Op-ed: strange Idaho laws

Carter Johnson, Staff Writer

Every state has its own set of laws outside of the federal regulations. Some of these laws may leave people scratching their heads as to the how’s and the why’s.
Most of the time it can even be questioned as to whether these laws are enforced, or if they are just ancient relics, served as a reminder of just how strange the people back then were.
As a non-native Idahoan, I decided to look into this state’s own set of nuances and share what I found.
To begin, let’s start with a few technical definitions. According to lawhelp.org, “Federal laws apply to everyone in the United States. State and local laws apply to people who live or work in a particular state, commonwealth, territory, country, city, municipality, town, township, or village.”
Examples of federal law, rules that apply throughout the states, include issues such as immigration, bankruptcy, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income laws, patent and copyright laws, and federal crimes such as tax fraud and counterfeiting of money to name a few.
State laws include criminal matters, divorce and family matters, wills, inheritances and estates, real estate and other property, business contracts and workers comp.
If a person pulls up a general search of weird laws in Idaho, they can find a list of just the strangest rules and maybe wonder, why on earth are these laws even applicable? No idea fellow reader. No idea.
The one particular law I found myself getting irrationally peeved over is a law specific to Pocatello. Found on stupidlaws.com, in 1948, George Phillips, Mayor of Pocatello, passed an ordinance that made it illegal not to smile in Pocatello.
Not to smile. The sheer audacity of when people tell me to smile if I don’t feel like it is just overwhelming, so to pass an actual law that made it illegal to go around and not smile? Ridiculous.
This particular ordinance was passed as a tongue in cheek type of deal, as winter hit hard that year and spirits were low. Regardless, being told to smile would certainly not make me feel more cheery.
As a Gen Z, born at the tail end of the 90s, I can barely squeak by and say I was a 90s kid, especially since I was only alive at that time for six months.
However, remember the adage of “you’re not a 90’s kid unless you…”? This is relevant because one particular ordinance passed in 1990 stated that you can’t eat another person’s blood or flesh unless it’s critical for survival.
SeattleTimes found this out in their interpretation of Idaho laws. According to Title 18, Chapter 50 of Idaho Statutes, “It shall be an affirmative defense to a violation of the provisions of this section that the action [cannibalism] was taken under extreme life-threatening conditions as the only apparent means of survival.”
Ah, the 90s. Good times to remember It will always be a loved era in our hearts.
Another interesting law is the serving age for alcohol. Generally, in an Idaho establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol, people can be as young as 19 serving or dispensing the drinks.
They can’t technically drink the drink themselves but they can serve them. This one is strange in the sense that there are exceptions throughout the states on how this law is approached.
In establishments that are strictly alcohol serving, as a rule, the federal law is that servers have to be 21, but if there is food involved they can be 18.
I gather Idaho is 19 as the drinking age used to be 19 before it was raised to 21 in April 1987, originally found in Deseret News.
Speaking of age limits, recently Idaho failed to pass a bill that would have the sale of tobacco be regulated to 21 years of age. This legislation, reported by KTVB7, failed in the Idaho Senate by a vote of 10-22, meaning 10 people were for the age change and 22 were against.
As a result, 18-year-olds can now buy tobacco products in Idaho; though this is not to say that I recommend going and buying tobacco products if you are under 21.
The law that I found the most concerning is the marriage law or lack thereof. Technically, according to the official website of the State of Idaho, there is no actual legal marriage age.
Those that are 16 or 17 years of age have to have a written consent form signed by their parent or guardian or they must be accompanied by said parents or guardians.
To have someone marry any younger than that, one must only need written approval by the caregivers and permission obtained from the Court.
There is no actual age mentioned that the child has to be to marry. If the parent decides and the court approves, it appears that any age is acceptable.
KTVB7 just released an article on February 25, 2020, stating that legislation is setting the minimum age for marriage at 16. The article went on to explain that if a person were to marry at 16 or 17, then they cannot be wed to someone more than three years older than them. The reason for this clarification is to prevent young girls from marrying men much older than them. Part of the reason for the change happening only this year is because last year a similar bill for marriage age failed, as the stipulation for the old bill was a judge had to sign off to allow marriage to happen at 16. This new bill would only require parental consent.
Going off of laws and legislation passed this year of our Lord, 2020, one law going into effect on July 1, is that regarding libraries. The Associated Press reported that “public libraries will have to filter access on their internet services so that obscene and pornographic material can’t be accessed.” The reason behind this new and improved legislation is to prevent minors from using their technological device to access pornographic sites on public wireless internet. Originally this law was for computers only, where people couldn’t use public computers to access, but now it has been amended to add internet as well.
The estimated cost to get libraries updated is around $2,500 per library, but depending on the type of system, the cost could potentially go down.
Granted, some of these laws may be outdated or archaic but looking into these legislations has at least shed light on how Idahoans of the old days operated.
Although these laws may or may not be regularly enforced or even in the rulebooks at all, it was still amusing and slightly concerning project to look into. May Idaho and all its eccentricities live on forever.