Laws are designed to protect people, organizations, and their property by codifying the “do’s and don’ts” of society. While many laws clearly state their purpose—at least to attorneys, who speak legalese—some are nebulous, confusing, counterintuitive, or otherwise open to (mis)interpretation. These are the “buts” to those “do’s and don’ts,” and we’ll be discussing them below. Some are shocking, others merely amusing. While we do not condone exploiting legal loopholes and advise that everyone follow the laws of their state or jurisdiction, these do make for interesting discussion. We think you’ll agree … 

Come for the Murder, Stay for the View 

In breathtaking Yellowstone National Park, a legal loophole related to the park’s boundaries ostensibly makes it impossible to convict someone for committing murder or other crimes. Most of Yellowstone—a national park subject to federal law—is in Wyoming, but an uninhabited 50-square-mile portion of it is in Idaho. It’s in this so-called “Zone of Death” that an unusual constitutional crisis exists: The Sixth Amendment states that, in criminal prosecutions, the accused has the right to be tried by “an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…” The issue is complex and involves multiple states and the federal government, but some legal scholars argue that since no one resides in that 50-square-mile area, it would be impossible to seat a jury for a criminal case. 

Drink Up, Young Man  

The national minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) of 21 was enacted in 1984, and today all 50 states abide by it. The MLDA includes a prohibition on the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. However, several states allow people under the age of 21 to drink either in the presence of or with the permission of their parents and in certain designated locations. Wisconsin is one such example. There, anyone under 21 can drink with their parents at a bar or restaurant, provided the manager of the establishment is willing to serve them.  

Roman Candles and Raccoons 

Florida outlawed the sale and use of fireworks in the state in 1941. For decades following, you might be able to find some sparklers at a convenience store, but anything that exploded or lifted off the ground was strictly forbidden. Eventually, some Floridians with an entrepreneurial spirit and a knowledge of Florida’s fireworks law began to exploit a loophole that allows farmers to use fireworks to scare birds and other pesky creatures away from their crops. Fireworks buyers must sign a paper acknowledging this, but many sellers have long since dispensed with that formality. Today, it’s common to find huge fireworks warehouses and seasonal roadside fireworks sales in Florida. One postscript to this story: In 2022, Florida’s governor signed a law allowing Floridians to legally use fireworks on Independence Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. The loophole remains on the books. 

A Legal Argument Literally Full of Holes 

Though generally an individual’s head should be fully visible in a driver’s license photo, many states allow people to wear faith-mandated head coverings, provided their face is clearly visible. This sometimes raises questions about whether an individual’s head covering is a genuine expression of their faith or a satirical gesture, stunt, or an attempt to make a point about tolerance. It’s a tricky legal area, and on occasion—to avoid controversy, litigation, and unwanted attention—states will allow unconventional headgear to be worn in a driver’s license photo. An Ohio man wore a colander on his head for his driver’s license photo, and though the state later voided the license, he continued to pursue the matter through the courts. 

Challenges for the Criminal Justice System 

While the criminal justice system doesn’t make laws, it does enforce them and administer appropriate penalties when they’re violated. Though some legal gray areas have an element of humor, they may also create challenges, particularly for law enforcement. For example, when responding to a complaint about fireworks, can a police officer be certain that an individual was using them within legal parameters? This may be the determining factor between issuing a citation or walking away. And the implications of the Zone of Death for the courts are frightening, though there is support for closing the loophole.  

Having a firm educational foundation and credentials can help you more effectively navigate challenges you may face in the criminal justice field and foster positive change. They can even prepare you for a leadership post, which will better position you to develop responses to situations where the appropriate course of action is not always set in stone. 

Degrees Designed for Your Experience Level and Aspirations 

Whether you’re considering a criminal justice career or are ready to advance within your current career in the field, UT Permian Basin has an online degree program that can put you on the path to achieving your goals. Our programs are designed for those who want to promote change from within the criminal justice system while minimizing challenges for criminal justice professionals and fostering a more just society for all. 

Online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies 

Built on a groundwork of multi-disciplinary general education courses, this program examines multiple facets of the criminal justice system through a research-based curriculum and provides a strong starting point for a criminology or criminal justice career. 

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration 

Already completed a criminal justice-related bachelor’s degree? Take the next step toward a leadership role by earning your master’s degree. Discover how to tackle today’s hot-button issues while protecting your department and those you serve. Our MS-CJAD has no GRE or thesis requirements. 

Both programs are: 

  • Expert-driven: Learn directly from faculty with extensive professional experience in the criminal justice field. 
  • Flexible: Complete your program at your own pace from just about anywhere in the world as you continue to meet your professional and personal obligations. 
  • Affordable: Enjoy some of the most competitive tuition rates available from any accredited university. 

See what you can do with a criminal justice degree. Apply to your program of choice now.