In Ohio it’s illegal to disrobe in front of a man’s portrait.
We trust our lawmakers to pass legislation that will keep us safe and serve the greater public good. In every state’s books, though, there are laws outlandish and weird enough to make you question those lawmakers’ sanity.
Try as you might, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would take the time to make it illegal to have an ice cream cone in your pocket.
“A few states still have that one in their books, which is strange,” says photographer Olivia Locher, who’s lampooning the silliest of these statutes in her ongoing photo series, I Fought the Law.
After hearing about the ice cream law she got curious and started looking into more examples, soon realizing it would make a good series. “After doing that I just found out there were so many,” she says.
It’s not hard to satirize statutes that ban people from picnicking in a graveyard or tickling a woman’s chin with a feather duster.
Many of the things that legislators have seen fit to legislate read like something straight out of Monty Python.
And some of them make a crime of things we all do daily, like tapping our feet to the beat of a great tune.
Locher portrays them in irreverent photos inspired heavily by the bold colors and aesthetics of pop art.
She also looks into the background of the laws, but doesn’t include that information as part of the series. Even the silliest examples are often tied to the history and culture of the regions where they were raised. Hawaii’s law against keeping coins in your ears stems in part from the region’s complex history surrounding currency.
According to Locher’s research, placing coins in your ears is also a sign of being a drug dealer in Hawaii.
If you know anything about Wisconsin, you could believe the state once required serving cheese with every slice of apple pie—something of an urban myth inspired by a short-lived law requiring cheese and butter be served with every meal.
Some of the laws are totally reasonable anyway; you really shouldn’t fish with dynamite, and Rhode Island’s statute against transparent clothing is pretty clearly for the common good.