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15 weird laws in California you wish you didn’t know about

Weird Law California You Didnt Know About
If you've ever read one of those "weird California laws" articles, you've probably gotten the same list. Well, we fact checked them and came up with a real list of strange laws that are still on the books (and one that isn't but couldn't help including it!)

If you’ve ever read articles about weird California laws, you undoubtedly came across the same list over and over.

There’s the law that makes it illegal for a woman to drive a car in a housecoat.

Then there’s the one about how autonomous vehicles can’t drive over 60mph.

And don’t forget the one about being unable to hunt from a moving car – unless you’re hunting whales.

They’re all undoubtedly hilarious. But are they true? As it turns out, California by itself gives the country a run for its money for weird laws.

If you run a keyword search for these laws using California’s legislative search tool, you’re unlikely to find them. Chances are, these laws were rescinded years ago and it’s only the legends of their absurdity that persist.

Not to worry, however. Using that same tool, you can still find plenty of California statutes that – when interpreted by reading their precise subparts – are bizarre enough to give you a good laugh.

Here are a few of our favorites!

Weird California laws

Beyond the commonly known regulations, there exists a tapestry of bizarre and often humorous statutes that have found their way into the state’s legal code.

From restrictions on wearing false whiskers to the peculiar rights granted to peacocks in certain towns, these weird California laws offer a glimpse into the historical, cultural, and sometimes whimsical aspects of the Golden State’s legal history.

Explore the quirkier side of California’s legal system as we delve into some of its most unusual and intriguing statutes.

1. No false whiskers

It’s bad enough to commit a crime in California but God help you if you commit that crime wearing “false whiskers.” No joke.

California Penal Code section 185 makes it “unlawful for any person to wear…false whiskers (whether complete or partial)…for the purpose of…[e]vading or escaping discovery, recognition, or identification in the commission of any public offense.”

Note that this law was enacted in 1872. It is safe to assume, therefore, that the law is not some sort of modern-day hipster penalty enhancement.

We’re still left wondering whether there is a stiffer penalty for wearing “complete” as opposed to “partial” whiskers.

2. Don’t clean that train with soiled wearing apparel

If I were a regular locomotive customer in California, I’d be grateful for this law. California Health & Safety Code section 118455 reads, in pertinent part, that “no person shall supply or furnish to his or her employees for wiping rags…any soiled wearing apparel [or] underclothing.”

This law doesn’t apply to just any employer. It does, however, apply to those who supply rags for “…cleaning the surfaces of machinery, machines, tools, locomotives, engines, motor cars, automobiles, cars, carriages, windows, furniture, and surfaces of articles, appliances, and engines in factories, shops, steamships, and steamboats.” (Section 118450.)

One can only hope it also applies to employers who operate restaurants.

3. Stop taking whales

Want a truly weird California law? Since 1975, it has been illegal in California to “take any marine mammals.”

In case you’re wondering what a “marine mammal” is, the statute defines them as “sea otters, whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions.” This sage prohibition is found in California Fish & Game Code section 4500.

For the record, the statute does not instruct where we might get any of these marine animals, nor does it tell us where we might take them. To the movies? To dinner? To a pool party? It also doesn’t tell us how one might take a whale. Is there an Uber for that?

It’s also significant that the statute does not prohibit the taking of California’s river otters. Apparently, you can take them wherever you want. Just be sure to bring appropriate snacks

4. Here comes the beer wagon

According to the experts, “California is the birthplace of the American craft brewing movement” and currently has over 1,100 craft breweries operating in the state.

Can someone please explain why more of them are not taking advantage of California Business & Professions Code section 23388?

This genius-level law makes it expressly legal for a “licensed beer manufacturer…[to] sell beer from wagons.”

The history buffs out there may think this is a pre-automobile law that is simply a reflection of historical normalcy. Others of you might wager that this is a modern law that reflects the popularity of food carts.

You’d both be wrong.

