The Lone Star State might be big, but it’s also bonkers. At least when it comes to some of its laws, many of which rank amongst the strangest in America. The problem is, however outdated and bizarre they might seem on paper, they’re still enforceable. Milk your neighbor’s cow, for example, and you could find yourself on the wrong side of a $10 fine. If you want to fuss with your stockings in Bristol, prepare for some jail time. If you want to stay on the right side of the law, be sure to familiarize yourself with these 20 weird laws in Texas.
1. Don’t carry wire cutters in Austin
Whether you live in Austin or are simply visiting for the day, don’t make the mistake of carrying wire cutters in your pocket. Handy they may be, but in this particular part of Texas, they’re also strictly forbidden (or at least, they are when they’re traveling around with you – leave them at home and you should be able to escape any trouble). According to trianglerealtyllc.com, the law dates back to the time when there were all kinds of arguments going on between landowners who preferred open ranges and those who referred to mark off their territory with barbed wire. Those in favor of open ranges took to sneaking around with wire cutters and cutting any barbed wire they found. This being the days before CCTV, it was tricky to work out who the perp was. To make it easier, the authorities issued a blanket ban on wire cutters being carried. A couple of hundred years down the line, no one’s yet got round to lifting it.
2. Don’t dust buildings in Clarendon
If you stumble on a slightly grimy-looking building in Clarendon, Texas, do yourself a favor and keep right on walking. If you give in to temptation and give it a once over with a feather duster, you’ll technically be breaking the law. No one’s exactly sure why the law was introduced in the first place, and everyone’s even more confused about why it stipulates a feather duster. Maybe it would be fine to use a washrag. We don’t know. Fortunately, neither do the authorities, so you’re unlikely to get into too much trouble if you can’t resist a little light dusting.
3. Don’t eat your neighbor’s garbage
We’ve all been there. We stumble home from the bar, desperate for something to soak up some of the alcohol, and spot something tasty poking out of our neighbor’s garbage. Or maybe not… in case it ever does happen to you, resist the urge to tuck in. Not only is it disgusting and quite possibly a health hazard, but it’s also a crime. If you get your neighbor’s permission first, everything is A-Ok. If you don’t, you could end up being slapped with a jail sentence for trespassing and property theft.
4. Don’t bother with the wedding
Weddings are expensive. Thanks to all the planning and coordination involved, they can also be a massive headache. So why not skip the formalities and do it the Texan way instead? In the Lone Star State, you can marry your beloved simply by publicly announcing your other half as your wife or husband three times. If you do decide to go ahead with the wedding ceremony, don’t panic if you forget to invite your fiancee – thanks to a proxy marriage law, neither the groom nor the bride has to be present at the ceremony for the marriage to be considered legally binding.
5. Keep your feet to yourself
If your shoes are giving you blisters, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s ok to take them off in public. As hg.org notes, certain cities in Texas require you to buy a $5 permit before you go barefoot in public. If you’ve got the permit (although where and how you buy one remains something of a mystery), you’re fine to expose your tootsies wherever and whenever you want. If you haven’t, keep your sneakers on at all times.
6. Don’t milk a stranger’s cow
The bible might tell us not to covet our neighbor’s ass, but in Texas, it’s also frowned upon to desire their cow… or at least, to milk them. Unless you’ve handed over money for your own cow and have the papers to prove it, you’ll have to stick to buying your milk at the grocery store. No matter how much you’re craving some milk with your cookies, pulling on a strange cow’s udder could land you in a heap of bother. In fairness, we should probably point out that this particular law was officially repealed in 1974, but it’s still considered a very impolite thing to do regardless.
7. Keep a spittoon on hand
In most places, spitting in public is, if not illegal (although be very, very careful if you plan on doing it in Singapore), then at least frowned upon. Not so in El Paso, where the right to spit is protected by law. So concerned are the authorities about people’s right to spit without embarrassment, they’ve even made it a legal requirement for all churches, hotels, halls of assembly, stores, markets, banking rooms, railroad depots, and saloons to provide spittoons ‘of a kind and number to efficiently contain expectorations into them.’”
8. Keep Sundays cheese-free
If you’re in the mood for a grilled cheese sandwich, check the calendar first. If it’s a Sunday, be very, very, careful about your next steps. In the interests of transparency (and the dairy industry), we should point out this rule doesn’t apply everywhere in Texas. It does, however, apply in Houston, where even a nibble of a slice of Limburger cheese on a Sunday could be enough to get you in bother with the law. According to click2houston.com, it’s not just cheese that’s a problem – residents are also prohibited from buying beer after midnight on a Sunday.
