Every state in the nation has strange or archaic criminal laws on their books, including Rhode Island. You might think that you're safe from some of these prohibitions, but don't be too sure. As recently as 2018, the police charged a woman with violating a 200-year old dueling law that prohibits arranging a fight. Could you be breaking the law without realizing it? Here are five of Rhode Island's most shocking criminal laws.
- Obscene telephone calls.
Think twice before you send that sext or naughty message–you might land in legal trouble. State law 11-35-17 declares that someone who uses a telephone or another telecommunication device for the purpose of using “threatening, vulgar, indecent, obscene or immoral language” is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine or imprisonment up to one year.
Believe it or not, Rhode Island statute 11-6-2 makes cheating on your husband or wife a crime. Under this law, a stepping-out spouse may have to pay up to $500 in fines if found guilty of having sexual intercourse with someone other than the person they wed.
- Failing to return a library book.
Rhode Island law 11-41-14 states that if you fail to return a library book within 60 days of receiving an overdue notice, you can be slapped with a misdemeanor and a $25 fine–not to mention any accrued overdue fees the library may charge. So, support your local library, but keep track of those due dates!
- Failing to help someone in an emergency.
It's always a good idea to lend a hand to someone in an emergency, if possible–but most states don't criminalize your behavior if you don't. Rhode Island is one of the few states that does. Statute 11-56-1 states that “any person at the scene of an emergency who knows that another person is exposed to, or has suffered, grave physical harm shall, to the extent that he or she can do so without danger or peril to himself or herself or to others, give reasonable assistance to the exposed person.” If you violate this law, you are guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to six months in prison, a $500 fine, or both.
- Horse-racing on highways
If you want to test the speed of your horse, stick to a pasture or a hippodrome. A relic from the days of horse and buggies, Rhode Island statute 11-22-11 states that any person who drives a horse over public highways “for the purpose of racing or trying the speed of the horse” will be fined up to $20 and could land in jail for up to 10 days.
If you need legal help with criminal charges such as these or others, contact the Rhode Island criminal defense lawyers of Inman & Tourgee online or call (401) 823-9200.