The United States has many states and even more weird laws. Some of them, such as the Indiana ban on washing fish barehanded, are straight up ridiculous. Like anyone does that except for Bear Grillz.
Some laws are grim. So grim, in fact, they make you ask yourself whether the lawmakers actually care about the people. Here are seven U.S. laws just like that.
The Lobster Crate Case
Have you ever heard about the Lacey Act? Neither did the man who spent six and a half years of his life for violating it.
Abner Schoenwetter had been importing and selling lobsters for 12 years before one unfortunate purchase from Honduras deprived him of his success.
After purchasing a huge batch of lobsters and getting them delivered, he was informed that the National Marine Fishery Service had filed a suit against him.
It turned out that the supplier packaged the lobsters in plastic bags, and under Honduran law, they should be put in cardboard boxes. Why does Honduran law apply? According to the Lacey Act, if you break wildlife laws in another country, you can be charged in the United States.
The case turned from administrative to criminal, with the FBI raiding the man’s home and incarcerating him for six and a half years. For a petty crime he didn’t even commit. Based on a foreign law. No comment.
Of Frogs and Men
There’s another law that can prioritize wildlife over people. The suit was filed back in 2012, and it’s still in court. If the judges rule in favor of wildlife, it can set a terrifying precedent.
A species of frogs called the Mississippi gopher is on the brink of extinction. There are about 100 of them alive, which means they can become extinct at any moment. Environmental groups decided to ask the federal government to protect the land they think is a critical habitat for the creatures.
A noble cause as it is, it requires the government to confiscate 1,500 acres of land from the owner. It can mean as much as $34 in losses. Some part of that sum will be compensated according to the Endangered Species Act, but it’s still worse than not having your land taken.
That’s not the weirdest part, though, because the frogs don’t even live there. There isn’t a single gopher frog on these 1,500 acres of land.
You can think of this case as ecology advocates fighting a greedy capitalist or a man fighting the government. Whichever of the two versions you pick one thing is clear: the government can now seize your property to protect wildlife. If the court favors the frogs, this means they can confiscate the land even if there is nothing to protect there.
Lemonade Stand License
Lemonade stands are as American as an apple pie and baseball. It’s the tipping point of childhood, a way to learn how money works and how society as a whole operates. They’re not allowed in America anymore.
Multiple states in the United States require you to have up to three licenses to operate a stand like this. You need to have a business license, a peddling license, and a food license. Even though some cops turn a blind eye to kids running a lemon stand, many do their job and fine individuals doing that.
If you ask someone “write my essay online for cheap” and try to raise money for charity, you may be arrested for this. Not even celebs are given a free pass. The Seinfelds were fined for raising money for charity by selling lemonade.
Now, the childhood rite of passage has grown grimly ironic. In order to earn your first dollar, you have to spend up to $200 on licenses first.
Good Samaritan License
Americans have always been generous givers. In 2017 alone, the country donated $400 billion to charity. The bulk of that money doesn’t come from the biggest philanthropists but from individual donors.
It’s easy to understand those who prefer to donate their time instead of transferring funds to a charity organization. There can be little accountability for the funds, and helping someone in need on your own just feels better.
You see a starving man on the street corner, and you feel like sharing your pizza with him. Can’t do that in today’s America.
An increasing number of cities require you to have a license to feed the homeless. In Atlanta and some cities in California, you can’t even make the world better without doing some paperwork first.
Trump’s Travel Ban
America is a country of immigrants, but Trump’s administration put an end to the tradition of welcoming people from all over the world. In 2017, they signed a document that effectively banned seven Muslim countries from entering the United States.
While it’s easy to understand the government’s concern over potential insurgents getting to the United States, barring everyone entry is never an option. The United States can be missing out on some great minds wanting to escape the oppressive regimes in their countries.
This ban was supposed to work for 120 days, but now, Travel Ban 3.0 is still in force. Even though families were granted permission to get their loved ones to the country, the questionable ban still persists.
The Alabama Abortion Ban
Abortion is a subject that hasn’t been debated since the Civil Rights era. However, not all states agree with that.
This year, Alabama has passed a controversial law making abortion a federal felony in most circumstances. The only reason to terminate a pregnancy is if the mother’s life is in danger, or the fetus has an anomaly that can cause stillbirth. Doctors who perform abortions on rape victims can get up to 99 years in jail.
The country is pretty much divided on the abortion argument, with 47% of women being pro-life. But most people outside of Alabama recognize the absurdity of such a strict law.
The bill will be in force in six months unless repealed. It’s already challenged in the Supreme Court.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws
Private property is at the core of any civilized society. It’s the job of the government to protect the private property rights of its citizens. Guess what, in America, the government can seize your property.
The cause is just. Police have hard times fighting drug trafficking, as it’s difficult to find evidence and bring the case to court. So they fight the criminals by seizing their property and cash.
Civil asset forfeiture is profitable, with the US police making over $2.5 billion a year on it. A law enforcement officer can charge you with possessing a car or cash that are part of drug proceedings and confiscate them without any conviction whatsoever. You’re then required to bring the case to court and prove you’re not guilty. This flips the presumption of innocence upside down.
In some extreme cases, the victims can’t even get to the court because the hearing is constantly being delayed. No wonder, since in many states, 100% of the seized funds go to the police. The funds are not monitored and can be spent on anything the department needs.
Not all states are that bad, though. As this Institute for Justice chart shows, 14 states are more lenient with the civil asset forfeiture policy.
If you live in the states that have a D- mark or lower, you may be hard-pressed to return your property after it was seized.
Is it That Bad?
If you’re considering moving to Canada after reading this, you may be looking the wrong way. The easiest method of fighting the government is making the case public.
Most asset forfeiture cases were dropped shortly after contacting the media. The lemonade stand kids who went public got their fines paid by charitable organizations.
As grim as it is, the best place to find justice is not in a courtroom.