stange laws

Strange Laws that Remain on the Books in New York

April 9, 2024

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

When it comes to enacting laws, legislators put new regulations into place ostensibly for the good of the community. Yet over time, some of these laws lose their meaning. As communities and cultures change, these rules may become unnecessary or outdated. Sometimes, they can even seem downright silly years after they are enacted. In New York, there are several strange laws that are still on the books.


New York City’s Strange Laws

In New York City, you cannot have three or more unrelated people living together. Under Housing Maintenance Code § 27-2004, a household cannot have “more than three unrelated persons occupying a dwelling unit and maintaining a common household.” However, there may be some exceptions to this rule.

Pursuant to another law, certain street shows are illegal in New York City. According to Administrative Code § 10-114, you can be jailed for up to 30 days and fined up to $25 for “giv[ing] any exhibition of climbing or scaling on the front or exterior of any house or building.” Even more strange, this section of the law also bans puppet shows from windows.

According to Administrative Code § 10-126, the only permitted parachuting in New York City is “in the event of imminent danger” or when under order as part of military service. As such, you cannot parachute just for the fun of it. If you parachute illegally, this can result in a misdemeanor conviction.


Strange Laws Relating to Animals

Throughout New York state, it is illegal to sell baby chicks or rabbits which have colored fur or feathers. Under Agriculture & Markets Law § 354(2), selling the dyed animals is punishable by up to a year in jail.

Under another law, it’s illegal to import cat or dog hair. Pursuant to Agriculture & Markets Law § 379, those doing this type of importing can be liable for civil penalties. For individuals, the penalty can be up to $1,000, while corporations may be liable up to $5,000. For subsequent violations of the law, the civil penalties increase to up to $25,000.

More recently in 2014, it became illegal to take a photo with a big cat. Called the “tiger selfie law,” Environmental Conservation Law § 11-0538 makes it illegal for a member of the public to have direct contact with lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, and mountain lions. If found guilty, a penalty of up to $1,000 can be imposed.


Recent Push to Repeal New York’s Adultery Law

Since 1907, New York has criminalized adultery, and the law remains on the books today. If a person is married and has a living spouse, it is illegal for that person to engage in sexual intercourse with someone not their spouse. Similarly, a person cannot engage in sexual intercourse with a person who has a living spouse.

While perhaps frowned upon, it seems strange to punish adultery with a criminal conviction and jail time. Under Penal Law § 255.17, adultery it is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

In the 2023-2024 legislative session, legislators have called to repeal this strange law. Recently, bill A4714/S8744 passed both the state’s Assembly and Senate. Next, the bill will go to Governor’s desk for her consideration and possible signature.




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