Old state legal books hang onto some very odd laws. Here are some of the strangest laws which are still on the books in West Virginia.
The legal cost of adultery in West Virginia is $20. This one’s just a misdemeanor. But it’s up to 6 months in jail and a minimum of $50 if you’re an unmarried couple living together, or a year in jail if it’s a second offense. If you’re a fireman in Huntington, West Virginia, you aren’t even allowed to whistle at or flirt with any woman who happens to be passing by the firehouse. In all prosecutions relating to sexuality, it’s up to the defendants to provide proof of marriage. However, it’s perfectly legal for a man to have sex with any animal, as long as it weighs less than 40 pounds.
In West Virginia, every community of 100 people or more which is within 1 mile of a railroad must have a railroad station. Keep in mind that it’s illegal to fall asleep on a train.
It’s perfectly legal in West Virginia to take roadkill home for dinner. This law was passed to save the Department of Transportation money on road maintenance. Nothing is said about railkill.
West Virginia takes its sermons seriously. In Nicholas County, no clergy member is allowed to tell jokes from the pulpit, or anything else which makes people laugh. It’s also illegal to swear anywhere in West Virginia, whether in a church or outside. For each act of public cursing or swearing, the fine is $1. The same goes for public drunkenness.
However, beating your wife is perfectly legal in Huntington, so long as it’s in public. In fact, you have to do it on Sunday, on the courthouse steps.
Don’t try whistling underwater for entertainment. That’s against the law in West Virginia. In Alderson, you don’t want to walk your lion, tiger, or leopard, even if it is on a leash. It’s also illegal to block someone else’s view of the screen or stage inside a theater, hall, or opera house by wearing a hat. If you refuse to remove it when asked, you can be fined between 2 and 10 dollars.
You are not allowed to ridicule anyone who turns down a challenge. If you are convicted of this misdemeanor, you can be fined up to $100 or even thrown in jail for up to 6 months. If you’ve ever participated in a duel, you are not allowed to hold public office.
Owning a red or black flag in West Virginia is against the law. The state government doesn’t want you showing any support for “ideals, institutions or forms of government, hostile, inimical or antagonistic to the form or spirit of the constitution, laws, ideals and institions of this state or of the United States.” (61-1-6)
There’s a special excise tax on bottled soft drinks: 1 penny for every 9-16 ounces served. Other taxation levels exist for bulk soft drinks, wholesaling, and retail. This one was imposed in 1951 to pay for the construction, maintenance, and operation of a 4-year school of medicine, dentistry, and nursing at West Virginia University. Maybe it also cuts back on the number of cavities that need filling.