This law was enacted in 1953 – at the height of California’s car craze. We’re not sure how the law came to be but it sure would be nice if more breweries were selling their liquid gold from the back of a covered wagon.

5. Stop acting like a frat bro

Ok, folks. This one is serious.

According to California Penal Code section 538b, it is a misdemeanor to “willfully wear the badge, lapel button, rosette, or any part of the garb, robe, habit, or any other recognized and established insignia or apparel of any secret society, or fraternal…organization…or [to] use the same to obtain aid or assistance within this State.”

Setting aside for a moment the allure of being a fake secret society member, it appears that this law prohibits people from acting like they’re a frat bro when they’re not. Apparently, it’s especially bad to do so if you’re seeking assistance.

So, while we’re not lawyers and we can’t give out legal advice, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that if your car breaks down on the side of a California roadway and you need help, do NOT wear a Delta Sigma Phi t-shirt in an effort to obtain that help…unless, of course, you’re actually a member.

We hope you learned something from studying California’s really weird laws. Whatever you do, please don’t clean a beer wagon with soiled undergarments while wearing false whiskers and a fraternity sweatshirt after you’ve taken a whale.

6. Only cars allowed

In Long Beach, there is a quirky law that specifies that only cars are allowed to be stored in garages. This means that residents or property owners in Long Beach are legally prohibited from using their garages for purposes other than parking vehicles.

Typically, garages are versatile spaces that can be used for storage, workshops, or other activities, but this particular law restricts their usage strictly to car storage in Long Beach.

The rationale behind such laws can vary, and they may have been implemented for reasons related to city planning, safety, or community aesthetics.

It’s worth noting that while these laws might exist on the books, their enforcement may vary, and some of them might be considered outdated or rarely enforced in practice.

Nonetheless, they add a unique and interesting aspect to the legal landscape of Long Beach, reflecting the diverse array of laws that exist across different municipalities in California.

7. Whistling for a lost canary before 7 a.m. is illegal in Berkeley

In Berkeley, it is illegal to whistle for a lost canary before 7 a.m. This law seems to be a specific and unusual restriction on a seemingly harmless activity – whistling for a lost pet canary.

The stipulation that it’s only prohibited before 7 a.m. adds an extra layer of peculiarity to the law.

Laws like these often have historical origins or are responses to unique local situations. While they might appear odd or amusing, they might have been enacted with the intention of addressing certain concerns or maintaining a particular environment in the community.

It’s important to note that such laws might not be actively enforced or could be remnants from a bygone era. Nevertheless, they contribute to the colorful tapestry of peculiar regulations found in various cities and regions.

8. Walking an elephant down Market Street in San Francisco is illegal unless the elephant is on a leash

In San Francisco, walking an elephant down Market Street is illegal unless the elephant is on a leash. This law adds a whimsical touch to the city’s legal code and reflects the diversity of regulations that exist in different municipalities.

The law appears to address the specific scenario of someone walking an elephant on a busy street, Market Street being a prominent thoroughfare in San Francisco. The requirement for the elephant to be on a leash suggests a concern for public safety or control over large animals in urban areas.

While such laws may seem amusing or outdated, they often have historical contexts or were enacted to address unique situations that occurred in the past. In practice, some of these laws may not be actively enforced today, but they contribute to the interesting and sometimes quirky legal landscape of San Francisco.

9. Having more than two cats or dogs in San Jose is against the law

Pet lovers beware! In San Jose, it is against the law to have more than two cats or dogs.

This particular restriction on the number of pets an individual can own is not uncommon and is found in various cities to address concerns related to noise, hygiene, and animal welfare.

Laws limiting the number of pets aim to maintain a balance between the rights and responsibilities of pet owners and the well-being of the community.

Such regulations may have been implemented to prevent issues like noise disturbances, unsanitary conditions, or the spread of diseases associated with a high concentration of pets.

