Washington DC Laws: 8 Bizarre Laws in Washington DC

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Every state in the country has its own unique and odd laws that were passed for reasons that might no longer be valid or even that memorable. A small dispute between two legislators or two people in a town might end up in one person mobilizing a campaign for some law to get back at the other person.

After a time, they’re forgotten but if you look closely, even at the nation’s capital, there are some pretty bizarre laws in  Washington DC. Here are 8 notable ones.  

1. Photograph Carefully

Your first inclination when visiting the many notable pieces of architecture and landscapes in D.C. might be to snap a photo. If you live there, you might still get swept away by the sunrise or the sunset and want to stage the perfect photo. However, according to the law, you have to keep it moving.

You can’t stand for longer than five minutes in any single location on the city’s sidewalks while taking a photo. No matter how challenging or important your shot, you can’t spend more than five minutes on it or you might have to move along in accordance with the law. 

2. Freedom of Speech Limited to a Month

It’s legal for you to talk to whoever you want whenever you want to in the city of D.C. You can organize a legal protest, get set up with a microphone, and lecture a crowd every day for nearly a month. However, no matter what you’re gathering your friends together over, on the 31st day, you have to go.

You’re not allowed to spend more than 30 days in a row at a single location exercising your freedom of speech. You have to move to a different location at least every 30 days or you could suffer a fine or worse.

3. Bizarre Laws Don’t Allow Cowboy Stuff?

If you want to live lawfully in D.C., you need to abide by some strange and archaic laws. While you may not find yourself in such a situation, getting anywhere near the possibility of a duel would be illegal.

While brandishing guns in public might already be illegal, you certainly don’t want to print up a public notice about that. However, once you’ve offered a challenge of a duel don’t be surprised if someone refuses to accept. If you go ahead and make a public notice that that person is not accepting your duel and call them a “coward,” you’re in for trouble.

Challenging someone to a duel could be seen as free speech, but putting up those flyers won’t be.

4. Mind Your Sheep

If you’re the type to own sheep and herd them, more power to you. Raising wildlife in the city is hard but if you’re committed, you could certainly make it happen. You need to be careful of traffic no matter the hour in D.C.

If you try to jam rush hour traffic in the morning with your sheep, you need to have six drovers to help you. Going over a bridge is hard, and herding is also tough. If for some reason you decide to do so, you need to herd those sheep over the bridge in such a way that one-third of the bridge is clear for others.

Life is unpredictable, so make sure you keep this law in mind. You never know when it could come in handy.

5. Surf Soberly, Dude

While Washington D.C. might not be the first place you think of surfing, they’ve written laws just in case. Anyone who rides in the water has to be sober.

Water skis, aquaplanes, surfboards, or any vessel on the water are covered in this law. It prohibits alcohol, marijuana, narcotics, barbiturates, and hallucinogens. Doing acid on a boogie board is not advised and in this case, it’s against the law. 

6. Accordion Lovers Take Heed

Getting together a group of accordion lovers could be exciting if that’s the instrument you’re passionate about. However, you need to get together for a purpose that has to do with something other than entertainment. If you have more than one accordion played simultaneously in an establishment and it’s for entertainment, you’re breaking a Washington DC law.

No entertainment is allowed to be in an establishment on public space by more than three people on stringed instruments and no more than one accordion. This covers concertinas as well. That dream of a three-accordion string quintet might not be as legal as you think.

7. Bizarre Law Prohibits Dance Marathons

While the idea of a dance marathon might seem grueling to the average wallflower, thankfully in the city of Washington, D.C., it won’t be an issue. You’re not allowed to even dance for more than 12 hours within a single day.

No races, dances, contests, or anything of the sort are allowed to take place within a consecutive 24 hour period in D.C. If you organize something like this, it could be shut down very quickly. 

8. Santa Claus, Teetotaler

If you love getting into the holiday spirit and don’t mind some spirits with your spirit, be careful not to break a Washington DC law. If you create an illustration of Santa or use his name to promote alcohol, you’ll be in trouble.

There’s a city-wide ordinance against referencing holiday seasons like Easter, Holy Week, or even Mother’s Day and conflating it with alcohol sales. If you’re a small business owner, make sure your promotion is legal before you roll out a whole new holiday marketing campaign.

Most Washington DC Laws Make Sense

While some of the oddball Washington DC laws might seem odd, they made sense at one time or another. The ones that you’ll end up running across won’t usually be as odd as these, but these are a good way to learn your city’s history.

To get more into the city’s history, check out our guide to local D.C. adventures. Thanks for choosing our apartments, we hope you enjoy DC living as much a we do! 

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