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State News

January 7, 2014

Town’s municipal code still full of weird laws

SELMA, Ala. — Selma residents may be unaware they are breaking the law, but then again, they may not have to worry about being caught.

Selma Municipal Judge Prince Chestnut said several antiquated laws remain in Selma’s Municipal Code. For example, any man or woman guilty of adultery or fornication is guilty of an offense against the city, according to city documents.

Chief of Police William Riley said he doesn’t actively enforce outdated ordinances, such as adultery being illegal. Instead, Riley said it’s more important to focus on more pressing issues.

“There are just too many ordinances on the books; no officer knows every statute that is on the books,” Riley said. “Yes, there are certain ordinances on the books that are no longer actively enforced. We just have to take them case by case as they come up.”

Other little-known laws make it illegal to be drunk at a polling booth or spread false rumors about disease.

“It shall be unlawful for any person, falsely and maliciously or without reasonable cause to believe in its truth to originate, circulate or give currency to any statement. that any contagious or infection disease exists or prevails in the city,” the municipal code reads.

Chestnut said no person has ever been prosecuted for an odd ordinance during his tenure as municipal judge. However, if the ordinance is still listed in the municipal code, then prosecution could be possible.

“The way I see it, is that if they are on the books and someone brings it up, the law has to be enforced,” he said. “Some of those laws could be unconstitutional, but it wouldn’t be up to the city court to determine that; it would have to be appealed at a higher level”

Though the laws are still in place, Chestnut said it might be worthwhile for the council to review its municipal code.

“I think it is worth the city council looking at these old laws, which were written in, I think, 1954,” he said. “Times were different back then. My recommendation would be for a committee of the council to go back and see are these really relevant.”

Until changes are made, Selma residents may also want to avoid sniffing model glue and cursing at women.

“It shall be unlawful for any person, by rude or indecent behavior, or by profane or obscene language, or any other act to willfully disturb any female person in any public place where one or more such females or present,” the municipal code says.

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