Blue Laws Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Blue Laws, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Blue Laws?

(n) Blue Laws are the law which prohibits certain activities on specified occasions connected with the moral and social beliefs without prohibiting the activity altogether or maintaining a total bar. In certain country consumption of alcohol on Sundays are prohibited.

History and Meaning of Blue Laws

Blue Law is a term commonly used to refer to laws that regulate conduct, particularly Sabbath observance. These laws originated in the 17th century in New England colonies, and were enforced during the Puritan era. Although the term “Blue Law” is often traced back to the 1781 blue paper that was used to print a collection of these laws in Connecticut, the actual term was not used until the early 19th century.

The laws were motivated by the belief that certain activities were immoral or inappropriate on Sundays, the day of rest. The restrictions varied by location, but typically included prohibitions on activities such as work, play, and commerce. Blue Laws were eventually repealed or limited in most parts of the United States, but some still remain in effect in certain places.

Examples of Blue Laws

  • In Bergen County, New Jersey, it is illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays.
  • In Utah, restaurants are not allowed to serve alcohol before noon on Sundays.
  • In Indiana, packaged liquor and alcohol sales are prohibited on Sundays, with the exception of restaurants and bars.
  • In Alabama, certain games, including dominoes and checkers, are illegal to play on Sundays.
  • In Rhode Island, it is illegal for most retail stores to be open on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.

Legal Terms Similar to Blue Laws

  • Sunday Laws: Laws that regulate Sunday observance, often in relation to religious worship.
  • Obscenity Laws: Laws that regulate the display and distribution of obscene materials.
  • Sumptuary Laws: Laws that regulate personal behavior and conduct, particularly regarding dress and luxury goods.