7 Laws You Didn’t Know You Were BreakingTed Burgess
Breaking a law you don’t know about is rather easy to do, and ignorance of the law is no defense – or is it? This statement is based on the idea that the laws might be inherently wrong (rape, murder, robbery, etc.) or that the individual knew the act was illegal and engaged in it anyway. The problem is that many of today’s laws are not inherently wrong. This led to a Supreme Court ruling, in Bouie v. City of Columbia, that the constitutional doctrine of “fair notice” applied. This makes it mandatory for the government to “give warning of the conduct it makes a crime.” Technically, this means that ignorance of the law may be a valid defense.
These Laws Are on the Books!
It’s no secret that there are hundreds of old and outdated laws that are still on the books. These aren’t the laws we are talking about. These are laws that are currently still being enforced in Los Angeles and the surrounding area.
- Trimming a shrub or tree that is on public property can result in a fine and jail time. This happened in Ocean Beach to Juvenico Adame when he was charged with “defacement, damage, and destruction” of public property valued at $400 or more. He simply trimmed a bush that was overhanging his property – something that an average citizen does all the time.
- Most Los Angelenos know that jaywalking is illegal, but it might come as a shock to find out how strict the enforcement has become. Just stepping off of the curb while the countdown clock ticks could result in a ticket costing between $190 and $250.
- Are you promoting a yard sale? Better make sure your Mylar balloons are tied down tightly. Releasing more than one Mylar or foil balloon into the air is a crime. According to ordinance 11.69.010, it is unlawful to allow one or more metallic balloons to float, rise, or remain aloft outdoors at a height of five feet or more for any advertising, promotional, or commercial purpose.
- Los Angeles isn’t just cracking down on yard maintenance, walking, and balloons. The city, in LAMC Section 56.16, has also made it illegal to “play ball or any game of sport with a ball or football or throw, cast, shoot, or discharge any stone, pellet, bullet, arrow, or any other missile, in, over, across, along, or upon any street or sidewalk or in any public park, except on those portions of said park set apart for such purposes.” Indeed, that makes it clear that you may not participate in anything fun on the sidewalk or in the park (unless you are on the correct field).
- If you thought Los Angeles was soft on skateboarders and roller-bladers while sticking it to kids playing ball, nope. It is illegal to skateboard and roller-skate through the courthouse and library. There is a law prohibiting these activities at the 200 West Compton Boulevard Courthouse and the 240 West Compton Boulevard Library (Ord. 2001-0015 § 1 (part), 2001.17.20.010).
- Of course, there are old laws that are just as bad, including one that prohibits bathing two babies in the same tub at the same time. There is no provision for twins. So, if you are unlucky enough to have had twins and used the same tub to bathe them at the same time, yes, you have broken the law!
- If you are taken to court over one of these issues, don’t you dare cry on the stand – you’ll just make things worse for yourself. It is illegal to cry on the witness stand in any state case in Los Angeles.
Of course, now that you’ve read this page, you can’t use the ignorance-of-the-law defense! I’m sorry about that. But at least you know that these laws do exist and that the LAPD is enforcing them.
By Ted Burgess