In the United States we enjoy great personal
liberty, and there is little that the government, either State or
Federal, asks of the citizen. It interferes little with our daily
life. It does not even demand that we register our place of
residence at the town or city hall, or with the police. But the
first duty imposed upon all, foreigners as well as natives, is
obedience to the law. Many laws are broken innocently by the
new-comer, who thus in spite of ignorance is often severely
punished. Some laws common to all civilized nations carry penalties
very different from those imposed in Europe. And there are special
laws relating to children, to education, and to labor that the
immigrant ought to know. There are also a few laws peculiar to the
crowded life of our great American cities that need to be carefully
Here are the laws that immigrants particularly
need to know. The laws vary in the different states; but in their
main details these are the laws of most of the important states.
STUDY THESE LAWS CAREFULLY.
OFFENCES AGAINST PUBLIC MORALITY--In order to be
married, a girl must have the consent of her parents until she is
eighteen years of age. A man who induces her to break this law is
liable to a penalty that in some states may reach as .much as ten
It is a crime for any man to have sexual
intercourse with a girl who is not his wife, if she is under the age
of eighteen years. Maximum penalty ten years In prison. It makes no
difference whether the girl consented to the intercourse, or whether
she is of bad character, or whether the man believed that she was
over eighteen years of age.
It is a crime to commit a nuisance in the street,
or to use profane or obscene language.
It is a crime severely punished in all states for
a man to strike his wife.
BIGAMY-- A person who, having a husband or wife
living, marries another person, is guilty of the crime of bigamy.
Maximum penalty 5 years in prison.
THE FACT THAT THE FIRST WIFE LIVES IN EUROPE AND
HAS NEVER BEEN TO THIS COUNTRY MAKES NO DIFFERENCE.
If the other person knowingly enters into a
bigamous marriage, he or she is likewise guilty of a crime. Maximum
penalty may be as much as five years in prison.
A DIVORCE GRANTED BY A RABBI TO A JEW LIVING IN
THE UNITED STATES IS NOT RECOGNIZED BY THE AMERICAN COURTS. A MAN OR
WOMAN RE-MARRYING AFTER SUCH A DIVORCE IS LIABLE TO THE PENALTY FOR
DESERTION-- IT IS A CRIME FOR A MAN TO ABANDON
HIS FAMILY, LEAVING CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 16 YEARS UNPROVIDED
FOR, OR TO NEGLECT TO PROVIDE FOR THEM ACCORDING TO HIS MEANS. A MAN
SO ABANDONING HIS FAMILY MAY BE ARRESTED IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK,
OR HE MAY BE BROUGHT FROM ANY STATE OF THE UNION, AND SENT TO JAIL
FOR TWO YEARS.
DESERTING A CHILD UNDER SIX YEARS OLD IS A FELONY
PUNISHABLE BY IMPRISONMENT FOR AS MUCH AS SEVEN YEARS.
It is a crime for anyone to peddle, ask alms,
pick rags, etc., in company with a child. Many a woman peddling with
a child in her arms has been arrested, the child taken from her, and
sent to the Children's Society, and the goods which the woman was
peddling sent to the property clerk. Maximum penalty 1 year in
Courts have the right of taking away children
from parents who have treated them cruelly, or who have abandoned
them. In addition to this, unnatural parents can be taken to court
and punished by fine and imprisonment.
LICENSES-- A person who is found trading as a
peddler without a license or contrary to the terms of his license,
or who refuses to produce his license on the demand of any officer
or citizen, is guilty of a crime. Maximum penalty 1 year in prison.
In the large cities of America, more foreigners
are arrested for this offense than for any other.
GAMES OF CHANCE-- All forms of gambling are
prohibited in the state of New York. Maximum penalty 2 years in
LOTTERIES-- It is a crime simply to have in
one's possession any lottery ticket on any lottery conducted in this
country or in any other country. Maximum penalty 2 years in prison.
It is a crime to take part in the drawing of any
lottery.-- Maximum penalty 2 years in prison.
Or to advertise any lottery by writing, printing,
or circular letter. Maximum penalty 1 year in prison.
CRIMES AGAINST THE FRANCHISE-- To procure a false
certificate of naturalization with intent to vote at an election is
a crime punishable by seven years imprisonment, or $1,000 fine, or
A voter who receives a bribe, or a loan of money,
or a promise of employment for the voter, or for any friend or
relative of the voter, for voting or not voting, for registering or
not registering, is guilty of a crime punishable by imprisonment of
not less than one year, and loss of the right to vote for 5 years.
