Little-known laws that could still get you in trouble


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) The word scofflaw refers to a person who, for whatever reason ignores certain laws. Or may even be unaware those laws are on the books.

We found there are many laws and ordinances out there that are supposed to prevent certain actions or behaviors that are easily overlooked.

Bill Barrett, chairman of Wilkes-Barre City Council tells us, “There are a lot of ordinances that are on the books right now that are very rarely or haven’t been enforced for decades.”

Such as Wilkes-Barre City’s anti-cruising ordinance passed in 1986 to deter a big time problem at that time…Young people cruising around Public Square creating traffic nightmares and supposed safety hazards for pedestrians. The ordinance states a driver could not drive around the Square more than three times in an hour or they could face a fine of up to $200 dollars. Bill Barrett is chairman of Wilkes-barre City Council and is the city’s former police chief. He says ordinances like that were timely — when they were passed.

“But they are also preventative in nature too. Just kinds of keeps your neighbor from deciding to put a couple of cows in the yard or whatever they want to do. They are preventative in nature if that should occur the city has a law against type of activity,” Barrett told us.

Another little known law on the books in Wilkes-Barre is the curfew law. If you are under the age of 18 you had better be home by 9pm or you can face a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

“Their are ordinances on the books regulating strip mining. It’s not going to happen in Wilkes-Barre. There’s actually an ordinance on regulating the placement of payphones outside. Well, we know that’s not going to happen. Those are things that are going to go by the wayside.”

In 1878 Wilkes-Barre Council banned profane language inside the city cemetery…. here are some other strange laws we found in Pennsylvania:

  • You cannot sweep dirt under the rug.
  • You can’t sing in the bathtub.
  • Cars cannot be sold on a Sunday.

Peter Paul Olszewski is a former judge and district attorney. He tells us “It’s typically a knee-jerk reaction many times by a local government where a city or a municipality faces some public pressure about something new.”

Olszewski says timing is everything when it comes to some of these laws and their is no end date.

“The law addresses the problem and then 12 months later you don’t even see that type of activity anymore but the law remains on the books nevertheless. People don’t know they exist and they are obsolete.”

So why not simply recind these laws?

Barrett says there is a process. “We do occasionally go through them to take the ordinance off the books but it requires an act of council to do that just as well. We just can’t pull them out of the ordinance books so occasionally we do that we go through ones that are never going to be enforced no real reason for them and they are removed.”

Again… So if you are not so sure that your actions are legal.. attorney Olszewski says the best advice, don’t do it. Because there just could be a law on the books that could land you in trouble, or land you in jail.

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