It’s essential to note that while these laws exist, their enforcement can vary, and some may be more actively implemented than others. Pet owners in San Jose should be aware of local regulations to ensure they comply with the legal requirements regarding the number of cats or dogs they can own.

10. Peacocks have the right of way in Arcadia

One of the most weird California laws is certainly from Arcadia, where peacocks have the right of way.

Yes, you read that right. This means that peacocks are considered town citizens and are granted the right of passage in various areas, including driveways and all roadways within Arcadia.

The law reflects a unique and perhaps charming aspect of the community, where the presence of peacocks is significant enough to warrant legal recognition and accommodation.

Such laws are often rooted in local traditions, wildlife considerations, or specific characteristics that make a community distinctive.

While these laws may seem quirky, they contribute to the cultural identity of the area and showcase the diversity of regulations across different cities and regions. Residents and visitors alike may find these laws amusing and appreciate the local flavor they bring to the community.

11. Homeowners may be fined $250 if they don’t remove Christmas lights by February 2

There is an unusual law in San Diego stating that homeowners may be fined $250 if they don’t remove their Christmas lights by February 2. This law suggests a specific deadline for the removal of Christmas decorations, and failure to comply may result in a financial penalty.

Such regulations might be in place to maintain neighborhood aesthetics, prevent potential hazards, or ensure that holiday decorations do not linger for an extended period. While the enforcement of such laws can vary, they contribute to the unique set of regulations that exist in different localities.

It’s worth noting that specific rules regarding holiday decorations are not uncommon, and communities may have guidelines to promote a cohesive and well-maintained appearance throughout the year.

12. Flying a kite higher than 10 feet off the ground is prohibited in Walnut

In Walnut, it is prohibited to fly a kite higher than 10 feet off the ground. This local regulation may have been implemented for various reasons, such as safety concerns or maintaining a certain aesthetic in the community. Such laws contribute to the unique set of rules and regulations found in different cities and towns.

13. Carrying bread, cakes, or pastries in open baskets or exposed containers is illegal in San Francisco

In San Francisco, it is illegal to carry bread, cakes, or pastries in open baskets or exposed containers. This law may have been implemented for reasons related to hygiene, cleanliness, or public safety.

While it might seem peculiar, local regulations often reflect specific considerations or historical contexts that influenced their establishment. If you have any more questions or if there’s anything else you’d like to know, feel free to ask!

14. In San Francisco, any person classified as “ugly” may not legally walk down any street

Speaking of San Francisco, lest we forget (to its great shame) that the city once passed Order No. 873 in the 19th century, which prohibited “street begging” and restricted certain individuals from appearing in streets or public places.

The law targeted marginalized groups, including disabled individuals, and aimed to remove them from public spaces.

The enforcement of the law led to arrests and incarceration of disabled individuals, reflecting a discriminatory attitude towards those less fortunate. Similar “ugly laws” spread to other cities in the late 19th century and persisted into the 20th century, with the last known case in Omaha in 1974. The article highlights the discriminatory nature of such laws and their eventual decline.

15. Washing a neighbor’s car without permission is illegal in Los Angeles

If you were thinking of being a good Samaritan any time soon and happen to live in LA, think again!

In Los Angeles, it is illegal to wash your neighbor’s car without obtaining their permission. This law reflects considerations for property rights and privacy in the community.

It emphasizes the importance of obtaining consent before performing activities that may affect a neighbor’s property.

Conclusion

Weird California laws are aplenty, with a myriad of peculiar and sometimes amusing laws, reflecting a rich tapestry of historical contexts, local traditions, and unique community characteristics.

While some of these laws may seem outdated or rarely enforced, they contribute to the diverse legal landscape of different cities and regions within the state.

From prohibitions on wearing false whiskers to restrictions on walking elephants and regulations about the number of pets one can own, these laws offer a glimpse into the quirkier side of legal codes.

Some weird California laws, such as those addressing the removal of Christmas lights or kite-flying heights, may have practical considerations related to aesthetics, safety, or community harmony.

Confused? You should be.

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