The Internet is already awash with lists about ridiculous, strange, and weird laws from across the world. What many of these lists will not tell you is that most of these laws are no longer enforced today.
Here, we have a list of ten ridiculous laws from across the world that are still in effect today. These aren’t obscure rules jotted down on some parchment next to provisions for catapulting convicts; they’ve caused legal trouble for people in this century. Enjoy!
- Mowing The Lawn On Sunday
Germany has over 82 million people, which is about a quarter of the population of the United States. Yet it is just 3.7 percent the size of the US. This means that Germany has lots of people crammed in very limited space. One of the consequences of having too many people in a small space is noise. Lots of noise.
To counteract this, Germany introduced Ruhezeit. Ruhezeit (meaning Rest Time) determines certain times of the day when people are expected to not make noise. The time varies from state to state but is generally from 8:00–10:00 PM until 6:00 AM the next day. Some states also observe Ruhezeit between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM every afternoon. However, all states observe Ruhezeit during the whole of Sundays and public holidays.
Noise is strictly forbidden during Ruhezeit. No one is allowed to mow their lawns, rev their cars, play loud music, or even use the washing machine if they live in an apartment. Ruhezeit has led to some very interesting legal issues. When one neighbor complained that the frogs in his neighbor’s pond disturbed him at night, the court decided that frogs are a part of nature and that the disturbed neighbor should get earplugs. When another complained that his neighbor’s dog barked too much, the court ruled that the dog should bark for no more than 30 minutes a day.
2. Connecting To Someone Else’s Wi-Fi Without Permission
In Singapore, connecting to someone else’s Wi-Fi hot spot without permission could bag you three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 Singapore dollars. The law is part of Singapore’s Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, which considers such behavior as hacking.
In 2006, 17-year-old teenager Garyl Tan Jia Luo became the first person to be arrested and prosecuted for using someone else’s Wi-Fi without permission. He was not sent to prison because he was underage. Instead, he got 18 months’ probation, part of which he was to spend at home. He was banned from using the Internet while the probation lasted. The judge stated the ban was necessary because Garyl was also addicted to the Internet and online gaming.
3. Sharing Your Netflix Password
Tennessee has a law forbidding residents from sharing their Netflix passwords with anyone. The law does not apply only to Netflix but to every entertainment site that requires subscription. The law is somewhat ironic, since Netflix allows users to share their passwords with up to four people.
The law is not a new one. It is actually an update of an already existing law to prevent cable TV subscription theft. Unsurprisingly, the update was backed by the Recording Industry Association of America, which was concerned with people illegally sharing music.
While the law is targeted at hackers who sell Netflix login details and subscribers who send their logins to too many people, legislators agree that innocent users can be arrested for breaking the law. Offenders who used up $500 worth of the service could be slammed with a $2,500 fine and a year of imprisonment, while offenders who go above $500 will get more serious penalties.
4. Getting Drunk In A Bar
If there is one place people are most likely to get drunk, it is a bar. So it is somewhat ironic that Alaska passed a law banning people from getting drunk in bars. The law was introduced after the state government realized drunks committed the majority of crimes in Alaska.
Alaskan cops took to enforcing the law in 2012. Plainclothes police officers visited random bars to find drunk patrons. Once they suspected someone was drunk, they called other cops to make the arrest. Bartenders weren’t spared, either, since they could also be arrested for selling alcohol to a drunk person. Since there is no way of certifying that someone was drunk, cops only arrested people who were vomiting, falling off stools, or just plain constituting a nuisance.
5. Chewing Gum
Chewing gum has been banned in Singapore since 1992. The ban was part of the policies introduced by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to turn Singapore into a first world country. The law was passed because people were fond of sticking their chewed gum on pavement and train doors. This often created problems, especially on the train doors.
During an interview with Lee in 2000, Peter Day of the BBC mentioned that chewing gum could promote creative thinking. Lee stated that chewing gum was nothing short of an act of mischief. He added that anyone who felt he could not think or be creative without chewing could just chew a banana.
Singapore relaxed the ban in 2004, when the government permitted pharmacists and dentists to sell medical chewing gum. This means chewing gum lovers need a medical prescription to buy gum. However, tourists are allowed to bring limited amounts of chewing gum into the country for personal use.
6. Compulsory HIV Tests For Suspected HIV Carriers
In 2012, the government of Greece introduced Public Health Decree 39A, a controversial law that permits the police to arrest people on suspicion of being HIV-positive and test them against their will. Anyone found positive will have their pictures and personal details published in the newspapers. They can also lose their jobs and be evicted from their homes without warning.
