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Wednesday, October 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Did you know that these ‘odd laws’ existed in Idaho?

In this photograph taken on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009 the renovated capital dome is pictured inside the Idaho statehouse in Boise, Idaho. Lawmakers over the years have passed a variety of odd laws that make it illegal to do everything from remove telegraph lines to cannibalism. (Charlie Litchfield / AP)
In this photograph taken on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009 the renovated capital dome is pictured inside the Idaho statehouse in Boise, Idaho. Lawmakers over the years have passed a variety of odd laws that make it illegal to do everything from remove telegraph lines to cannibalism. (Charlie Litchfield / AP)
the TIMES-NEWS

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – Some laws were created to keep us safe. Others help enhance or protect the state’s business and agriculture. Certain acts are against the law because they are offensive or deemed to be in bad taste. And others are an attempt to conform to a moral code. But as far as Twin Falls Attorney Grant Loebs can tell, there is a pretty clear reason for most of them.

“As with everybody, for prosecutors and policemen, the law is the law,” Loebs said. “There are some laws that aren’t enforced as aggressively as others either because there’s no harm, there’s no complaint, nobody calls it in, we’re unaware of it, or it’s difficult to know that it’s happening. But if we get a complaint, we look into things if they’re on the books.”

Why do some laws even exist in the first place? And why haven’t others been updated for our modern world?

For this story, the Times-News delved deep into Idaho Statutes and Twin Falls city codes to find “odd laws.” These were often selected because of their subject matter or specificity, their wording or their very existence.

Here’s a look at a few of Idaho’s more unusual laws and what it means to break them.

You can’t remove telegraph lines.

What it says:

Idaho Statute 18-6801 says: “Every person who maliciously displaces, removes, injures or destroys any public telephone instrument or any part thereof or any equipment or facilities associated therewith, or who enters or breaks into any coin box associated therewith, or who willfully displaces, removes, injures or destroys any telegraph or telephone line, wire, cable, pole or conduit belonging to another or the material or property appurtenant thereto is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

When it was passed:

This law was passed at least as early as 1963, possibly earlier.

Loebs’ interpretation:

It’s obvious this law also includes more modern equipment such as telephone lines, but “There might be a place in Idaho where there still is a telegraph. I wouldn’t have any idea,” Loebs said.

What the penalties are:

A person convicted under this statute would be guilty of a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to six months in the county jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

You can’t sabotage the timber industry.

What it says:

Idaho’s trespass and malicious injury statutes refer to a specific kind of sabotage, which is, “Any person who wilfully, maliciously or mischievously drives or causes to be driven or imbedded any nail, spike or piece of iron, steel or other metallic substance, or any rock or stone, into any log or timber intended to be manufactured into boards, lath, shingles or other lumber, or to be marketed for such purpose, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than five (5) years or by imprisonment in the county jail not less than six (6) months, or by fine not to exceed $5000, in the discretion of the court.”

When it was passed:

This was passed in 1917.

Loebs’ interpretation:

“I think they called it spiking,” Loebs said. “In order to sabotage the timber industry, you can ram spikes into trees and when they run it through the machine to cut it into boards . when the blades of the thing hit the metal spikes, it shoots shrapnel into the people who are standing there.”

“I think it’s still a thing that happens,” he said.

Some people have used spiking as a way to try to stop the industry from harvesting trees.

What the penalties are:

The penalty is a minimum of six months in jail or a fine up to $5,000.

Fornication is illegal in Idaho.

What it says:

Chapter 66, Section 3 of Title 18 states “Any unmarried person who shall have sexual intercourse with an unmarried person of the opposite sex shall be deemed guilty of fornication.”

When it was passed:

This law has been around since at least 1921, Loebs said.

Loebs’ interpretation:

Generally, Idaho doesn’t charge anyone with this in today’s world.

“Fornication is used sometimes, and less so recently, as a lesser crime when you have juveniles engaging in lewd lascivious conduct,” Loebs said.

It wasn’t unheard of to see a fornication charge in the past 20 years in Idaho, so juveniles could receive treatment if they were engaging in unhealthy sexual behavior, he said. Twin Falls doesn’t use the charge, Loebs said. The last time it was used in Twin Falls was when a defense attorney requested it as a lower charge for someone.

“It’s one of those laws that comes out of a particular attempt to enforce a moral code on people,” Loebs said. “The way this is written, it’s a catch-all thing.”

Combined with the adultery statute, “Both of these are designed to protect the sanctity of marriage, obviously,” Loebs said.

What the penalties are:

Upon conviction, fornication “shall be punished by a fine of not more than $300, or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment, provided that the sentence imposed or any part thereof may be suspended with or without probation in the discretion of the court.”

Adultery is still against the law in Idaho.

