North Carolina has its share of the quirky and odd. See North Carolina Myths, for example, and that quirkiness also extends to the law.
Below are some wacky North Carolina laws that, maybe at the time, made sense, but today have us scratching our heads in wonder.
1. Don’t rake and bag pine needles without permission
Going on to someone else’s property is trespassing. Taking something off that property is stealing. Both are illegal; we all know that. However, for some reason, North Carolina legislators felt compelled to write a separate law specifically making it illegal to steal dead pine needles from someone’s property.
The law came about because landscapers use a large amount of dried pine needles. At some point, this resulted in too many individuals trespassing and gathering pine needles without permission. We’d love it if someone raked up and took away all of our pine needles.
2. Elephants can’t plow fields in Nags Head
Was this really a widespread problem? While most farmers in Nags Head were legally plowing their fields with horses, someone got the idea to use an elephant. And really, why not? By one estimate, an elephant’s pulling power equates to about 82 horsepower. Maybe members of the Nags Head City Council were envious of all that power they didn’t have.
No one is quite sure how this law developed. While there are not many farms in Nags Head today, the law remains on the books.
3. Rollerblading on the highway – no way
This is one of those laws that probably did not need to be written even at the time. Vehicles taken onto the highway have to meet specific requirements already. That’s why we don’t see bicycles, Vespas, or golf carts on the highway.
The reason behind the law is clear: rollerblading on the highway is extremely dangerous, even deadly, given the high speeds and traffic. But the question remains: why single out rollerblading?
4. BINGO – Ok. Marathons – Ok. Marathon BINGO – illegal
While you can play slots, table games, or make sports bets for hours on end in North Carolina, playing BINGO for too long can get you in trouble with the law. State law restricts playing BINGO to less than five hours.
Is the idea driving this law to keep BINGO a recreational activity? Maybe, but it also helps curb excessive gambling.
5. If you are going to sing in public, you have to sing well
Singing off-key for many of us is inescapable, so make sure you are not doing it in public places in North Carolina. Yes, this makes Karaoke bars technically illegal in the Tar Heel state.
This law is more about disturbing the peace than someone’s poor singing. It may have originated in the 1800s. At that time, it was not uncommon for drunken men to come out of saloons singing loudly and poorly.
6. Only married couples can stay in the same hotel room
This archaic law remains on the books, North Carolina General Statute Section 14-186. And don’t think about lying to the innkeeper about your marital status; that’s also illegal. So, if you and a friend or significant other are on vacation or a road trip in NC, plan on budgeting for two hotel rooms. Breaking this law is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
7. You can’t wear a costume at a board meeting
This law conjures up individuals in clown or Spiderman outfits mocking the local school board but it does have a logical reason for being. The law was designed to keep people from hiding their identity when at official meetings. It states that no one can conceal their identity at a meeting by “wearing any mask, hood or device whereby the person’s face or voice is disguised.” It also makes it illegal to demonstrate on private property while masked.
We hope this law was put on hold during the Covid-19 years.
8. It is illegal to steal your neighbor’s dog
Another NC law that really does not need to be specified. As pointed out earlier, trespassing and stealing are illegalities already on the books. So why are horses, geldings, mares, mules, and dogs specified? It must have made sense at the time.
9. It is illegal to drive faster than 12 miles per hour in a cemetery
Most speed limit laws come in increments of 5 miles per hour. So why are cemeteries so special? The mystery deepens since only cemetery workers can drive in city cemeteries. Was there a time when workers were drag racing through cemeteries? The law also states that a City cemetery cannot be used as a playground.
10. It is illegal to ride your bike without using both hands
We all know it’s safer to ride a bike with two hands instead of one. But should it be illegal to ride with just one hand? How does a kid ride a bike and drink a soda? Apparently, only by risking breaking the law.
We understand this law is designed to help keep people safe, but maybe this is taking it a bit too far.
11. It is illegal to walk on top of the city water tank
At one time, this must have been a problem in Henderson. Maybe a popular dare among teenagers or just a great view of the city? Whatever the issue was the City decided a special law prohibiting the climbing or walking on the tank was necessary.
12. It is illegal to swear in front of a dead body
Apparently, the Clean Language law declaring the use of profanity in funeral homes was not enough. Another law, passed in 2001 makes it illegal to use “profanity, indecent, or obscene language in the presence of a dead human body” during the transportation of bodies.
13. No happy hour allowed in the state
This disappointing law is well enforced in the state. While an establishment can offer specials on food at any time, drinks must stay the same price at all times. The idea of this law is, of course, to discourage excessive drinking.
Maybe it is ridiculous, but it is still illegal
These laws are still in effect. Some are strictly enforced, and others are more comical than serious law violations. Regardless of what you may think of any given law, violating it can get you into trouble with the law. So, no elephant plowing or bike riding with one hand.