Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

10 'dumb' Utah laws according to the Internet — are they fact or fiction? (10 items)

By and , Deseret News

March 30, 2014

According to the website and other sites like it, Utah has a number of bizarre and downright silly laws on the books, from laws making a husband responsible for criminal acts committed by his wife while she's in his presence to a law making it illegal to sell alcohol during an emergency.

Many of the things listed on those sites are touted as truth all across the Internet, from Twitter to, and

But just because the Internet says something is true doesn't mean it actually is.

Here's an attempt to dig through 10 "dumb laws" supposedly enforced in Utah to see if the claims are built on fact or fiction — or sometimes a little bit of both.

1 of 10. Whale hunting

Claim: Utah is known for its abundant hunting grounds, but if you're looking to bag a whale, think again. In Utah, hunting a whale is deemed an offense.

Truth: The word "whale" (unsurprisingly) doesn't show up anywhere in Utah code. The federal government's Marine Mammal Protection Act, however, states that "it is unlawful for any person or vessel or other conveyance to take any species of whale incident to commercial whaling in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."

If a whale appears in the Great Salt Lake, it's probably best to just leave it alone.

2 of 10. Fishing

Claim: The ice has melted off most Utah lakes and many fishermen are hankering to drop their lines in hopes of catching a big one. As long as anglers stay on the docks, a boat or the shoreline they should be fine, but if they are looking to fish from horseback, it's against the law.

Truth: The 2014 Utah Fishing Guidebook does not mention anything about fishing from horseback, but fair warning — it does get pretty specific about fishing with a crossbow.

The Utah Water Quality Act, however, does not look kindly upon people making any discharge into water of a pollutant "which constitutes a menace to public health and welfare, or is harmful to wildlife, fish or aquatic life, or impairs domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational or other beneficial uses of water," so keep an eye on your horse.

3 of 10. Got milk?

Claim: We all know underage drinking is against the law, but you may be breaking the law by not getting your daily fix of calcium in liquid form — that is, milk.

Truth: It doesn't appear that Utahns are required to meet any sort of milk intake requirement, but milk discrimination requirements? Those, Utahns have to worry about.

According to the Utah Criminal Code, "unfair discrimination" of sections, communities, localities, cities or towns by buyers of milk, cream or butterfat constitutes an offense against public health, safety, welfare and morals.

4 of 10. Rain dance

Claim: If you need some extra moisture on your crops, make sure you get your permit before doing the rain dance. To modify the weather, the law requires that you get a permit first.

Truth: The Utah Administrative Code does indeed include the words "weather modification," saying that, "It is unlawful for any person or organization, not specifically exempted by laws and this rule, to act or perform services as a weather modifier." Under the code, "weather modification" means "all acts undertaken to artificially distribute or create nuclei in cloud masses for the purposes of altering precipitation, cloud forms or other meteorological parameters.

In other words, "weather modification" means cloud seeding, and rain dances are most likely exempt.

If you're intent on performing some cloud seeding, though, you'd better make sure you've got a degree in meteorology and experience in the field and/or other training that makes you competent enough to perform the task. It's the law.

5 of 10. The right of way

Claim: We all know pedestrians have the right of way on most roads, but when it comes to the highways, the birds are the ones who come first.

Truth: This claim has been widely circulated and laughed at online, but never backed up with evidence — at least, not that we could find.

Utah's Motor Vehicle Act doesn't mention birds anywhere, and while Utah's Traffic Code includes animals as "traffic," it specifically limits that definition to "ridden or herded animals."

Whether or not birds have the right of way, after multiple families of geese tried to cross I-15 last May, Utah Highway Patrol troopers reminded drivers to keep an eye out for the unusual pedestrians anyway.

It is, by the way, legal — but not recommended — to consume roadkill meat in Utah.
1. Willybee71
March 31, 2014

Probably intended to discourage fishing with sticks of dynamite or hand grenades.
"You gonna fish or just BS ??", said Bubba, while handing the F&G Warden a lit stick.

2. Eliyahu
Pleasant Grove, UT,
March 31, 2014

It's easy to find odd laws on the books. During my tenure as a paralegal in Washington, I found laws and ordinances (since repealed) imposing a $20 fine for selling poisoned biscuits, making it a misdemeanor to throw a snowball at a person, and requiring all bicycles to have fenders and a kickstand. One of my favorites was a section of the United States Code Title 18 making it a felony to correspond with a pirate.

3. DEW
Sandy, UT,
March 31, 2014

Can we get rid of this motor permit or registration on single person pontoon and float tubes!

4. Uncle Gadianton
Salt Lake City, Utah,
March 31, 2014

Often, the "silly" laws are based on a broad reading of the terms used, and are not actually on the books. For example, according to a broad reading of a local ordinance, it is illegal to push a baby carriage full of manure in a public park. That language does not exist, but there is a prohibition against brining animal waste (ie, manure) into a park. The definitions of "conveyance" include such things as bicycles, wagons, drays, and perambulators (ie, baby carriages). You may bring a baby carriage into a public park, but you may not bring animal waste. Hence, you may not push a baby carriage full of manure in a public park.

Makes sense when you think of the implications.

5. The Rock
Federal Way, WA,
March 31, 2014

At one point it was a violation of EPA regulations to allow an animal, raised in captivity, to defecate in a river or stream. Since most fish are raised in a hatchery, it was illegal for a hatchery fish to go potty in a river.