Strange, quirky and seldom-enforced laws in Sacrmamento

Did you know it’s illegal to spit in Sacramento. Plus other legal relics.

Cody Drabble is a summer intern at SN&R.

There are some quirky ordinances on the books in Sacramento. A few legal relics are too archaic to administer, while others are only enforced when you’re doing the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time—and near a police officer.

Shielding kids from harmful media sounds quaint, especially in a time when smartphones are found in almost every classroom. But City Code 9.12.010 outlaws the distribution of comic books and graphic novels to minors if they depict “crimes of arson, assault with caustic chemicals, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, kidnapping, torture, mayhem, murder, rape, robbery, theft or voluntary manslaughter.”

Enforcing this law would put any comic-book store out of business. But, according to data obtained from the Sacramento City Attorney’s Office, zero citations have been issued for selling violent comic books to kids since 2001.

Another ordinance aimed at preventing real life from imitating cartoon violence: City Code 9.44.310 makes it a misdemeanor to use steel-jawed leg-hold traps. Humane alternatives won’t maim or kill a critter, the argument goes, and will avoid the risk of hurting innocent children and pets.

No citations have been issued for setting bear traps, according to the city. If nature’s little nuisance has been chewing up your garden, just call animal control.

Speaking of which: Sacramento still wants you to keep Lassie on lockdown—at least when she’s in heat. City Code 9.44.280 has only been cited once, back in 2006, when a resident violated the ordinance requiring “the owner of any bitch who is in season” to “confine such animal during such season” and never allow “such animal to run at large.”

To keep Sacramento from being littered with litters, City Code 9.44.370 also limits on how many dogs, cats and swine residents can keep in their dwelling without a kennel license. The city attorney has in fact issued 70 citations, resulting in 59 charges filed, between 2001 and 2008 under the animal-hoarding ordinance. According to Supervising Deputy City Attorney Gustavo Martinez, the unofficial hoarding record goes to one city resident cited for keeping more than 60 cats.

Law-enforcement officers did a spit take when they responded to neighbors complaining about the litter-box smell. But there’s actually still a law, City Code 9.04.040, that commands residents not to spit in public. “No person shall expectorate on the floor of any street railway car, other public conveyance or public building or on any sidewalk in the city.” Since 2001, the City Attorney’s Office has issued 172 spitting citations, resulting in 147 criminal charges being filed.

Even if city officials don’t skimp on saliva citations, they barely enforce the law against bare bottoms. City Code 9.04.060 prohibits public nudity for anyone older than age 10, except for adults engaged in live theatrical performances. The city attorney has not issued a single citation since 2001, but keep your clothes on, nudists! This statistic is less revealing than meets the eye: Martinez reminded SN&R that law enforcement are more likely to write a ticket under the state penal code for lewd and lascivious acts, which district attorneys enforce regularly.