There are some strange laws out there, and you wouldn’t believe some of the things that are outlawed. But even more strange are the things that aren’t illegal.
Here are twenty strange laws you won’t believe are legal in the United States.
20. Owning a Monkey
Did you ever watch reruns of Friends and think “I wish I could have a capuchin monkey for a pet like Ross”? Well, wonder no more! Exotic animals aren’t what people normally think of as pet materials, and they may be rare – but they’re not illegal!
Only twenty-two states ban owning monkeys, although some have special permits required. Oregon even allows owning a monkey as a service animal who can go anywhere with you, and there are training programs to train capuchin monkeys to assist people who are paralyzed. Those little hands are good for more than snatching treats from your cabinet.
But they’re not the only exotic animals you can keep as pets in some states.
19. Owning Dangerous Wildlife
While some animals are regulated from import due to their status as endangered or invasive species, for the most part, animal laws are left up to the states. That means whichever state you enter, you might be entering a wild kingdom.
Almost all states allow people to own large snakes, tarantulas, and scorpions. Five states allow people to own alligators – without even requiring permits! Always wanted a giraffe? Head down Florida way.
If you’re a fan of wild cats, tigers, lions, and cheetahs are legal in a select few states – just make sure they’re well-fed. And fans of Yogi Bear should probably head to Massachusetts, where they can have a picnic with their very own pet bear.
But what if you don’t want to own unusual animals? What if you want to eat them?
18. Eating Lassie, Garfield, or Mr. Ed
If there are three animals Americans love, it’s their cats, dogs, and horses. Two are beloved household pets, and the other is a noble steed – and can occasionally win you a lot of money at the racetrack.
So it’s not a surprise that the slaughtering and sale of these animals for food is banned. But what isn’t banned is eating them. It would have to be a private transaction with no money exchanged, or an animal you owned, but if you really have that craving, it is totally legal to indulge it.
Just don’t expect the family pets to look you in the eye when you come home after your secretive dinner. Some people’s taste in meat, though, is a bit wilder.
17. Eating Roadkill
Mmm-mmm! Well, at least you know it’s fresh meat when you just saw it wandering across the road a few minutes ago, right? Most people don’t think “Good eatin” when they just saw a raccoon or armadillo meet their end in a car accident, but it has a big cult following, with recipes abounding for harvested wild animals.
There are concerns about parasites and other diseases coming from the untreated meat, which is why it’s illegal in Texas, California, and Washington – but otherwise, go to town. And Montana even specifically passed a law guaranteeing your right to fill your belly with roadkill.
But that doesn’t mean the food you buy at the store is entirely safe.
16. Arsenic – In Your Food?
You’ve probably eaten a little bit of arsenic in many of the most common foods including rice, seafood, apples, and any fruit grown without pesticides. Arsenic is considered one of the deadliest chemicals out there, packing toxins that can increase your risk for cancer and damage your heart with consistent exposure.
That’s why the European Union banned the chemical in their food products – but the US didn’t follow suit. Instead, the FDA set maximum levels allowed in food products – which is supposedly safe, but a lot of people worry about eating it constantly.
But these next legal food additives can cause some…uncomfortable side effects.
15. Olestra and Maltitol
People love to cut calories, especially when it means they can eat more of their favorite things. So when low-calorie potato chips made with a chemical fat substitute came out, there was excitement all around!
Olestra seemed to be a miracle substance – except for one unfortunate side effect. It caused digestive distress in anyone who ate too much – leading to its ban in the European Union and Canada.
But in the US, it joins the sugar alcohol Maltitol as a low-calorie additive that can wreak havoc on your digestive system – but remains legal. Care to chase those fat-free potato chips with some sugar-free gummy bears?
To go with food, you’ll need some drink – but be careful if you’re underage.
14. Drinking Underage – Kind Of
The drinking age has been twenty-one for several decades in the United States – leading to a boom in fake IDs for college students. But it’s not so clear-cut everywhere, and exceptions abound.
Five states don’t allow any exceptions, but a majority of states let minors drink on private property with their parents around. Half the states let minors drink for religious reasons – such as the Passover Seder, where four cups of wine are part of the religious rite.
Eleven states even allow minors to drink for educational reasons, so the culinary school might look a lot more inviting to some kids.
After a few drinks, it might be time to head to the casino.
13. Counting Cards
You’ve seen it countless times on TV – the sneaky card counter is cheating the casino, but the security team is wise to him and they grab him, escort him out without his money, and maybe rough him up a little on the way.
But this is mostly fiction. In fact, card counting is legal – after all, all the gambler is doing is using their mind to increase their odds, not cheating. But you’re on private property, and while you can’t be arrested for it, that doesn’t mean the security team can’t throw you out in Vegas.
But in Atlantic City, a State Supreme Court ruling made it fair play – and it’s open season for those with sharp eyes.
But some surprisingly legal things are closer to home.
12. Marrying Your Stepsibling
Imagine, your single mom has gotten engaged, and now it’s time to meet the family. You meet your new future stepdad – and his kid, who is roughly the same age as you and happens to be the person you’ve had a crush on for years.
Guess that puts the kibosh on that potential relationship, right? Wrong. While there’s definitely a family connection now, no state considers stepsiblings to be legal family for the purposes of sexual relations and marriage.
So feel free to live out those “hot stepsibling” fantasies – just maybe not when the folks are around.
But it’s not the only family connection that’s legal.
11. Marrying Your Cousin?
When people talk about marrying their cousin, most people probably hear the banjo music in their heads. It’s definitely frowned upon by a lot of people, but it’s actually not as illegal as you might think.
