Everyone has come across a law that they didn’t agree with, or that they thought was just plain stupid, but if you search for dumb laws on the Internet, you’ll find references to some laws supposedly on Arkansas books that seem so useless that you have to wonder about the people that wrote them. A lot of them are actually real laws (or old laws), but some of them probably never existed.
One often referenced law that comes in handy in November is the law that states, “No person shall be permitted under any pretext to come nearer than fifty feet of any door or window of any polling room from the opening of the polls until the certification of the returns.” That makes voting a bit difficult. I guess you could paper airplane your ballot in.
This law is one of the few “strange Arkansas laws” that was actually on the books. You’ll find it in section 43 of act 1891. The context around that phrase makes it clear that the intended “persons” were actually people other than the voter (who is referred to as “the elector” elsewhere) and not all persons. That specific section pertains to setting up tamper-free voting booths.
One of the most common laws referenced on sites digging up strange laws is that it is forbidden by law for the Arkansas River to rise higher than the Main Street bridge in Little Rock. I guess we’re supposed to arrest the river for disobeying? How does a river pay a fine? Dumb law lists also say it’s illegal to kill any “living creature” in Fayetteville. However, killing inanimate objects is perfectly okay. I can find no evidence of either of these on Arkansas law books, but they are referenced by many different websites claiming that they are repealed laws. I think they are probably exaggerated if there is any actual truth to them.
You might be excited enough to honk your car horn when it’s your turn in line at the drive-thru. You better not try too late at night. It often quoted that it is illegal for a person to sound the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9:00 p.m. This is a real law in Little Rock (Sec. 18-54) and there is a similar law in Fort Smith (Sec. 16-45). It’s to prevent disturbing the peace. There are quite a few regulations on sounding your horn.
My favorite phony law is one designed to get Northerners into trouble. It’s often tossed around that if you mispronounce Arkansas (Ar-kan-saw), you’re in for a fine or jail time. We actually do have a legal pronunciation of our state name and we’re one of the few states that do. Title 1, Chapter 4, Section 105, is where you’d find that. However, there are no penalties for mispronunciation. We just know you’re not from around here.
An often quoted dumb law is that flirtation between men and women on the streets may result in a 30-day jail term in Little Rock. This was, kind of, in the actual Little Rock Code at one point. The specific law was aimed at prostitution, not non-working individuals. The statue and surrounding language make it clear that they are aiming to prevent solicitation, not flirting.
1918 Ord. No 2502
It shall be unlawful for any person to attract or to endeavor to attract the attention of any person of the opposite sex, upon or traveling along any of the sidewalks, streets or public ways of the City of Little Rock, by staring at, winking at, coughing at or whistling at such person, with the intent, or in any way calculated to annoy, or to attempt to flirt with any such person.
Any person violating Section 4 of this ordinance shall be fined in any sum not less than $5.00 nor more than $25
Animals in Arkansas get the weirdest laws credited to them. An often quoted one that I cannot find a real reference too is that if you live in Arkansas, you may not keep an alligator in your bathtub. That’s probably good advice anyway. It is usually quoted that if your dog barks after 6 p.m. you can be fined and the dog can be impounded. That one is at least partially true. Animal control can take a dog and there is an ordinance that states:
2003 Ord. No. 18,959
It shall be unlawful for any person to keep on his premises, or under his control, any dog which by loud and frequent barking and howling shall disturb the reasonable peace and quiet of any person.
Cow owners should take heed too. Bessie may need her exercise but even cows deserve Sunday’s off. It’s often quoted that it is unlawful to walk your cow after 1:00 on Sundays. The actual old law is a bit more strict (limiting cow walking time to between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., 9 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.) and dates back to 1904. It’s no longer active.
Women are also a popular subject for laws. Strange law sites report that there is a law that states female teachers who bob their hair cannot be given a raise. Even more degrading is a supposed law that states a man can beat his wife in Little Rock provided he does it with a stick no bigger than 3 inches across and not more than once a month. Neither one of these laws is actually verifiable. It is possible that teachers were required not to bob their hair at one point by school supervisors. It’s unlikely that either was actually a law.
Arkansas may be a redneck state but at least we’re not Tennessee. In Tennessee, it is legal to gather and consume road kill and it is illegal for someone pulling up to a stop sign to refuse to fire a gun out of the window. Those are probably exaggerated too, but I’ll let you figure that out.