5 Legal Loopholes You’ll Probably Never Need, But Are Nice to Know
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned legal loophole? Generally, the answer to that question is roughly half of the people involved, specifically those who are about to lose a case because of a patently insane detail. The American legal system is an impenetrable knot formed of an unimaginable amount of literature and precedent that are all trying to plan for the infinitely dumb possibilities of the human mind. As someone who very much does not have a law degree, and whose practical legal experience is thankfully very limited, I’m well aware of just how short my knowledge falls here.
Which is to say, this is just a fun little look at a few legal loopholes that there seem to be at least some reliable stories about, and not any sort of actual legal advice. In the name of entertainment, though, I’m happy to describe, to the best of my middling understanding, a selection of twists on the law you might not know about.
You Can Legally Own A Gatling Gun
America’s gun control laws might have been effectively lobbied into a complicated mess, but there are at least some things that are a no-go. One of the most heavily regulated types of guns are fully automatic weapons, including those with burst-fire capabilities. Basically, since 1986, any gun that’ll keep firing repeatedly while you hold down the trigger is not allowed to be sold in the U.S.
Weirdly, though, the “since 1986” in the above paragraph doesn’t work exactly the way you’d think. It’s not the year you’re buying it that decides if an automatic weapon can be bought, but the year the gun was made. Meaning even in the 2000s, you can buy an automatic weapon, as long as that weapon was around when they changed the law. In one specifically insane example, this means that you can legally own a M134 Minigun, a monstrous piece of work straight out of a Doom level capable of firing thousands of rounds per minute. I’m sure they’ll get right on reviewing that!
You Can Be Nude in Your Doorway in North Carolina
A legal loophole exploited by one man who certainly isn’t giving out great vibes is a law about nudity in North Carolina. Now, we all know you can’t just have your bait and tackle hanging out in public, and to do so is a quick way to join the members’ list of a highly unpleasant, if exclusive, club. However, though it’s illegal to be nude in a public place, it is not illegal to be nude in your own private residence. Which makes a lot of sense, given that otherwise you’d be getting swatted every time you took a shower without a Speedo on.
The creep in question here, though, found a way to both physically and figuratively toe the boundaries of this law, by standing in his front doorway, nude as the day he was born, gravy and biscuits out for all to see. Despite the fact that anyone walking their dog or fetching their morning newspaper had a clear view of our icky pal’s privates made public, because he was technically inside his house, he was not violating the law.
Spousal Privilege Is a Powerful Thing
Anyone who’s more than a casual enjoyer of Law & Order reruns is probably familiar with the idea of spousal privilege — a rule following in the vein of things like doctor-patient privilege that affects the ability of spouses to testify against each other or be called as witness. Well, you’re not going to believe this, but it’s a little more complicated than Dick Wolf made it out to be. A lawyer on Reddit delved a little further, and it turns out there’s some highly specific details.
The quick-and-dirty version most people know is: Someone cannot be forced to testify against their spouse. Usually followed by a tearful session of hardball interrogation wherein the spouse in question is convinced to turn on their partner. While this does exist relating to testifying about something they saw you do, if we’re instead talking about a crime you confessed to them, there’s one extra, important bit: You can also forbid them from testifying, even if you’re no longer married. You could have gotten home one night during your marriage, sauced off too many martinis and confessed to a massive Ponzi scheme, but even after a divorce, the partner you told that to can never testify about it in court without you giving the all-clear, which, well… you probably wouldn’t.
It can also change depending on state law, and again, this stuff is complicated, but this is at least how it seems to work in California.
Contracts Aren’t As Ironclad As You Think
The idea of a signed contract is held pretty sacrosanct among modern humans. Once your Hancock hits that dotted line, it’s done and dusted, your word is bond, etcetera, etcetera. In a world filled with all sorts of predatory legal activity, it can make them terrifying… just not enough for anyone to actually bother reading them. If you were short-sighted enough to sign something you didn’t fully understand, only to find out there’s all sorts of provisions you weren’t squared with, you’re still screwed, right?
Well, maybe. The public sentiment on contracts can feel closer to a devil deal than the way that they legally work. Just because you signed a contract doesn’t automatically make it valid. There’s lots of reasons that a contract that’s in theory all sewn up can be found to be unenforceable — everything from technical errors in the contract, to ambiguity, to “unconscionable terms” might be grounds to have some or all of a contract ruled invalid. Of course, as is the case with a lot of legal issues regardless of chance of success, you’ll still need the resources to fight it.
Martians Can’t Sue
There’s a very low chance this will ever be relevant to your life, but it’s worth mentioning just for the masterful way in which a Canadian judge beat a highly unusual plaintiff at their own game. In 1999, Rene Joly sued a whole lot of people and companies for persecution, including the CIA. This all revolved around his central claim, that being that he was a Martian cloned from organic space waste owned by the CIA.
Unfortunately, in addition to tossing out the case as frivolous, Judge Gloria Epstein also threw it out because, in her words: “Rule 1.03 defines plaintiff as ‘a person who commences an action.’ The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines person as ‘an individual human being.’ Section 29 of the Interpretation Act provides that a person includes a corporation. It follows that if the plaintiff is not a person in that he is neither a human being nor a corporation, he cannot be a plaintiff as contemplated by the Rules of Civil Procedure. The entire basis of Mr. Joly’s actions is that he is a martian, not a human being. There is certainly no suggestion that he is a corporation. I conclude therefore, that Mr. Joly, on his pleading as drafted, has no status before the Court.”
Basically, she hit him with “I’m sorry, I don’t practice Mars Law.”