4 surprising California offenses

Whether exaggerated or fabricated, many “dumb law” lists that circulate online are highly entertaining but, sadly, short on fact. However, it is true that there are some rather unusual laws still on the books.

From old statutes made for a different time to modern city ordinances that address very specific local concerns, California has its share of unusual ways to break the law.

1. State law prohibits eating frogs used in jumping contests

In the California Gold Rush days, frog jumping contests were a popular activity in mining camps, including Angels Camp, which has celebrated its Frog Jumping Jubilee annually since 1928.

When food was harder to come by, catching and eating frogs was popular too. The state later made it illegal to eat any frogs used in a jumping competition.

2. Carmel-by-the-Sea requires a permit for high heels

If you want to stroll the streets of Carmel in high-heeled shoes, you will need a permit if the heels measure more than two inches high and less than one square inch wide (CMC 8.44.020). The city adopted this ordinance as a nod toward the community’s informal, scenic allure — and its uneven streets and sidewalks.

3. San Diego puts a time limit on holiday lights

As in other major cities, San Diego has ordinances in place to reduce light pollution. While residents can put up eye-catching holiday lights, the municipal code sets a limit of 60 consecutive days and no more than a total of 120 days per year for bright seasonal displays.

4. Los Angeles prohibits washing someone else’s car in the street

Under Los Angeles’ municipal code SEC.80.74., you cannot dust, wipe, wash or otherwise clean part or all of a vehicle in the street unless you own or currently have “direct control or supervision” of the vehicle, i.e., permission from the owner.

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