Some people wake up in the morning and think to themselves: “Hey, I think I’ll rob a bank today!” or “Hey, I think I’ll commit some serious fraud this week!” Most of us, however, strive to be good, honest, and law abiding citizens. But hardened criminal or not, almost everyone will nonetheless break multiple laws each and every day. We do this through a mixture of carelessness, a lack of knowledge about certain regulations, and sometimes because some laws are so strange and/or pointless that following them to the letter is actually quite difficult.
The laws we break every day are mostly minor infractions that would incur nothing more than a manageable fine or perhaps limitations on one’s driving rights. But on a number of days, many people will inadvertently commit felonies. Most of the time, we get away with our many misdemeanours and larger crimes alike, but with a bit more knowledge, we might avoid the transgressions in the first place. Here are 15 things you probably do every day even though they are illegal. (And you’re probably going to keep doing them every day even once you’ve realized what a loose cannon you’ve become.)
Admit it, you speed all the time while you’re driving. In fact, most of us are speeding at least a little bit at all time when driving, provided we’re not in traffic or actively stopped at a red light or stop sign. But just try keeping the speedometer under 25 MPH while cruising down an empty suburban street or under 55 on a highway (any highway with that speed limit is an abomination, of course, but they’re all over the place) and you’ll quickly decide that it’s better to flout the law than to drive really slow.
14. Using Free Wi-Fi
If you’re enjoying a cup of coffee in a Starbucks or flipping through a book in the local library, go right ahead and take advantage of the free wireless Internet access those locations provide. But if you just happen to be near the coffee shop or the library and your phone or laptop picks up their Wi-Fi, you’d better not hop on unless you want to break the law. Even though the service is offered for free, it’s illegal to use a Wi-Fi network unless you are a customer/patron of the specific entity offering the connection.
In almost all towns and cities, jaywalking is illegal. But in most places, jaywalking laws aren’t rigorously enforced if they’re ever enforced at all. Pedestrians rule the roads in major metro areas like New York, where throngs of people will stream across roadways despite the green light favoring vehicles, and they’ll do it right in front of the police. But if you walk across the street when the signs says DON’T WALK in Los Angeles, you’d better hope no LAPD officers are around, because they’ll cite you right then and there. Remember that illegal jaywalking can occur even at a crosswalk if you don’t have the signal in your favor.
12. Public Indecency
Now I’m sure you’re not walking around the park naked (or at least I sure hope you’re not), but the fact is that you can be charged with indecent exposure even if you’re nude in your own home or even in a bathroom. If someone gets a look at parts of your body that society has deemed private, it doesn’t matter if they saw you through the cracked doorway of the men’s room or through the windows in your own home, you can be charged with a crime. So throw on a towel or close the drapes as you head from the shower to the kitchen, or make sure to get all your clothes back in place before you step away from the toilet.
11. Underage Drinking
Alright, if you’re over the age of 21, you can’t break this law. (But don’t worry, there are lots of alcohol-related laws that you can break!) But a major survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health concluded that more than ten percent (the actual figure is 11%) of the alcohol consumed in America is drank by people aged 20 or younger. That’s a whole lot of illegal drinking, kids. But when you explain to a the gang at a high school pool party or a college kegger that they’re breaking the law, it never seems to stop them, does it?
10. Copyright Infringement
You don’t have to plagiarize passages of a book and publish the work as your own or charge admission when showing movies in your home’s media room to commit copyright infringement. In fact, just singing a song can technically turn you into a law breaker. If you sing copyrighted songs in an environment where multiple people can hear the music, you better get explicit written permission from the rights holder, first. And this doesn’t relate only to a performer singing on a stage; belt out a Broadway tune or some Top 40 hits as you walk through the mall and you might be in for a major fine.
That bet you just made on who wins this Sunday’s football game? That was illegal if any monetary value was involved. And woe to the gentlemen whose Thursday night poker game is raided by the authorities: in many places any gambling that involves more than five people and/or involves more than $2000 at stake can constitute a felony that involves massive fines and can even see those involved spending several years in jail. (On the other hand, some states explicitly permit friendly games of cards even with cash involved provided the players can prove a preexisting social or familial relationship.)
