The first constitution of the ‘Ocean State’ became effective in May 1843. Before that, the Rhode Island territory was governed by the 1663 Royal Charter, a document that provided royal recognition to the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and was approved by England’s King Charles II in July 1663. The current constitution was ratified by voters in the general election of November 1986 and on January 20, 1987, the state’s first new constitution in 144 years was officially entered into the state records.
There are a couple of peculiar statutes in the Rhode Island Constitution that most people are not aware of. For instance, you could be fined $100 for submitting false death notices to a newspaper and you can also be jailed for five years for stealing a chicken.
I scoured the internet and came up with a fascinating list of eight weird laws from Rhode Island that are still on the books but are not rigorously enforced. Perhaps you’ve broken a few of them.
1. Stealing a chicken could land you in jail for five years
According to Title 11 Chapter 8 Sec. 6 of the Rhode Island statutes, “Every person who breaks and enters, or enters in the nighttime without breaking, any building or enclosure in which are kept or confined any kind of poultry, with intent to steal any of the poultry, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than five 5 years, or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars $500, or both.”
2. Lotteries and raffles are considered immoral
Any business owner who shall sell, give, or distribute any stamp, trading-stamp, cash discount stamp, amusement stamp, check, coupon, or another similar device to any purchaser of goods, wares, or merchandise, in such a manner that the activity partakes so much of the nature of a lottery, will be guilty of immorality.
When starting a business in Rhode Island, you need to understand the rules that the state imposes on businesses. Perhaps these guides on how to start an LLC in Rhode Island and how to find a great registered agent in Rhode Island can help you avoid any legal issues when opening or doing business in the state.
3. Testing the speed of a horse is illegal
Every person who shall drive any horse over any of the public highways, for the purpose of racing or trying the speed of the horse, shall be fined not more than $20 or imprisoned for a term not exceeding ten days.
4. Forcing your child or employee to work on Sundays is illegal
This repealed edict is considered a blue law, a law designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities for religious or secular reasons, particularly to promote the observance of a day of worship or rest.
It stated that, “every person who shall do or exercise any labor or business or work of his or her ordinary calling, or use any game, sport, play, or recreation on the first day of the week, or suffer it to be done or used by his or her children, servants or apprentices, works of necessity and charity only excepted, shall be fined not exceeding $5 for the first offense and $10 for the second and every subsequent offense.”
5. Stealing sand from Easton’s Beach is prohibited
Any person who shall remove any sand or any gravel from any part of Easton’s Beach shall be fined $20 for every offense. Also, any person who shall deposit or leave on the beach any dead animal, offal, filth, rubbish, or refuse matter, shall be fined $20 for every offense.
6. Don’t bite off people’s legs
Any person who shall voluntarily, maliciously, or on purpose put out an eye, slit the nose, ear, or lip, or cut off, bite off, or disable any limb or member of another, shall be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 20 years nor for less than one year.
7. Fake newspaper notices
Every person who shall willfully send to the publishers of any newspaper, for the purpose of publication, a fraudulent notice of the birth of a child or of the marriage of any persons, or of the death of any person, shall be fined an amount not exceeding $100.
8. You could be fined $500 for adultery.
Adultery, according to this law, is defined as “illicit sexual intercourse between two married individuals.” Anyone found guilty of this crime will be fined a maximum of $500.
Rhode Island Statutes – 11-22-11
Rhode Island Statutes – 11-40-1
Rhode Island Statutes – 11-29-1
Rhode Island Statutes – 11-8-6
Rhode Island Statutes – 11-19-9
Rhode Island Statutes – 11-44-16
Rhode Island Statutes – 11-6-2