9. Give your victims a heads up
As per lrl.texas.gov, it’s now a crime “to commit a crime of violence against the person or property of another without having first notified the victim of his intent to commit the crime and of the victim’s rights; providing penalties.” So, if you plan on getting up to no good, be sure to let your planned victim know in advance, and don’t forget to spell out exactly what you intend to do to them. It’s only polite, after all.
10. Don’t let your eyes wander
If you’ve ever thought about selling your eyes (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?), don’t try and do it in Texas. According to the Texas Penal Code Section 48.02, anyone who tries to steal their eyes is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor punishable by either jail or a $4000 fine. The same applies to your heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, skin, and other organs or tissues. It may be your body, but if you might want to remind yourself of which state you’re in before thinking it’s your choice. On the plus side, you’re 100 percent free to sell your blood, hair, and even your principles if the price is right.
11. Don’t buy the Encyclopedia Britannica
If you want to find an answer to a question, stick to Google. Resorting to the Encyclopedia Britannica might get you in trouble. The entire set of books is banned in Texas, and it all comes down to one thing – beer. The law doesn’t want people turning their homes into breweries, and as the Encyclopedia Britannica contains a recipe for making beer, it’s strictly off-limits for any law-abiding Texans. Get caught flicking through its pages, and you could technically wind up with a hefty fine or even jail time.
12. Don’t drink standing up
Remember how your mother always told you not to eat with your mouth full? In LeFors, Texas, it’s also considered most improper to take more than three sips of beer while standing up. Like a lot of similar laws, no one’s exactly sure why it came into existence, and no one’s exactly sure why it hasn’t been reappeared yet. The chance of getting into trouble for downing a pint while standing is pretty remote, but if you want to play it safe, grab a chair first.
13. Be careful where you shoot a buffalo
Texas doesn’t really care if you want to shoot a buffalo, but it does care where you do it. According to houston-criminalattorney.com, there’s still an active Texas law that prohibits shooting a buffalo from the second floor of a hotel. Some people have called the law into question. The Texas Legislative Reference Library has even gone so far as to scroll through every piece of Texas legislation to see if they could find any reference to it. They couldn’t. That being said, it’s probably a good idea to avoid shooting buffalos from your hotel room, regardless of which floor you’re on.
14. Don’t fuss with your stockings
If you’re in Dennison or Bristol, Texas, try not to adjust your stockings in public. They may be sliding down your leg, but if you’re caught pulling them up, you could wind up spending a year in the state penitentiary. Again, it’s highly doubtful that a police officer is going to pull you over, but stick to socks if you’re in any doubt.
15. Don’t sit on the sidewalk in Galveston
No matter how tired you are, resist the urge to take the load off your feet by plopping down on the sidewalk in Galveston. So concerned is the city about the threat of civilians taking up valuable sidewalk space, they’re prepared to fine anyone caught doing it a stonking $500. Next time you want to sit down, find a cafe instead.
16. Don’t move till they move
If fairness, this next law doesn’t affect too many people. But if you’re a train driver, take heed. According to stupidlaws.com, the law stipulates that when two trains meet each other at a railroad crossing, each shall come to a full stop, and neither shall proceed until the other has gone. How this works in practice is baffling, but if you want to stay on the right side of the law, be prepared to work it out.
17. Don’t forget your windshield wipers
If you want to whizz around town in a car without a windshield, it’s perfectly fine to do so. But woe betides anyone who drives without windshield wipers, a crime that comes with a hefty fine and even a jail sentence. Someone clearly never learned to do joined-up handwriting at school…
18. Mind how you flirt
If you want to show your interest in someone in San Antonia, be careful how you do it. Use your eye or hands to flirt, and you could end up attracting as much attention from the law as from your love interest.
19. Praise the lord
As per rhinolawyer.com, if you want to hold public office in Texas, you’ll first need to acknowledge the existence of a supreme being. Somewhat confusedly, the law also states that “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall anyone be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments.”
20. Don’t throw trash from an airplane
Galveston might be a great city, but its laws need some work. For a start, it’s illegal to throw trash from an airplane… which is fair enough, although how anyone can actually do it in the first place (don’t crack a window to find out) is a bit of a mystery. It’s also illegal to make offensive gestures at public events, drive a motor car down Broadway before noon on Sunday, or imbibe alcohol in a city park without express permission from the director of parks and recreation.