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Chile’s Most Outdated Laws Still on the Books

Chile’s Most Outdated Laws Still on the Books
November 04
13:53 2012

A recent study by the School of Law of the Universidad Bernardo O’Higgins (UBO), listed several situations sanctioned by the Chilean Criminal Code which may appear a bit… outdated by today’s standards.

SANTIAGO — If you are a woman who has been widowed recently, know that if you choose to rebuild your life and get remarried before 270 days (nine months) after the death of your husband, you can face criminal charges.

The list of seemingly draconian situations was not made for the sole purpose of unearthing them, but also to imply that several of them are obviously obsolete, being absorbed by other current offenses.

“This is not only an analysis, but also a proposal to re-examine the Penal Code,” said Alejandra Gormaz, one study participant, to Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.

Here are a few more of Chile’s more bizarre laws that are still in effect.

The Bells of Revolution

If you dissatisfied with the current social, economic, or political situation in the country, any decision to “ring the bells of the people” in order to encourage your countrymen to rise against the powers that be will be punished under Article 123.  Remember that this is not just for bells only, but of any other “instrument to excite the people to revolt for that same purpose”, such as speeches or printed manifestos.

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Dueling used to be common practice among “gentlemen”.


This old way of settling personal disputes has been made famous by movies and cartoons, yet is punishable by at least half a dozen articles of the Criminal Code.  For example, Article 404 indicates that you must face “imprisonment in its minimum degree” if you challenge your opponent to a duel.

The same penalty will apply if your opponent, in a “fit of cowardice or wisdom”, refuses to participate and you decide to publicly chastise him for his denial.  In addition, those who choose to participate as sponsors of the duelers are also punishable.

Street Collection

According to Article 448, any furniture found dumped in the street in excess of a “Monthly Tax Unit” (UTM) that is taken by another citizen constitutes theft.  This “theft” is punishable by a minimum prison sentence, plus an extra fine of five UTM if you know who the owner is and you do not notify the authorities.

Handfuls and Cups

Traders are obliged to sell their products using traditional, currently used measurements such as grams. Article 495 punishes “false weights and measures” on a sale, even if there is no suspicion of fraud.  Therefore,  a handful of beans or two cups of rice must be measured in proper weight units.


Traveling in carriages or carts may seem absurd in the capital these days, but this does not always translate to the countryside where many vehicles are still pulled by horses.  That is why Article 494 imposes a fine of one to five times the minimum wage for anyone who drives carriages or horses in town, day or night, when there are large crowds of people around.

Dream Interpretations

Article 496 of the Penal Code punishes all those who profit from making “premonitions” or interpreting dreams.  Although this practice dates back many years, is still very popular.

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Matt Niner

Matt lived in Chile for nearly two years before receiving a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of California, San Diego. He spent two years teaching English in Japan and a year studying in Brazil, but says that Chile is where he feels most at home.


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