slides: See The List: The 50 Dumbest Laws in Rhode Island
Thursday, July 18, 2013
The Poultry Patrol
We imagine the DEM director has other things to do, but state law mandates that he (or she) should be supervising any movement of live poultry from one place to another in the state. And just to show they meant it, state lawmakers attached a $100 offense for anyone who shirks their duty. Second offenses carry a $200 fine and one year in prison.
No Pool for Minors
No one under 18 can use a pool table or similar table in a bar or other place where alcohol is served. Violators risk the loss of their license, a $20 fine, and three months in prison. Bar owners can get an exception from their local city or town, but why make it harder for teens to engage in non-alcoholic activities?
Laundromats must have been quite noisy back in the day. In 1928, state lawmakers banned them from operating between midnight and 5am and on Sundays in any town that had a population of less than 20,000, according to the U.S. Census. Violators face a $500 fine or 10 days in jail. Exceptions were made for coin-operated laundries.
No Addicts at a Bar
Taverns, cookshops, and oyster houses can’t allow their venues to be frequented by drunkards or any “person addicted to the intemperate use of spirituous or intoxicating liquors.” This isn’t wildly unreasonable, but unless AA starts issuing membership cards we’re not sure how to enforce this one. Penalty: $50 fine, half to the city and half to the state.
Overspending on Spirits
This seems a noble if ill-conceived law: taverns, cookshops, and oyster houses can’t allow a customer to waste their money. But unless we find a way for bartenders to do instant credit checks, this doesn’t seem all that practical. Penalty: $50 fine, half to the city and half to the state.
If you’re planning a garage sale this summer be forewarned: it’s illegal to sell imported shoes without notifying customers that it’s foreign. Even if you didn’t know the footwear was foreign you could still face a fine between $50 and $100. Subsequent offenses: as much as $500 in fines or three months in prison.
No Liquor Near Church
It’s against the law for a vendor to sell liquor, food, or anything else within a mile of any outdoor religious meeting. Let’s hope WateFire isn’t scheduled for any nights the First Baptist Church was planning to hold an outdoor prayer vigil. Penalties: fines between $5 and $20 or 30 days in jail. Exceptions are made for innkeepers, grocers, and other businesses.
No Scheduled Fights
It’s illegal to fight by appointment in Rhode Island. Our guess is this chapter of the law is directed against gangs, but there are no exceptions made for professional boxing matches or mixed martial arts fights. And what about two high-on-testosterone teenagers who arrange for a harmless bout after school? Penalties: $5,000 fine or 10 years in prison.
Windmills by Highways
Windmills cannot be built within 25 rods of any traveled street or road (a rod is about five yards). We haven’t seen any windmills in a while, but if this applies to wind turbines, some property owners along I-95 might be in trouble. Penalties: fine between $100 and $500.
Sleighs on Highways
Anyone with a wheel carriage, sled, or sleigh pulled by a team of horses cannot let the team go at large on a highway. We’re guessing that if someone does make it onto a highway with a sleigh, how you’re holding the reins is going to be the last thing the police are worried about. Penalties: $5.
No Stone Throwing
Unless you’re aiming at someone tying his canoe to it, what is the harm in throwing stones off the Pawtuxet Falls Bridge? Someone over at the Statehouse apparently thought it was dangerous enough to warrant a law against it. Penalty: $5, half to Warwick and half to Cranston.
Treason Against RI
Levying war against Rhode Island or giving aid and comfort to its enemies is punishable by life in prison. Now we love our state, but this seems like a law better suited to 1776 or 1861. Most states still have treason laws, but we think it’s time to trust federal authorities to handle treason cases. (Rhode Island is actually one of the few states to every prosecute treason at the state level, during the Dorr Rebellion.)
Weapons in Windows
Whatever you think of guns, it’s hard to imagine anyone who would have a problem with a legal gun shop displaying pistols and revolvers in a storefront window, not to mention “daggers, dirks, bowie knives, metal buckles, and blackjacks”—all of which is illegal. Penalties: $25 for first offenses; $100 for subsequent offenses.
We understand why there’s a state law against reselling bedding from hospitals without sterilizing it. But what about your next-door neighbor who decided to sell his futon without the proper tags? Calling it a misdemeanor and slapping him with a $500 fine or six months in prison doesn’t sit well with us.
Working During War
It’s hard enough to find work without having to worry about the police arresting you for being unemployed. But, hypothetically speaking, they could. Two things would need to happen: the United States would have to be at war and the Governor would have to issue a proclamation that everyone between the ages of 18 and 50 needed to be employed to support the war effort. Penalties: $100 or three months in prison. (This applies only to men.)
Crackdown on Mufflers
It is a misdemeanor to have an ATV or snowmobile with a muffler that makes a “sharp popping or crackling sound.” Penalties: $100 fine or 90 days in prison for first offense; fines go up to $500 after that. Violators also have to take a safety course and repeat offenders risk loss of their license.
Good fences may make for good neighbors, but is making them a requirement good law? Some lawmakers apparently once thought so. Under state law, neglecting a fence on your property line, or refusing to rebuild it is illegal for a landowner. Penalty: reimbursing the angry neighbor who rebuilt it for you at double the cost. The penalty carries 12 percent interest annually.
No Sunday Sports
Football on Sundays is a sacred rite for many Americans, but anyone who wants to hold a professional sporting event in Rhode Island on Sunday needs a license. Exceptions are made for “ice polo” and hockey. Fortunately, we weren’t able to find any penalties for this one.
One of the chief duties of a shipwreck commissioner (see previous slide) is to publish notices in the daily newspaper in Providence of a shipwreck so that the ship owner can claim his goods. But we’re betting that these days, if your boat crashes, you’re going to know about it before you read about it in the Providence Journal.
Seaweed in Barrington
Unless there’s some new hipster food fad we haven’t heard of, we’re not sure why state law allows Barrington residents to cart off only two loads of seaweed each day from their public beaches. Penalties: $10 per illicit load. Half goes to the town and half to the aggrieved party.
No Seaweed Poaching
We’re not sure what is so special about the seaweed on Barrington beaches, but only residents can take it. Out-of-towners are banned from carrying off the slimy green stuff. Penalties: $10 per illicit load: half to Barrington and half to the aggrieved party.