What it says:

According to a section within Title 18, Chapter 66 of Idaho Statutes, “A married man who has sexual intercourse with a woman not his wife, an unmarried man who has sexual intercourse with a married woman, a married woman who has sexual intercourse with a man not her husband, and an unmarried woman who has sexual intercourse with a married man, shall be guilty of adultery.”

When it was passed:

This law has been on the books since at least 1905, Loebs said.

Loebs’ interpretation:

What’s interesting about this statute is that it specifies people of opposite sex having relations.

“It looks like a homosexual liaison is not prohibited by this statute,” Loebs said.

However, that would fall under Idaho’s “infamous crime against nature” statute, which simply states: “Any sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime against nature.” This statute refers to sodomy, fellatio and sexual acts with animals, Loebs said. It’s punishable by no less than five years in state prison.

Some argue that a U.S. Supreme Court Case, Lawrence v. Texas, in essence protects homosexuality, but the state could still bring charges if consent was in question. In that case, Loebs believes it would be prosecuted under a forcible rape statute.

What are the penalties:

Adultery is a felony in Idaho. It is punishable by “a fine of not less than $100, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than three months, or by imprisonment in the state penitentiary for a period not exceeding three years, or in the county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by fine not exceeding $1000.”

Don’t let your `mischievous animal’ go and kill someone.

What it says:

Idaho Statutes, Section 18-5808 addresses permitting a mischievous animal at large. It states:

“If the owner of a mischievous animal, knowing its propensities, wilfully suffers it to go at large, or keeps it without ordinary care, and such animal, while so at large, or while not kept with ordinary care, kills any human being who has taken all the precautions which circumstances permitted, or which a reasonable person would ordinarily take in the same situation, is guilty of a felony.”

When it was passed:

This law was passed at least as early as 1937, Loebs said.

Loebs’ interpretation:

“What that says is that if you’ve got some kind of crazy strange animal and it kills somebody, then you’re responsible,” Loebs said.

What the penalties are:

This is a felony sentence of up to five years in prison or a $50,000 fine.

You don’t have to fence against hogs.

What it says:

Idaho Statutes Title 25, Chapter 21 deals with animals running at large. The first few sections are specifically about hogs. For example, “The owner or occupant of premises is not required to fence against hogs.”

And, “If any hog is found trespassing, the occupant or proprietor of the premises may take up and safely keep, at the expense of the owner thereof, such hog, and hold the same until the payment of the expenses and damages by the owner, and shall be allowed fifty cents (50) per head additional for each animal so taken up.”

When it was passed:

This first became law in 1889, possibly earlier, Loebs said.

Loebs’ interpretation:

Loebs takes this to mean that if a hog shows up on your property, you can charge the owner for damages, and also 50 cents per hog.

As for specifying why hogs don’t have to be fenced against? Loebs speculates it went something like this:

“Probably what happened is somebody with hogs running loose said, `My hogs wouldn’t ruin your land if it had an appropriate fence’ and the guy said, `I shouldn’t have to put up fences to keep your hogs off my land.“’

There is a history of court cases related to these statutes.

What the penalties are:

A person charged under this statute can face up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor offense.

Only those who are blind or partially blind can use white canes.

What it says:

Idaho Statutes Title 18, Chapter 58 has a section stating “No person, except those wholly or partially blind, shall carry or use on any street, highway, or in any other public place a cane or walking stick which is white in color, or white tipped with red.”

When it was passed:

This law was first enacted in Idaho in 1937.

Loebs’ interpretation:

“There was obviously a desire to reserve the use of white canes for people who were blind,” Loebs said.

According to the American Council for the Blind, the first white cane laws came about in the 1930s, spearheaded by efforts of the Lion’s Club International. The Lion’s Club says white cane laws exist in almost every state in the U.S.

What the penalties are:

The penalties for the violation of this law are: a misdemeanor, up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

You can’t eat another person’s blood or flesh.unless it’s critical for survival.

What it says:

Title 18, Chapter 50 of Idaho Statutes says “Every person who unlawfully and maliciously deprives a human being of a member of his body, or disables, disfigures or renders it useless, or cuts out or disables the tongue, puts out an eye, slits the nose, ear or lip, is guilty of mayhem.” Also falling under this chapter is cannibalism – or willfully ingesting the flesh or blood of a human being.

When it was passed:

This law was passed in 1990.

Loeb’s interpretation:

Idaho Statutes specify that there is a viable defense for cannibalism: if the action was taken under extreme life-threatening conditions as the only apparent means of survival.

“That’s your Donner Party defense,” Loebs said, where a person could say, “I was trapped out in the woods, and my hunting companion died of natural causes and froze to death and I was gonna die too, so I ate him.”

However, “It’s not a defense to killing your hunting partner,” he said.

Loebs said Idaho has never prosecuted cannibalism in his career, and he’s not sure why it became a law when it did.

What the penalties are:

Cannibalism is a felony in Idaho and punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

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