Ignorantia juris non excusat, ignorance of the law is no excuse. We’ve all heard the phrase, but perhaps we haven’t taken the time to consider the full range of laws we truly may be unaware of.
Between the legislature, county governments and municipalities, the book of laws here in Maryland has been accumulating since the state’s founding. This has resulted in countless laws that remain on the books, but are either unenforced or selectively enforced.
For example, a law dating back to 1882 prohibits landowners, tenants, or road supervisors from growing Canada thistle in Garrett County. Not particularly relevant today.
Also, did you know that in Rockville using profanity is a misdemeanor? The law states that, “A person may not profanely curse and swear or use obscene language upon or near any street, sidewalk or highway within the hearing of persons passing by, upon or along such street, sidewalk or highway.” (Laws of Rockville, Ch. 12, § 12-1.00) Sorry Beltway drivers, better keep your road rage to yourselves lest someone overhear your profane laden rage.
Similarly many municipalities prohibit spitting on the sidewalk, an often innocuous act that can thus be used as a pretext for detention or search by the authorities, which could then lead to other more serious charges.
Finding yourself in violation of these obscure laws can be as simple as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If that happens it’s important to remain calm and not escalate the situation, don’t try to argue the facts or the fairness of an action in the moment. Instead consult with a lawyer to discuss your options.
You can read a list of more Maryland laws that may surprise you here.