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Dumbest Laws in the United States: The Virginias and the Carolinas

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This week, the dumb laws blog will focus on two sets of neighboring states: Virginia and West Virginia and North and South Carolina.

What do railroad companies and Sundays have in common? South Carolina has dumb laws pertaining to both seemingly unrelated things, as it turns out. On Sundays in South Carolina, you won’t be able to go dancing, as dance halls may not operate on that day of the week. Also on Sundays in South Carolina, you cannot do any work. It is the day of rest after all. If you wish to spend your day off playing an instrument, make sure you buy one before Sunday, as they are banned from being sold then. It makes sense, if you think about it–since work on Sunday is prohibited, who would be working at the musical instrument store?

There is a surprisingly large number of laws dedicated to the regulation of railroads in the Palmetto state. In some cases there, railroad companies may be held liable for scaring horses, so hopefully conductors steer clear of skittish steeds. That may be a difficult feat, however, considering that by law, railroads must exist in towns of more than 500 people. Men also must be 100 percent sure about marriage before popping the question, because if an unmarried man promises to wed an unmarried woman, they legally must follow through.

South Carolina’s neighbor to the north has some pretty dumb laws as well. If you can somehow get around federal and state laws prohibiting you from possessing illegal substances, you must pay taxes on them in North Carolina. Yes, I’m sure that everyone with drugs in that state will make that fact known and pay taxes on them. Logical, North Carolina, so logical. Speaking of taxes, a three dollar tax must be paid on all white goods sold. Perhaps that includes sugar, white shirts, milk, you name it. If I ever buy something in North Carolina I’ll definitely stick to colored things.

Bingo in the Tar Heel state must have gotten a bit out of hand in the past, as now there is a law dictating that the game may not last over five hours unless it is held at a fair. Furthermore, serving alcohol at bingo games is strictly prohibited. Residents also take meetings very, very seriously. Even if one is held on Halloween, organizations may not hold their meetings while the members present are in costume.

Virginia cops must have a difficult time deciphering if someone is speeding or not, as radar detectors are illegal there. And even those in a consensual relationship, no matter how long they’ve been in it, cannot have sex by Virginia law, which limits sexual relations to married couples. Even married couples, however, are prevented from having oral or anal sex.

Hunting laws in Virginia are strict when it comes to every animal, stating that none except raccoons may be hunted on Sunday. Hunters have to cancel their raccoon hunting trip if they occur late at night, as hunting the furry bandits is only legal until 2:00 a.m. It’s good that Virginia law takes serious measures to prevent kids potentially drowning in private pools, but this state takes it to the extreme. In the city of Frederick, any pool owner risks a $2,500 fine for not closing the gate to the pool when they finish swimming in it.

I’m not entirely sure why someone would WANT to own a skunk as a pet, but doing so is illegal in Prince William County, Virginia, just in case. Another strange law there is one banning swearing about someone else in his or her presence. Hey, maybe that area of Virginia just wants people to be nice to each other.

West Virginia had many stupid laws prior to 2010, when a good portion of them were repealed. These repealed laws include ones fining people who wear hats inside theaters and individuals who commit adultery. Also repealed was a law stating that any “unmarried couple who live together and ‘lewdly associate’ with one another may face up to a year in prison.”

As far as current stupid laws go, West Virginia still has plenty. For example, just like Virginia, West Virginia has a law pertaining to swearing. There, if you swear in public, you will be fined one dollar. Also, if you are feeling hungry and see some roadkill that looks tasty, go ahead and take it home for dinner. Doing so is completely legal in West Virginia.

Phew, so many stupid laws, so little time. On to the next part of the United States!

Marisa Mostek
Marisa Mostek loves globetrotting and writing, so she is living the dream by writing while living abroad in Japan and working as an English teacher. Marisa received her undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder and a certificate in journalism from UCLA. Contact Marisa at



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