Weirdest Laws In West Virginia

The state of West Virginia has a rich, wonderful history and is one of the most scenic states in the eastern part of the United States. Nestled deep within the Appalachians, this state easily earned its "Mountain State" nickname.

According to West Virginia Tourism, the U.S. Postal Service began rural free delivery in this state, making mail deliveries in remote parts of West Virginia a part of its pilot program in 1896. The U.S. Civil War saw many battles here, even claiming the first land battle of the four-year war with the Battle of Philippi in 1861.

All states have their unique charms. Along with those charms are also some pretty unusual pieces of history, some of which are located in the local code of ordinances and deep within the laws passed in legislatures. West Virginia can claim their fair share of weird laws. Let's take a look at some of the weirdest ones we were able to find for the Mountain State.

No laughs from the pulpit

In the small town of Alderson, you're forbidden to walk your pet lion, tiger, or leopard, even if they are on a leash. No word on how they govern walking your pet panthers, jaguars, or cougars, though.

In a state law that is very specific in the way it was written, you are not allowed to dig for ginseng in your neighbor's yard, unless they have permitted you (per Stupid Laws). 

The state has also a weird way to help pay for higher education. On the books is a tax "to raise money to provide revenue for the construction, maintenance, and operation of a four-year school of medicine, dentistry, and nursing of West Virginia University, an excise tax is hereby levied" on all bottles of soda sold in stores. Who'd have ever thought you could help out higher learning by opening up a Coke?

If you thought your minister was boring, imagine how much more boring they'd be without a sense of humor. In Nicholas County, a local law forbids any member of the clergy to crack jokes or tell funny stories during their sermon. 

Got a potty mouth? In the state of West Virginia, it could cost you a fortune. State law makes you pay $1 each time you use profanity. A fine in the same amount is also the penalty for being intoxicated in a public place.

Some laws seem sexist

There are certainly some outdated laws in West Virginia, but some of them shine a light on how women were thought of when they were written. While some were meant to protect a woman's "modesty" or add a layer of security, some are just blatantly sexist.

There's an old state law that requires a third party to be present any time a woman is placed under anesthesia. This includes not only in doctors' offices, but also applies to dentists in the state (via Stupid Laws). 

If you are a firefighter, you can get into some legal trouble if you whistle at a woman while she is walking by the fire station. The same law also bans any flirtation from them while they are on duty.

Be careful where you spit! You can be fined for spitting on any sidewalk that a woman would walk down. 

Unmarried couples were the subject of one archaic law in West Virginia. A state statute on the books prohibits men and women from engaging in any "lewd and lascivious cohabitation and conduct." Stupid Laws goes on to explain that offenders will be fined no less than $50 and can be sentenced to up to six months in jail for the first offense. Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to one year. 

Should you commit adultery in West Virginia, there could be a financial penalty for your actions. Cheating on your spouse, or aiding someone else in their adultery, will cost you $20.

No poking fun if they refuse your duel

Every state has qualifications that must be met before a person is eligible to hold any public office. But in West Virginia, state law will disqualify you if it can be proven that you've ever participated in a duel (via Only in Your State). Speaking of dueling, be careful how you might treat someone who refuses your challenge to a duel. If your prospective opponent declines, it is against state law to make fun of them. Mocking their refusal is punishable by up to six months in jail.

We're not sure why, but it's also against the law to whistle underwater in this state. The state constitution also forbids anyone to fly a red or black flag within the boundaries of West Virginia, according to Stupid Laws.

Sleeping on a train is illegal. And if any train is to pass by a community where at least 100 people are residing, then the train must make scheduled stops at a train station within that community.

Another odd law regards what your child's breath can smell like at school. West Virginia authorities can hold you legally accountable if you send your children to school reeking with the odor of wild onions. Be sure to remove your hat whenever you enter a theater. You'll be facing a fine if you don't.

They'll let you eat roadkill

There are some laws passed in West Virginia that leave you scratching your head. Laws are very often passed when a need for a new rule has been established by an action. So you're going to wonder what the reasoning behind making it legal for a man to have sex with an animal is. But before you get any ideas, the catch is that the animal cannot weigh more than 40 pounds (via Stupid Laws). 

Speaking of animals, a law also allows people in the state to take home any roadkill that they find so that they can cook and eat it (per Only in Your State). What wine goes with a three-day-old possum, white or red?

According to Trivia Sharp, it is legal for someone under the age of 21 to carry a switchblade knife with them. But this knife cannot be concealed in any way. Not only is West Virginia is a "stand your ground" state, but also a state that allows concealing and carrying handguns.

Time to revise the code

Most of the weird laws we've dug up are a little humorous. But some do give us a sense of how far we've come as a society. While it's funny to think about the rationale behind making it illegal to whistle underwater or having the legal equivalent of a swear jar with anti-profanity laws, some laws that are still on the books, and technically enforceable, should do more than just make us cringe a little. 

The best example of this is a law in the small town of Huntington. There, it's legal for a man to physically abuse his wife. If that allowance isn't bad enough, local law makes it a humiliating experience. To be compliant, the husband can only dole out the abuse if it is done on a Sunday, on the steps of the local courthouse (via Stupid Laws). 

As we live in a society with a living legal code, it's important to routinely review and revise the rules we are to live by. And occasionally, you have to throw out some of the ones that no longer apply, as well as the ones that were horrible ideas, to begin with.