13 Federal Crimes that are Almost Too Bizarre to Believe

bizarre federal crimes

Not to make a federal case out of it, but the government doesn’t even know how many laws are on the books. Officials estimate there are at least 4,000 federal criminal laws, but the specific number remains a mystery. With that said, it should come as no surprise that many of the laws are outdated, superfluous and downright bewildering. Here are 13 bizarre federal crimes that are sure to leave you scratching your head.

1. Transporting Dentures across State Lines.

18 USC 1821 makes it a crime for non-dentists who make false teeth to ship their product out of state. This jaw-dropping law was enacted decades ago, but doesn’t have much teeth to it.

Maximum Sentence: One year in jail.

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2. Using Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl Without Permission.

 18 USC 711  and 18 USC 711a make it illegal to use Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl or their slogans, “Only you can create forest fires” and “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute,” for commercial purposes or for profit without government permission.

Maximum Sentence: Six months in prison.

3. Providing a Pirate with Provisions

18 USC 1657 makes consulting, corresponding, or providing a pirate with provisions a felony.

Maximum Sentence: Three years in prison.

4. Climbing a Tree … at the Supreme Court

40 USC 6133 makes it a federal crime to climb a tree at the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court of the United States

5. Writing a $1 Check

According to 18 USC 336, issuing a check, note or token for less than $1 can cost you your freedom.

Maximum Sentence: Six months in the slammer.

6. Let There be Light.

40 U.S.C. §8103(b)(4) makes it a federal crime to “injure” a government-owned lamp.

Maximum Sentence:
Six months behind bars.

7. Roller Skating in an Undesignated Area of a National Park.

36 CRF 2.20 prohibits rollers skates, skateboards and coasting vehicles in a national park unless there is a specifically designated area where you’re allowed to let the good times roll.

Maximum Sentence: Six months in jail.

8. Mislabelling “Turkey Ham”

9 CFR 381.171 d strictly prohibits labeling the words “Turkey” or “Ham” in different sizes, fonts and color on a Turkey Ham.


Maximum Sentence: One year in jail.

9. Issuing a False Weather Report

Today’s forecast is…90 days in jail! 18 USC 2074 makes knowingly giving a false weather report a federal crime.

Maximum Sentence: Three months in jail.

10. Importing African Rats Without Permission – Unless Boiled, Salted or Stuffed.

42 CFR 71.56(a)(3) and CFR 1240.63 make it illegal to bring African rats into the United States without permission from the CDC unless they are fully taxidermied or properly processed.

Maximum punishment: One year in jail.

11. Keep Pigs Off Federal Grass — or End Up in the Hoosegow.

18 USC 1857 makes it a federal crime to knowingly let pigs, cattle, horses and other livestock enter a fenced-in area on public land, where they might destroy the grass.

Maximum Sentence: One year behind bars.

12. Flashing the 4-H Sign if You’re Not Part of the Gang.

18 USC 707 makes it a crime for people who are not associated with the 4-H youth organization to use or display the emblem, sign, insignia or words.

Maximum Sentence: Six months in jail.

13. Taking a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone on a Plane.

Emergency Restriction/Prohibition Order No. FAA-2016-9288 makes it a federal crime to carry the Samsung Note 7 on a plane in any manner after a series of mishaps resulted in the phone blowing up and catching on fire.

Maximum Sentence: 10 years in federal prison and up to a $179,933 fine.

While this is a light-hearted post, facing a federal criminal charge is never a laughing matter. If you or a loved one are facing a federal criminal charge, give us a call. We are here to help.


Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese