Every state has its own unusual, seemingly wacky laws—and New Jersey is no exception. Perhaps you’ve seen some of these bizarre New Jersey laws before. These wacky laws are often posted on the Web or circulated in “How weird is our state?” group emails among easily amused friends and coworkers. Books about weird and wacky laws such as “You May Not Tie an Alligator to Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws” are also frequently on display in the legal or humor section of bookstores and are a popular, light-hearted gift for attorneys.
So why do some of these wacky, absurd laws and outlandish statutes exist? The thing about laws is that they provide a snapshot in time and place that is relevant to when and where they were written. A classic example in history is the “witch swimming test” and “trial by water” where accused witches were tossed in the nearest body of water to see if they would sink or float. Since witches were thought to have spurned the baptism sacrament, it was believed the water would reject their body and they would float. Accordingly, a witch would float and an innocent, non-witch person would sink. While this practice seems absurd today, it was used during parts of the Middle Ages as well as the 17th and 18th century and most recently, during the Salem Witch Trials, which occurred only 325 years ago.
Sometimes, seemingly absurd laws are what is known as “blue laws” (a.k.a. “Sunday laws” or “Sunday closing laws”). A blue law is a state or local law that prohibits certain types of commercial activities on Sunday. These laws are rooted in the Christian tenant that Sunday is supposed to be the Lord’s day of Sabbath and often prohibit “moral offenses” such as drinking. While today’s culture is much more secular than many parts of the U.S. were when these blue laws were first enacted in the 18th and 19th century, some blue laws still remain on the books in many states including New Jersey.
A weird New Jersey law that locals know very well but visitors are often surprised to learn is that you can’t pump your own gas in New Jersey. This New Jersey law dates back to 1949. As of the beginning of 2018, New Jersey is the last state where you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas. Some New Jersey residents and lawmakers have tried to organize a repeal of this law in order to help lower the price of gas by 5 to 7 cents per gallon. However, supporters of the “can’t pump your own gas” law have argued that a repeal would “come at the cost of tens of thousands of jobs — not to mention the emotional toll taken as grown, functioning adults across the state struggle to learn a skill most motorists master by age 17.”
Some of New Jersey’s other weird and wacky laws include:
- “No person shall drive a horse attached to a sleigh or sled on a highway unless there are a sufficient number of bells attached to the horse’s harness to give warning of its approach.” NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-15 (2016)
- Car dealerships are prohibited from opening on Sunday. NJ Rev Stat § 2C:33-26 (2013)
- A person is guilty of a crime if her or she wears body armor (a bullet-proof vest) while engaging in the commission of, or the attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit murder, manslaughter, robbery, sexual assault, burglary, kidnaping, criminal escape or assault. NJ Rev Stat § 2C:39-13
- “No person shall liberate a fox within this state, under a penalty of one hundred dollars for each offense.” NJ Rev Stat § 23:4-57 (2014)
New Jersey state laws can definitely be weird and things get even weirder when you delve into the local laws of certain cities and towns in New Jersey. Here are a couple of examples:
- Haddon — It is illegal to use the Crystal Lake Pool without first obtaining a bathing tag from the Township Clerk. 99-1
- Mount Laurel — It is illegal to get drunk and annoy others in your house. 109-1.
These laws may seem funny, but breaking the law is no joke and may have lifelong repercussions no matter how minor or seemingly absurd the charge is. Whether you run afoul of any of these weird offenses or any New Jersey criminal or traffic laws, you need an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney by your side. At the Law Office of Eric M. Mark, our seasoned criminal defense lawyers and traffic defense lawyers are ready to fight for you!
To schedule your free consultation with a skilled New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, traffic defense lawyer, or DWI lawyer at the Law Office of Eric M. Mark, contact us online here or you can reach us at:
Law Office of Eric M. Mark NEWARK OFFICE
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Newark, NJ 07102
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Jersey City, NJ 07302
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Cranford, NJ 07016
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