Making South Carolina safer, one obsolete law at a time

Posted by: Jason Zacher on Thursday, March 17, 2016

Have you ever spent 30 days in jail for scaring a horse by removing a hand car from a railroad track? The South Carolina General Assembly may soon vindicate your conviction.

Have you ever wanted to head out on Sunday to pick up a new “radio, television set, phonograph, record player or so-called hi-fi or stereo set?” You’ll soon have your day.

And apparently, my 6-year-old has been living a life of crime by playing pinball.

The South Carolina House approved a measure this week that repeals a host of “obsolete laws,” which are always fodder for some #SMH social media posts. The measure was sponsored by our own Rep. Leola Robinson-Simpson of Greenville and Rep. Stephen Goldfinch of Pawleys Island.

This might be good news for scofflaw kids in arcades, but if you write those bathroom books of bizarre laws, this is not good news for you. However, these bills bring immense joy to those of us who spend our days tracking legislation or sitting in committees where public servants spend 30 minutes debating the exact definition of an awning.

Of course, you can’t repeal obsolete laws in one of the original 13 colonies without finding multiple code sections dealing with duels (outlawed in part thanks to Vice President Aaron Burr killing former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton). Robinson-Simpson and Goldfinch decided that “challenging another to a fight” with a deadly weapon, “delivering any such challenge,” and serving as someone’s second should no longer be crimes.

Interestingly, the next code section after dueling is hazing.

The repeal also applies to the crime of “adventuring in lotteries” (even though the State operates a lottery) and selling “swimwear and novelties” on a Sunday. Many of them are repealing obsolete blue laws that were implemented more than a century ago, such as prohibiting the operation of dance halls on Sundays. Others are simply things that are never prosecuted, such as six months in prison for adultery.

Many, like the prohibition on minors playing pinball or frightening horses, are just bizarre in today’s mind. The pinball code is in a section immediately BEFORE the prohibition on minors buying alcohol – clearly similar dangers to children.

There are surely dozens of other great lines buried in the giant South Carolina Code of Laws, and in one adjacent section to the stereo language is: “The doing of any worldly work or labor, business of his ordinary calling, or the selling or offering for sale of any goods, wares or merchandise (on Sunday) … is declared to be a public nuisance….” Remember that next time you hit Costco for 7,000 rolls of toilet paper after church.

If you are bored, or just geek out on this stuff, feel free to check out all of the code sections: “Sections 16-3-41016-3-42016-15-5016-15-6016-19-2052-13-1053-1-4053-1-6058-17-16058-17-340063-19-2430 of the 1976 Code are repealed.”

Then go find a Montgomery Ward and pick up your "so-called hi-fi" set.

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