The Internet is full of weird and unusual laws attributed to Indiana legislatures. For example, dozens of web pages claim that it’s unlawful for people to ride a streetcar or enter a movie house within 4 hours of eating garlic in Gary, Indiana.
Although the anti-bad breath law is amusing, it doesn’t actually appear in Gary’s code of ordinances.
Lawyers are trained to provide accurate information supported by evidence. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the strangest laws in Indiana that are actually on the books today.
10 strange laws in Indiana
From throwing snowballs to catching fish, let’s look at 10 of the strangest laws on the books in Indiana:
- If you’re a county sheriff in Indiana, it’s a good idea to befriend the coroner. The coroner has the power to arrest the county sheriff and has custody of the jail and its prisoners during the imprisonment of the sheriff. (IC 36-2-14-5).
- People who like to fish will have to find another way to impress their partners. In Indiana, it’s unlawful to take a fish out of the water using your bare hands. (IC 14-22-9-1).
- On a hot, humid day, you might want to think twice about popping into a liquor store. In Indiana, liquor stores are not allowed to sell cold water or cold sodas. (IC 7.1-3-10-5).
- If saving gas is your goal, don’t take a road trip through Indiana. It’s illegal to coast down a hill in neutral in the Hoosier State. (IC 9-21-8-44).
- Failing to provide medical support to your child is normally a crime. However, there’s an exception if, as a legitimate practice of your religious beliefs, you pray instead of providing medical care (unless the care is necessary to save the child’s life). (IC 35-46-6-1-5).
- If you’re looking for a fun time in Indiana, skip the glue store and head straight to the Dunes National Park or Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s a class B misdemeanor to sniff glue with the goal of causing “euphoria.” (IC 35-46-6-2).
- In Indiana, don’t assume it’s BYOB (bring your own beer). It’s unlawful to carry alcohol into a restaurant or “place of public entertainment” for the purpose of consuming it or giving it away. (IC 7.1-5-8-6).
- If you approach a group of adolescents in the wintertime, you might consider crossing the road. In Warsaw, it’s illegal to throw a snowball across the street. (Warsaw Code of Ordinances 54-61).
- Check your laser pointer at the door. No person shall possess a laser pointer on city property in Evansville, Indiana. (Evansville Code of Ordinances 9.15.020).
- Good news for the squeamish: It’s unlawful for any person to transport a dead animal along a street or alley in Gary so as to expose any part of the carcass of the animal. (Gary Code of Ordinances 8-10).
How do strange laws get passed?
Every state has a handful of laws that seem a bit strange. Generally speaking, strange laws are either:
- Serious laws that just sound strange, or
- Old laws that are no longer relevant and haven’t been repealed.
An example of a serious law that sounds a little strange, is the Indiana law allowing parents to pray for their child rather than seek medical care. At first glance, the law may seem nonsensical, but more than 30 other states have similar laws intended to protect the religious beliefs of individuals.
Another example of a silly-sounding law that is actually quite serious is the law prohibiting individuals from using their hands to catch fish.
Dr. Spencer Cortwright, an associate professor of biology at Indiana University Northwest, explained that the law was probably put in place to aid in conservation efforts. Specifically, the law was probably intended to stop people from “hogging” catfish, a practice that involves plucking a male catfish from the river while the fish is guarding eggs. Because the male catfish won’t leave the eggs, people are able to easily grab the fish with their bare hands. Unfortunately, the practice leaves the eggs vulnerable to attack by other fish.
Antiquated laws are less common in Indiana thanks to an Indiana Committee on Government Reduction formed in 2012. The Committee is tasked with reviewing and getting rid of antiquated laws.