Outdated Massachusetts laws still on the books

Some centuries old laws are still in effect, but may not be enforced

BOSTON (WWLP) – Did you know under current law, you could go to jail for up to one month for frightening a pigeon?

Lawmakers told 22News it’s about time for the state to take another look at outdated laws, especially those that have lost social relevance.

Lawmakers consider thousands of bills each sessions, but only a small portion of those become laws. Although lawmakers are constantly updating the laws, some become obsolete and unenforceable over time.

There are nearly 300 chapters of Massachusetts general laws, covering everything from property and domestic issues to criminal cases. There are thousands of other law on the books, some of which are centuries old and outdated.

“I think that’s the responsibility that the legislature always has is to continue to be looking at the laws that we pass and to determine if they’re still relevant, if they’re current, if they’re enforceable, if they’re practical,” State Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) told 22News.

One law prohibits keeping a mule on the second floor of a building unless there are two exits. And destroying or removing a goal post from a football field could cost you up to $200.

But getting rid of some laws could be more difficult than expected. Lawmakers each have different definition of what laws are considered outdated, especially on controversial topics like abortion.

“Laws around abortion and sexual relations and so forth that criminalize a lot of the things that we don’t believe should be criminalized and in fact our courts have told us we cannot criminalize are still on the books so that issue of cleaning up archaic laws is a huge issue,” said State Senator William Brownsberger (D-Belmont).

The legislature signed a bill into law back in 2015 that updated and eliminated several obsolete laws.