Thursday, November 5, 2009

World's Most Bizarre Laws

1 Tibetan monks need permission to reincarnate

In one of history's most absurd acts of totalitarianism, China banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs in 2007, the law, which strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation."

2 Yellow margarine is illegal in Missouri, US.

Did you know that if you buy yellow margarine in Missouri you're committing a crime? A 19th century state law banned the sale of yellow margarine, though "it's been years since any violator was ordered to spread them." Most of Missouri's restrictions on imitation butter date to 1895, and they were last amended in 1939. Although the state no longer enforces them, the penalties could still make dealers in contraband dairy product toast: up to a month in jail and a $100 fine for first-time offenders and six months in jail and a $500 fine for repeat offenders.

Enforcement of the law falls to the state Agriculture Department, and officials there didn't know when someone was last prosecuted under it. Case records from the late 19th and early 20th century show that Missouri courts upheld the constitutionality of the restrictions in several appeals. Agriculture Department spokeswoman Misti Preston said it's likely that the Legislature restricted margarine and other imitation butter products to protect Missouri's dairy industry, which was a key business for the state in the early 20th century.

3 It's illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament in England

The reason people are banned from dying in parliament is that it is a Royal palace. Anyone who dies there is technically entitled to a state funeral. So if they see you looking a bit sick they carry you out quickly. However, a spokesman for the House of Commons said: "The people who know about these things here say there is no basis for such a law, not to say it does not exist somewhere in writing."

4 Brazilian men allowed to return non-virgin brides

You could expect it in a Muslim country, but actually in Brazil, the country famous for its hot carnivals, from 1916 until 2002, men were able to obtain an annulment up to ten days after the wedding if they discovered that their wife was not a virgin before marriage. I bet Brazillian men probably expected that these fine ladies stamped in Rio's postcard were all virgins. (By the way, a recently law in Brazil has forbidden Brazilian postcards featuring women in bikini, shame on them) .

5 It's illegal to sell sex toys in the state of Alabama

In Alabama, the justice is not only blind but sexually frustrated. Alabama's anti-obscenity law, enacted in 1998, bans the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for anything of pecuniary value." The law does not ban the possession of sex toys; residents may legally purchase sex toys out of state for use in Alabama. Be aware, five minutes of pleasure can cost you a lot, since the law has strong penalties: Up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine for a first offense. A second offense carries a prison sentence of one to 10 years.

6 In the Netherlands, you are allowed to smoke cannabis but not tobacco (in public places)

The bizarre Dutch policy of allowing smokers to puff away on pure cannabis but not tobacco has perplexed police in the Netherlands, who have fined a man for mixing the two substances. Zero tolerance to tobacco smoking in Dutch cafes and restaurants is being exercised since a ban came into force in 2008. The man was not fined for smoking a cannabis joint but for smoking. You can smoke cannabis but not tobacco in coffee shops. The unnamed 27-year-old man was caught lighting a hand rolled cannabis joint during a routine police check, and fined because officers found tobacco mixed with the soft drug.

7 Carpooling is not allowed if you live in Canada

PickupPal is a Google Maps-based networking site, with about 15,000 registered users in Ontario, that helps people find carpool buddies. Sounds pretty useful, right? Only problem is… most of the carpooling going on at PickupPal is illegal. You see, in Ontario it is illegal to carpool or rideshare with someone unless you meet ALL of the following criteria:

- You can only travel from home to work (no rides to schools, hospitals, daycare, etc.)
- You cannot cross municipal boundaries (nor driving to the adjacent municipality for a GO station, TTC subway, airport, etc.)
- You must ride with the same driver each day (no exceptions, sorry).
- You must pay the driver weekly only (bring a calculator).
Ergo, if you arrange to have your boyfriend pick up your cousin Louis at the airport — you have broken the law. If you travel with a friend and give her $5 for gas money — you have broken the law.

Here's an excerpt of the current law, off the “Save PickupPal” blog: “No person shall arrange or offer to arrange transportation of passengers by means of a public vehicle operated by another person unless that other person is the holder of an operating licence authorizing that other person to perform the transportation.”

8 The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen

The Royal Prerogative 1324 decrees that any whale or sturgeon found on the British coast belongs to the monarch. The law is very much still in place, as fisherman Robert Davies found out in 2004 when he was investigated by police in Plymouth. He had faxed the Royal Household to tell them he had caught a sturgeon, and was told to keep it, but did not realize it was still illegal to try and sell it.

9 In Finland, traffic fines are calculated as a percentage of the offender's income

In Finland, traffic fines are calculated as a percentage of the offender's most-recently-reported income. In January 2002, Anssi Vanjoki, 44, a director of the Finnish telecommunications giant, Nokia, received what is believed to be the most expensive speeding ticket ever— $12.5 million — for driving his Harley at 75 km/h (47 mph) in a 50km/h (31 mph) zone. Mr Vanjoki appealed the fine because his reported income dropped significantly about five days after the incident; because of the new data, the fine was dropped to $103,600, still the most expensive speeding fine in history.

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