Weirdest Laws In Rhode Island

Other than being known as the smallest state in the U.S. (via State Symbols), Rhode Island is also one of six states that make up the region called New England (per Google Maps). Located in the northeast part of the country, Rhode Island is a coastal state that borders Connecticut and Massachusetts. With a population of just over 1 million, it is one of the least populous states in the country, says World Population Review

While it holds the title for a tiny state, Rhode Island has a longer history, as it was the site of one of the early colonies in the U.S. (says Britannica). Today, the state is known for its manufacturing of silverware and jewelry, as well as being home to the single highest population of Roman Catholics in the country. It's home to Newport — one of New England's famous coastal towns (via Awesome America) — and houses the Flying Horse, the oldest running carousel (per Smithsonian Magazine).

Of course, there are many other things Rhode Island can boast about, but like other states, they have a few brow-raising laws that can only be called weird.

Horse speeding

Due to the state's small size, horse riders and horse owners in Rhode Island are already confined to very limited areas. The state legislators know this, which is why they created laws that allow for horses to be on highways. Much of the laws are based around the safety of the horse and the rider. These laws also mostly target drivers, which makes sense, because driving fast or honking at a horse and its rider can endanger all parties involved, per the state's Department of Environmental Management. In fact, the driver of a vehicle stands to endanger the horse more than the other way. 

Yet, it gets weird when it comes to the laws for horse riders. Per Justia, if you happen to get caught riding your horse on a highway to test how fast it can go, you will get penalized. "Every person who shall drive any horse over any of the public highways, for the purpose of racing or trying the speed of the horse, shall be fined not more than $20 or imprisoned not exceeding 10 days," the law explains.

Unlike cars, it's a little different when it comes to measuring speed in animals. So it's unclear how any authority figure can even go about determining if the horse rider is just going fast or "testing speed."

Noisy turning

Every driver knows there are rules of the road. This applies to giving the right-of-way and making turns. Often those rules have to deal with using light signals to inform pedestrians and other drivers of a direction. In most states, signaling will suffice. But in Rhode Island, it's not just a turn signal you're required to use. Per Justia, by law, a driver is recommended to make some kind of noise to let everyone know of their move on the left when it's needed. If a driver is about to make a left turn or making a pass on the left, the law states that they have to make an audible signal to alert people of their vehicular movement.

An audible signal can mean using your car horn, or putting your window down to simply shout what you're about to do (per NPR). Sounds like a nuisance but apparently, if you fail to do so, you might end up with a fine.

Impersonating who?

People might impersonate for fun on Halloween, but it usually never goes beyond the costumes. 

Impersonation is considered wrong in most places, especially as it pertains to identity theft and using false likeness to obtain or gain access to something — that's when it becomes a major crime. Impersonating some professions can be a crime everywhere, such as impersonating a police officer and acting in a role of authority, per Bail Bonds Raleigh. Depending on where you are in these United States, what you can impersonate varies, and some states have stricter laws when it comes to some jobs. 

Such is the case with the job of an auctioneer in Rhode Island. For some reason, impersonating an auctioneer is a criminal offense (via Justia). The law states that if someone acts as a "sealer of weights and measures, auctioneer, corder of wood, or fence-viewer," they might have to cough up somewhere between $20 and $100.

Limbless crimes

There might be a lot of reasons why someone could eliminate another person's limb, but in Rhode Island, legislators there don't seem to think so. There's an active law that states if you leave someone limbless, you can face up to 20 years in prison, says Justia

The law is quite specific. "Every person who shall voluntarily, maliciously or of purpose put out an eye, slit the nose, ear, or lip, or cut off, bite off, or disable any limb or member of another, shall be imprisoned not exceeding 20 years nor less than one year," the law states. The law is weird with how it details what act qualifies, and it does seem kind of contestable because what if you gouge someone's eye out in self-defense? Or what if you were voluntarily trying to demonstrate a machine's use to someone and sliced their finger off by accident?

Professional sports on Sundays

In some religions, Sundays are considered rest days and considering that Rhode Island has the largest population of practicing Catholics at 44% (via Gallup), it should be of no surprise that special requirements will have to be made for events that don't require resting. 

As a likely result, per the state's legislature, no professional sports games can be held on Sunday without a previously obtained license. Teams can play whenever they want from Monday to Saturday, but come Sunday, they have to show proof of a license. The only sports that are given an exception are ice polo and hockey. However, if a hockey or polo team is playing somewhere indoors on a Sunday, then they, too, must have a license. This law comes in handy because there's another one that prevents these licenses from allowing sports to be played in close proximity to a religious building, via Justia.