Weirdest Laws In Michigan

Michigan, which is nicknamed the "Great Lakes State," officially became the nation's 26th state on January 26, 1837. As reported by History, the state of Michigan is 96,713 square miles and has a population of approximately 9.8 million.

As it is surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, Circle Michigan reports the state has more than 3,000 miles of shoreline. Michigan, which is widely known for its recreational opportunities, also has 11,000 inland lakes, several million acres of forest, and several popular ski resorts.

MLive reports Michigan was the first state to abolish the death penalty, the first state to establish a zoo with open enclosures without visible cages, the first state with international railroad and automobile tunnels, and the first state to overturn prohibition. Michigan also had America's first concrete roadway, first police radio system, first outdoor pedestrian mall, and the first four-way electric traffic light.

Like most states, Michigan also has a number of weird laws that seem either archaic or nonsensical.

Adultery is a felony in Michigan

In most cases, Michigan's unusual laws are simply old laws that were never removed from the books and are rarely, if ever, enforced. However, some of the listed penalties and fines are no joke. For example, committing adultery in the state of Michigan is classified as a felony crime.

As reported by DivorceNet, Michigan is a so-called "no fault" state. Essentially, a divorce can be granted to any spouse who claims there are "irreconcilable differences" within the relationship and the marriage cannot be saved. Therefore, issues including domestic violence, adultery, and other complaints of marital misconduct are not considered when granting a divorce.

However, adultery is a criminal offense in the state of Michigan. According to the Michigan Legislature, adultery is defined by the Michigan Penal Code as "the sexual intercourse of two persons, either of whom is married to a third person." As stated in section 30 of the same law, if either of the parties is unmarried, they can still be charged with adultery, and are subject to the same penalties. 

As reported by CriminalDefenseLawyer, Michigan has eight different felony classes, with penalties ranging from probation to life in prison. DivorceNet reports adultery must be reported, and a criminal complaint must be filed within one year of the crime being committed, for the case to be considered for prosecution. Although it is possible, it is rare for someone to be charged with adultery.

Seducing an unmarried woman is also a felony

In Michigan, it is a felony offense for a man to "seduce and debauch any unmarried woman," and the perpetrator could face up to five years in prison and be ordered to pay a fine up to $2,500. According to the Michigan Legislature, the crime must be reported within one year of the occurrence.

Although the law was enacted in 1931, men have been convicted of the crime as recently as 2018. As reported by The Volokh Conspiracy, the charge is rarely the initial crime being prosecuted. Instead, it is used in plea deals involving more serious charges, including rape.

In June 2017, Michigan State University football players Donnie Corley, Josh King, and Demetric Vance were charged with the sexual assault of a young woman. However, as reported by The Detroit News, all three men reached a plea deal with prosecutors, which included pleading guilty to seducing and debauching an unmarried woman. Pleading guilty to the 1931 law allowed the men to avoid future jail time and evade the requirement to register as sex offenders.

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon said the seduction law "is a tool," which "allows the criminal justice system to acknowledge the victim ... and provides an incentive for that offender to plea." Although plea deals are often criticized, Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning said they are sometimes preferable in sexual assault cases, as a defendant can be convicted without the victim being forced to testify.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

It is illegal to dye birds in Michigan

In Harper Woods, Michigan, it is illegal to "artificially color, spray, or paint any bird or fowl or to sell, offer for sale, or otherwise dispose of any such colored bird or fowl," as stated in the municipal code. However, it is also illegal according to Michigan state law.

As reported by Animal Law, the entire state of Michigan prohibits individuals, firms, and corporations from selling artificially colored "chicks, rabbits, ducklings, or other fowl game." Violation of the law is a misdemeanor offense, and those convicted could be fined or otherwise penalized.

Brightly colored chicks, and other small animals, are specifically popular during the holidays. Retired poultry rancher Peter R. Theer said he routinely dyed his chicks before they actually hatched. In an interview with The New York Times, Theer said he simply injected food coloring into the eggs while they were incubating, so the chicks would already be colored when they hatched. Theer said the process does not harm the birds "because the food coloring is perfectly safe."

Animal rights activists have argued that families love the colored chicks while they are young. However, as they grow larger, and require more care, they are often neglected or surrendered to animal shelters. Although he is retired, Theer said he always gave his customers the option to return the birds. Unfortunately, that is not the case with every seller.

Sagging pants are frowned upon in Flint, Michigan

In 2008, Flint, Michigan, Police Chief David Dicks introduced a so-called "sagging pants law," which made it a crime to wear pants below the waist and therefore expose the underwear. As reported by WKFR, Dicks determined the punishment for violating his law will result in a warning for the first offense, a fine for the second offense, and possible jail time for the third offense.

According to Get Legal, Dicks referred to the practice of "sagging" one's pants as "immoral self-expression," which he said "goes beyond free speech; it rises to the level of indecent exposure/disorderly persons." However, civil rights groups have argued that Dicks did not have any right to enforce the "law" because sagging one's pants isn't actually illegal unless they are exposing their buttocks or genitalia. In a vast majority of cases, people who sag their pants are either exposing their underwear, a pair of shorts, or another pair of pants. They are not actually exposing any skin.

Get Legal reports Dicks never had the right to interpret the existing indecent exposure law or to enforce it according to his own interpretation. MLive reports a similar interpretation of the indecent exposure law by police in Florida was struck down by a judge. Dicks is no longer chief of the Flint, Michigan, police department, and it is unclear whether the new chief is enforcing Dicks' "law."

Many of Michigan's unusual laws have been repealed

Some of Michigan's more unusual laws made it to the 21st century, but were recently repealed. As reported by MLive, many of the laws were repealed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in 2019.

The repealed laws include a statute that made it illegal to use "indecent, immoral, obscene, vulgar, or insulting language in the presence or hearing of any woman or child." The crime was classified as a misdemeanor.

Another Michigan law repealed in recent years prohibited anyone from singing or playing the national anthem with "any embellishments or other melodies." MLive reports the same law prevented any portion of the "Star Spangled Banner" from being used in any other melodies. The crime was classified as a misdemeanor charge.

Michigan also repealed a law preventing residents from organizing, promoting, or participating in any type of endurance competition, including marathons or walkathons for fundraising purposes.

The repealed laws also include a statute preventing the use of the phrases "lost manhood" and "lost vitality and vigor" in advertisements about sexually transmitted diseases. As reported by MLive, the crime was classified as a misdemeanor. Violators of the law could have faced up to one year in prison and a fine up to $1,000.

Michigan also repealed a law requiring "any able-bodied male over the age of 18" to assist the Department of Natural Resources during natural disasters and other emergency situations. Those who refused to help were subject to misdemeanor charges.