta put something in place to stop all these giraffes littering the sidewalks.'” 


Legislators in Alaska also have public safety in mind. After all, who wants to be crushed by a flying moose? So, it's illegal to push a moose out of a moving airplane. I'd guess a moose would be somewhat unhappy to be subjected to this treatment. To assuage the moose's feelings, would the airline be required to offer a free ticket on a future flight? 


Finally, there are Murphy's Laws. These are not real laws, but rather memorable adages that communicate important truths handed down from generation to generation. The first three Murphy's Laws are: anything that can go wrong will go wrong, nothing is as easy as it looks, and everything takes longer than you think it will.


Angelo State University has compiled a massive compendium of Murphy's Laws. My favorite is number eleven. “It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.” 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and