A majority of US states allow people to marry their first cousin – their aunt or uncle’s child – which might make for some awkward family reunions. While the other states have restrictions, like requiring first cousins to be over sixty-five when they marry in Arizona, all fifty states allow second cousins to marry.
From marriage to funerals, it’s always possible to keep things local.
10. Backyard Graves
So Great-Uncle Lester passed away, and left you his house, but there’s one problem – he always swore to haunt anyone who ever made him leave his house, and you’re not sure if you want to chance it.
The good news is that it might be completely legal to bury him right there in the backyard. Most states allow this as long as all zoning laws are followed. Just treat it like a standard construction project – instead of hollowing out the backyard for a pool, you’re doing it for a coffin.
Every state has different laws, but if the conditions are safe, most states will authorize a backyard burial.
But some unexpected laws deal with the aftermath of birth, not death.
9. Refusing Vaccines for a Child
Vaccines have nearly eradicated a wide range of childhood diseases, including Measles, Mumps, and Polio. But not everyone is on board with these shots – and not just because they’re painful.
A bunch of parents have started worrying about the chemicals and metals inside the vaccines, with some claiming they can cause disorders like autism. Authorities have said these refusals endanger the public and constitute medical neglect, but most states still allow parents to claim religious exemptions for vaccines – which means they’re allowed to send their kids to school unvaccinated.
That’s not the only time parents make some questionable child-rearing decisions.
There’s nothing cuter than a baby scooting around under their own power for the first time – so it’s not a surprise that some parents have tried to rush that process a little.
Baby walkers were invented with the best of intentions, helping children learn how to walk with wheeled devices that let them move with very little leg power. But medical experts believe this may actually slow down muscle development by discouraging independent walking – and they may also be dangerous by letting babies move fast to perilous locations like stairs.
This led the walkers to be banned in Canada – but not in the United States.
When it comes to babies, it’s surprisingly easy to accidentally put them in danger – but that hasn’t stopped these laws.
7. Leaving a Baby in the Car
Most parents know it’s dangerous to leave a baby in the car for even a short time during a hot summer day. But what about the cool fall or a moderate winter?
Leaving a baby in the car may seem risky, but it’s not illegal in 31 states. What is illegal, though, is child endangerment – so if anything goes wrong, like an unexpected car theft with the baby still there, the parent could be prosecuted.
In 19 states, it’s illegal no matter what, but in the rest of them – well, any parent had just better hope things go smoothly and there isn’t a person with 300 coupons in the express lane.
But these next laws probably won’t hurt the parents more than the kids – no matter what they claim.
6. Spanking and Corporal Punishment
While some countries have taken steps to ban spanking, claiming it’s detrimental to kids’ development, it’s still legal in all fifty states – and that includes the much feared meeting with dad’s belt.
Every state has different regulations about what’s going too far. More surprisingly, though, corporal punishment at schools is still legal in nineteen US states – almost all in the American south and west.
And you thought detention was bad. The traditional paddling of boarding school movies is still a reality for kids in the Bible Belt and other states.
A lot of other things you might assume were illegal are actually all-clear.
5. Sleeping in Your Car
If you’ve had a long time on the road and there isn’t a convenient hotel anywhere, it might be tempting to just catch some shut-eye in your car. And this is legal in almost all states – as long as you’re not drunk.
Despite it being better to sleep in your car than drive it when you’re drunk, it’s illegal to be in your car at all if you’ve had one too many.
But in fourteen states, sleeping in your car might be a bit easier. These states – most of which are along highways popular with long-haul truckers – let you sleep in your car at roadside rest stops.
But this next car non-crime might give some people an eyeful.
4. Driving Naked
Your car is your property, and that means you can do whatever you want in it within reason. And much like you can get naked in your home, you can get naked in your car – even though sitting on those leather seats naked won’t be a comfortable experience.
But there’s one problem with this nude driving adventure. Just make sure to have your clothing back on when you get in or out of the car. Because while you can be naked inside your car, as soon as you’re outside it, that’s public indecency – and it’s right off to jail in some less than flattering prison clothes.
And while driving, you may want to save yourself some money.
3. Using Radar Detectors
We’ve probably all been there. You’re driving through a sleepy little town, you inch one mile over the speed limit – and suddenly a cop car is right behind you writing you a hefty ticket.
The good news is, there’s a way to avoid that – with laser detectors that will alert you when a speed trap is lurking. While cops likely don’t like these devices much, they’re legal in all states besides Virginia and Washington DC for security reasons.
Laser jammers, which prevent radars from picking up your speed, are more controversial – but are still legal in forty states.
This next one is one of the cruelest things you can do – but it’s not illegal.
2. Misrepresenting Yourself Online
As relationships move to the online world, this has become so common there’s even a word for it – Catfishing.
People get involved with someone online, with only a picture and their words to go off – and then they turn out to be someone completely different. There’s even a series where an investigative team finds out the truth about these online personalities’ actual identities called – you guessed it – Catfish.
But as cruel as it can be to lie to someone, it’s only illegal if it’s done to defraud someone out of money. Otherwise, let the smitten online beware.
But no non-crime shocks people as much as this next one.
1. Tearing Off the Mattress Tag
It says so right there! Do not tear the tag off under penalty of law! Surely if you touch it, the FBI is coming for you, right? Well…not quite.
That tag is accurate – but it’s not for you. It’s for the seller and only the seller, so its origin can be tracked for any potential recalls or quality issues. But once you purchase it, feel free to cut it off.
The only consequence is that you can’t re-sell that mattress legally – but there isn’t much of a market for used mattresses anyway. This is probably a big relief to scissor-wielding kids everywhere.