Don’t blame the criminal…

Is that really illegal?

By Isabel Suarez

I was recently charged with an infraction that I was unaware was illegal. My lawyer tells me that “ignorance of the law” is not a defense. How was I to know what is illegal? Any advice?

Dear Confused,
The good news is that you are in good company. A person would have to have an encyclopedic mind in order to know what is illegal at any given time. Even attorneys cannot call themselves “specialists” (with very few exceptions) such as those who practice in the areas of maritime, tax or intellectual property law.  In Ohio, attorneys are required to refer to what we do as “practicing” law. This means our education is never finished; in fact, we must complete 24 hours of continuing legal education every two years in order to keep our licenses active.

The reason for this requirement is well founded.  Since we live in an ever-changing society, the laws that govern our behavior must be revised and sometimes repealed to keep them relevant. In fact, the 24 hours are not even sufficient to keep us up-to-date. The Ohio Bar Association publishes a hefty weekly report to keep us updated. But even that is not sufficient.  An attorney must exercise due diligence and research a client’s issue in order to ensure that the charges and/or defenses remain viable.  So for your entertainment, here are some acts that at some point have been illegal:

• To wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in church
• For a moose to walk on the side-walk downtown
• To mispronounce Arkansas while in Arkansas
• To try to stop a child from playfully jumping over puddles of water
• To wear a red dress in public
after 7 p.m.
• To walk across the street on
your hands
• Giving a lighted cigar to any domesticated pet
• Kisses may last for as much as, but no more than,
five minutes
• Anyone who has been drinking is “sober until he or she cannot hold onto
the ground”
• Biting someone with natural teeth is “simple assault” while biting someone with false teeth is “aggravated assault”
• It is legal for the blind to hunt and they do not need anyone with them
• You cannot walk across the Minnesota-Wisconsin border with a duck on your head
• You cannot have a sheep in the cab of your truck without a chaperone
• A parent can be arrested if his child cannot hold back a burp during
church service
• Females are strictly forbidden to appear unshaven in public
• Elephant may not be used to plough cotton fields
• Violators can be fined, arrested or jailed for making ugly faces at a dog
• A special cleaning ordinance bans housewives from hiding dirt and dust under a rug in a dwelling
• Horses may not be kept in bathtubs
• You cannot shoot any game other than whales from a moving automobile
• You cannot take more than three sips of beer while standing
• You cannot bribe any persons other than political candidates
• Unless a customer requests it specifically, margarine cannot be served instead of butter
• A woman cannot stand within five feet of a bar while drinking
And closer to home (Ohio):
• Fishing drunk is illegal
• Participating in a duel is illegal
• Five or more women living in the same house is illegal
• Dying or otherwise coloring any rabbit or baby poultry is illegal
• Women are prohibited from wearing patent leather shoes in public
• No one may be arrested on Sunday or on the Fourth of July
• Breastfeeding is not allowed
in public
• You can be fined for leaning against a public building
• Catching a mouse without a
hunting license is illegal
• Running a horse over five miles
per hour is illegal
• Eating a donut and walking backwards on a city street is illegal
• Roller-skating without notifying
the police is illegal
•  You cannot install a slot machine in an outhouse

So clearly there is good reason for attorneys to just “practice.”
¡Buena Suerte!

Legal disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and informative purposes only, and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk and are advised to seek an attorney if legal consultation is needed. The accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed as laws are subject to change. Neither the author, the Dayton City Paper, nor any
of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.

Isabel Suarez is a Cuban-born American who has been practicing law since 1984. Her diverse multicultural and multilingual practice Suarez & Carlin in Old North Dayton especially serves the regions working poor. Isabel is also a board member of and volunteer for the Ohio Intervention Program. You can reach Isabel by email at or by calling her office located at 765 Troy St. in Dayton at
(937) 258- 1800.

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