8. Using Your Phone While Driving
Here’s an example of lawlessness where I have to fully side with the authorities: using your phone while driving is incredibly dangerous, especially if you’re texting or looking at social media. Even placing or taking a call is risky unless it’s handled hands-free. (But even I have to admit to occasionally looking down to start a call, despite my long-standing loathing for those who drive distracted by phones.) Almost all areas of the country have some type of law against using a phone while driving, but people do it anyway each and every day, yourself probably included.
If you occasionally drop a wrapper after you unwrap a sandwich or now and then leave an empty soda can or coffee cup on a park bench when you’re done with it, then you’re being totally uncool. Littering is thoughtless and trashy (get it?) and there’s no excuse for it. Here’s the thing: even those of us who would never consciously litter probably do it inadvertently all the time. That’s because a discarded cigarette butt or wad of gum is littering, as is, technically, scattering bird seed, dropping an orange peel or apple core, and other such seemingly innocuous activities.
6. Sharing Account Info
You and your friends probably think you’re being pretty clever when you share one Netflix or Hulu account among several people, right? Spreading out that nine or ten dollar monthly charge sure seems clever, but it’s also against the law. Accounts like these that can be shared by multiple users are intended to be used by people living under the same roof who share the same finances, AKA a family. If you swap login and password info with your friends down the hall in the dorm or your cousin in the next town over, you’re all breaking the law. There, that put a stop to that.
You don’t have to break into a home and take off with a bunch of televisions and jewelry or crack the vault code at a bank and abscond with sacks filled with cash and adorned with dollar signs to be a thief. Technically, sampling a few grapes in the produce department of the grocery store or grabbing a packet of ketchup as you pass through the mall’s food court without buying a meal are examples of thievery. So too might be taking a paperclip off a counter at a shop or even using paper towels or napkins from a business you’re not actively patronizing.
4. Hanky Panky
Coitus is illegal in all sorts of crazy ways. In some places, it’s illegal to have coitus with the lights on. In others, it’s illegal to kiss for more than five minutes without a break. In some places, premarital coitus is technically illegal, while in others adultery is grounds not only for divorce but for criminal proceedings. In Michigan, it’s technically illegal to talk dirty even during the act. And acts of sodomy are illegal in cities and states all over the place regardless of consent. Fortunately, most laws prohibiting sexual activity are holdovers from a bygone era that are never enforced and simply haven’t been changed or abolished yet, but they’re still on the books and still could be used against you and your partner(s).
3. Mail Crime
You probably commit a serious federal crime at least a few times a year, and you probably do it multiple times a week in the first few months after you move into a new house or apartment. That’s because discarding another person’s mail is considered to be the destruction of the mail, which is a felony-level offense that could involve a quarter million dollar fine and years of imprisonment. That’s true even when you toss out the junk mail that is addressed to a tenant of an apartment you rent or a previous owner of the home you have bought.
2. Illegal Garbage
What do you do with the dead batteries you pop out of a flashlight or camera or with an old calculator that stopped working? You throw them into the garbage, if you’re a criminal with no regard for the law. Tossing out e-waste is illegal in most places, and for good reason: the chemicals and dangerous metals present in electronics, batteries, circuit boards, and so forth can leech into the ground and waterways, ending up in food or drinking water and posing serious health risks. But does that stop you? Does it!?
1. Being Drunk
Unless you are in your own home or in the private residence of a trusted friend or relative, it’s essentially illegal to be intoxicated. Public intoxication is illegal all over the place, so simply walking from a bar to a taxi could get you busted if a cop spots you. Driving after a couple of drinks is of course illegal and for good reason, even though many people may be far from intoxicated while technically over the legal BAC limit. In Alaska, it’s even illegal to be drunk in a bar, which is just madness. And of course it’s illegal to be drunk while you are the primary caregiver to a child under the age of seven regardless of where you are and what else is going on. You shouldn’t need a law to tell you that, but just in case, it’s on the books.
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