The law was passed in 2012, after Greece witnessed a spike in new HIV infections. Between 2011 and 2012, it experienced a 200-percent increase in new HIV cases. The spike was believed to be the result of massive unemployment, drug abuse, and a cut in the budget for HIV prevention programs. However, the government preferred chasing shadows instead of solving the problem from the root.
In 2012, police rounded up hundreds of women and tested them. Seventeen tested positive. The government published their details and pictures in the papers and on the Internet. The government added that they were prostitutes, even though there was no evidence to prove such. Even if there was, it was unethical.
7. Publicly Playing The National Anthem Twice A Day
At 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM every day, radio stations, TV stations, and loudspeakers all over Thailand start playing the Thai National Anthem. Everyone is expected to stand at attention at that moment. People sitting will rise, people walking will stop, and everything will come to a standstill until the anthem is over. In some places, people can still be arrested for not stopping what they’re doing while the anthem plays.
The public playing of the Thai anthem is part of several laws introduced by Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram (who is known as Phibun) in 1932. Phibun ordered that the National Anthem be played at 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM every day and that everyone stand at attention until it was over. Phibun also demanded that all Thais know the anthem by heart, eat with spoons and forks, wear shoes, and dress in Western fashion. They were also expected to eat a maximum of four times a day.
In 2007, some retired army generals proposed that the law requiring that everyone stand still while the anthem was being played be amended to include cars. That way, cars would also come to a standstill until the anthem was over. The National Legislative Assembly stated that the proposed amendment could cause confusion and set up a panel to look into it.
8. Insulting The Monarchy
The lese majeste law of Thailand forbids anyone from insulting the Thai royal family. The law is very controversial in Thailand, where it has been used to hunt political opponents. However, it becomes more controversial the moment we realize the king’s dog is considered a part of the royal family, and anyone who insults the dog can be punished under the law.
In 2015, a Thai man stood before a closed court and faced up to 37 years’ imprisonment for making satirical comments about the king’s dog. The dog in question was a mongrel called Thong Daeng (Copper). It was the favorite of the late King Bhumipol Adulyadej. King Bhumipol loved Copper so much that he wrote a book about the animal. The book was later made into an animated film that became the second highest box office earner in its year of release.
The accused, Thanakorn Siripaiboon, supposedly made some Facebook posts where he mocked Copper, King Bhumipol, and an ongoing military corruption case. No one knows what Thanakorn posted about Copper, since repeating it would be an act of repeating the crime. Thailand’s censorship laws also meant that newspapers could not print whatever Thanakorn supposedly posted, either. The international edition of The New York Times sold in Thailand left the space that was supposed to contain the supposed insult blank.
9. Marrying Someone Your Parents Don’t Like
In November 2010, Frenchman Stephane Sage was hours away from tying the knot with his Hong Kong girlfriend, Man Sin Ma (also called Mandy), when his parents ruled against the marriage. Sage’s parents were able to cancel the wedding because of an old French law passed in 1803 that allowed parents and grandparents to overrule the wedding of their children and grandchildren.
Originally, Sage’s parents claimed they opposed the marriage because Mandy was only marrying their son to gain French nationality. In court, they claimed Mandy was a Chinese spy. The court determined that Sage could marry Mandy, since his parents had no tangible reason for opposing the marriage.
10. Being In Possession Of A Permanent Marker While On Private Property
Oklahoma City, US
In December 2010, an unnamed 13-year-old student at Roosevelt Middle School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was placed under citizen’s arrest by one of his teachers, Ms. Delynn Woodside, because he wrote on a paper with a permanent marker, and it bled onto his desk. Ms. Woodside claimed that the unnamed boy had also written on his desk with the marker.
An officer of the Oklahoma City Police Department took the boy to a juvenile detention center. A spokesperson for Roosevelt Middle School stated that the district will investigate the incident after school had resumed from winter break. The boy’s arrest had nothing to do with the fact that he wrote on his desk with a marker. The problem was the marker.
Ordinance 35-202 of Oklahoma city makes it illegal for anyone to be in possession of spray paint or permanent marker on private property without prior permission. The law was passed to prevent graffiti artists from making graffiti on private property, but it seems overboard that a 13-year-old can be arrested over it.
We could not find more information about the decision reached by the school district, but we suppose it was favorable to the boy. Otherwise, we would have been treated to a ridiculous legal battle over whether a public school qualified as private property.