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS-- It is a crime for a person
to fail to provide food and drink for his horse, or another man's
horse in his care, or to work a horse having a sore under his
harness, or to work a lame horse.
All acts of cruelty to animals are now severely
CONCEALED WEAPONS-- It is a crime to carry or
possess any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as slung
shot, sand club, or metal knuckles; or to carry or possess a dagger,
dirk, or dangerous knife. There is no fixed rule with regard to the
length of blade or the size of the knife, but the ordinary large
knife, with a blade about the length of a man's middle finger, has
frequently been regarded as a dangerous weapon. The penalty for
breaking this law may be as much as seven years.
It has now become a serious crime for anyone, who
is not a citizen, to carry, or even possess in his own home, any
firearm or dangerous weapon. The penalty may be as much as seven
years in prison. This does not apply to authorized military or civil
organizations when parading.
BLACKMAIL AND THREATENING LETTERS-- It is a crime
to obtain property from another when his consent is induced by a
wrongful use of force or fear.
It is a crime to make, send or deliver any
threatening letter to another with intent to gain money or other
property thereby. Maximum penalty 15 years in prison.
It is also a crime to make, send, or deliver any
letter, postal card, or writing even containing no specific threat
with intent thereby to cause annoyance to any person. Maximum
penalty 1 year in prison.
It is also against the law to send a demand for
payment of a debt on a postal card.
KIDNAPPING-- It is a very serious crime to lead,
take, entice away, or detain a child under the age of sixteen years,
with in tent to keep or conceal it from its parents or guardians, or
to extort or obtain money or reward for its return. Maximum penalty
in Missouri, capital punishment. In New York, fifty years.
ILLEGAL USE OF TICKETS-- It is a crime to make
any improper use of a transfer ticket of any street-car, subway or
elevated line by buying such ticket from another person, or selling
such ticket to another person, or by attempting to use the ticket
after the time for which it is good has expired. Maximum penalty 1
year in prison.
PUBLIC HYGIENE-- IT IS A CRIME TO SPIT ON A
SIDEWALK, THE FLOOR OF ANY STATION OF AN ELEVATED LINE OR OTHER
RAILROAD, THE FLOOR OF ANY PUBLIC BUILDING, SUCH AS HALLS, CHURCHES,
OR MARKETS, OR UPON THE FLOOR OF A STREET-CAR OR FERRY-BOAT. MAXIMUM
PENALTY 1 YEAR IN PRISON, OR A FINE THAT VARIES FROM $2 TO $500.
SPITTING IS NOT ONLY A DISGUSTING HABIT; IT IS
THE CAUSE OF TUBERCULOSIS AND OTHER DISEASES.
IT IS A CRIME TO BEAT OR SHAKE A MAT, CARPET,
RUG, OR GARMENT OUT OF A WINDOW, IN A STREET, OR IN SUCH A MANNER
THAT THE DUST THEREFROM PASSES INTO THE STREET OR INTO OCCUPIED
PREMISES; TO SIFT OR AGITATE ANY LIME, ASHES, COAL, SAND, HAIR, OR
FEATHERS, OR ANY LIGHT SUBSTANCE LIABLE TO BE BLOWN BY THE WIND, IN
ANY PLACE WHERE PARTICLES THEREFROM PASS INTO THE STREET OR OCCUPIED
PREMISES. EVEN ON ROOFS GREAT CARE MUST BE USED NOT TO SCATTER DUST.
WASTE PAPER AND SWEEPINGS MUST NOT BE THROWN INTO
IT IS A CRIME TO THROW GARBAGE OR ANY WASTE
OUT OF THE WINDOW INTO THE STREET.
It is a crime to keep a live chicken within the
built-up sections of New York without a permit from the Board of
Health, or to kill a chicken within the city.
PUBLIC SAFETY-- IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO PLACE
ANY INCUMBRANCE WHATEVER UPON A FIRE-ESCAPE. Those who violate this
ordinance are liable to pay a fine of $10.
DESECRATION OF THE FLAG-- It is everywhere a
crime to desecrate the Flag of the United States, or to use it for
PUBLIC LIBRARY BOOKS must be treated with great
care. Removing pages for use at home, cutting or tearing a book is