30 Illegal Things Practically Everyone Has Done

Yes, you've got quite the rap sheet.

30 Illegal Things Practically Everyone Has Done

Yes, you've got quite the rap sheet.

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Breaking the law is something most of us strenuously avoid, but there are actually a slew of illegal things that even the most conscientious people do just about every single day—and usually get away with. These may be minor infractions we know we shouldn’t do (but make a habit of when we see everyone else doing it), or laws we break without knowing they are laws in the first place. Read on for 30 things you are probably doing that are against the law. For more the dirty habits we all share, check out these 20 Embarrassing Things Literally Everyone Does.

OOO email messages make you feel more professional

1
Using Public WiFi

You need to get online and spot an open network, so you hop on. Called “piggybacking,” this is a crime in many states, punishable by fines and even jail time in extreme cases. For example, in Sparta, MI, a man was arrested for checking his email from his car using a café’s WiFi and was eventually charged a $400 fine and 40 hours of community service. Next, brush up on the 40 Facts So Funny You’ll Be Dying to Tell Your Friends About Them.

Singing Happy Birthday Illegal

2
Singing Happy Birthday

“Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language, according to Guinness World Records, but until 2016, it was illegal for you to sing it (at least to sing it on a recording or film). The song’s writers, Mildred and Patty Hill, had copyrighted it and the use of it was prosecuted until a ruling two years ago stipulated that the song was in the public domain.

Woman on Laptop Illegal

3
Using a Fake Name Online

When you just want to buy something online and they make you “register” or if you’re signing up for something you might be embarrassed to have found out, you’ve probably popped in some kind of generic name into the fields to avoid disclosing your real identity. Well, that’s against the law according to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was used to prosecute a Rhode Island prison guard in 2010 for creating a fake Facebook profile for his boss.

Man Listening to Music Illegal

4
Downloading Music

Though streaming services have made it less necessary to download albums, we all had our Napster phase where we scoured the service for obscure tracks and classic albums. You’ve probably still got a library of illegal mp3s buried somewhere on your hard drive—just don’t let Metallica find out about it.

Drunk Teenagers Illegal

5
Drinking Underage

C’mon… Who hasn’t? You may abstain from alcohol for moral, religious, or health reasons, but it’s tough to find someone who has held off on having a beer before their 21st birthday due purely to respect for the law. To prepare your kid for this inevitability, learn how to teach your child to be a responsible drinker.

Poker Illegal

6
Playing Poker With Friends

Yep, your poker night could very well be illegal—though you’d have to be inviting some pretty high rollers. The Illegal Gambling Act of 1970 states that it has to have revenue of more than $2,000 for one day of gambling to technically break the law. But it’s not impossible that a long night of high-stakes Texas Hold Em could lead you down that path of illegality. To be safe, stick to licensed institutions—and while you’re at it, learn the single best way to double your money in a casino.

Couple Eating While Grocery Shopping Illegal

7
Eating Something Before You Bought It

You’re dying of thirst and have a drink in your hand that you’re planning to buy. You know you’re going to crack that open and enjoy it as you do your shopping, rather than wait to fill your cart with everything you need first. Just as long as you pay for it when you get to the register, chances are low that you’re going to run into any issues. And for more legal advice, check out these 47 Weirdest Laws from Around the World. 

Family Watching TV Illegal

8
Downloading Movies and TV Shows

This one you’ve probably done more recently. Whether trying to get the latest episode of Game of Thrones without paying for a monthly HBO Now subscription, or tracking down an obscure movie you can’t find on streaming services, we’ve all acquired a movie or show we had no legal right to.

Netflix Illegal

9
Sharing Your Password

Maybe you tried to save a friend from having to illegally download movies by sharing your Netflix password with them…and in the process broke the law yourself. It’s actually considered a federal crime to share your passwords for subscription services—not that you haven’t already done it. And for more great knowledge, here are 30 Crazy Useful Facts You’ve Never Heard Before. 

Texting and Driving Illegal

10
Using Your Cell Phone While Driving

This one’s a bit more serious than most of the laws on the list so far, in that it can actually get people killed. But many of us are still getting over the habit of checking our texts or chatting on the phone while we’re behind the wheel. Thanks to Werner Herzog and other public service messaging, we are finally putting the phone down, but the bad habit persists. If you’re having trouble putting down the phone for the length of a drive, you may want to brush up on the 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.

License Plate Illegal

11
Not Updating Your Driver License When Moving

Most states require that you alert your Department of Motor Vehicles that you have moved, and some are stricter than others. But when you are moving to a new state, is getting to the DMV office really the first thing you are going to be worrying about? Probably not until a year or two later when you get fined for it.

Woman Sharing Pills Illegal

12
Sharing Medication

You knew that old bottle of Vicodin you got for your foot surgery would come in handy someday, and sure enough, your buddy who was visiting threw his back out and couldn’t make it to the doctor’s until he got back home. But even if it helped him get through the return flight with a lot less pain, you were breaking the law by helping him out.

Man Jaywalking Illegal

13
Jaywalking

This is illegal in pretty much every city, but enforcement varies widely. While Los Angeles makes a lot of revenue by ticketing those who cross the street illegally (though no longer for those who enter a crosswalk after a countdown signal starts) while New York City barely acknowledges it. And for more knowledge to drop on those around you, check out the 40 Facts You Learned in the 20th Century That Are Totally Bogus Today. 

Weed Illegal

14
Smoking Marijuana

While laws are changing fast from one state to the next, you’re still more likely to be breaking the law when you light up than not. According to a 2017 poll conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, a majority of Americans said they have tried marijuana “at some point in their lives.” Forty-four percent of Americans say they currently use weed.

Dog Illegal

15
Not Getting a License for Your Dog

Almost all states require that you register your dog, showing that it is up to date on its rabies shots. And anyway, you should keep you dog healthy: the furry guy keeps you healthy, too.

Graffiti Illegal

16
Possessing a Permanent Marker

Anti-graffiti laws in states such as Florida and New York make it illegal to possess “aerosol cans” and “broad-tipped indelible markers” on your person. Chances are that if you are found with them, they would just be confiscated rather than resulting in jail time or fines—unless you were using them when you were caught.

Woman on Laptop Illegal

17
Writing “Disturbing” Material

If you enjoy writing genre fiction or blog posts that could unsettle readers, you could potentially be in violation of laws in some states that prohibit the writing of “disturbing material.” A high school kid in Oklahoma found this out when he wrote a not-very-wise short story on his school computer that got him into hot water.

Litter Illegal

18
Littering

All right, if you’re a decent person you hopefully don’t do this too often, but we’ve all had dropped the occasional straw wrapper or apple core and just let them lie. It’s not that we felt good about doing it, there was just nowhere else to put it.

Broken Phone in Trash Illegal

19
Throwing Out Cell Phone

Speaking of disposing of something properly, e-waste is illegal in many places due to the chemicals and nasty metals that they produce over the long run, which can end up in water supplies and cause other health risks. That being said, you were totally lazy and just threw your phone into the garbage when you finished with it, didn’t you?

Man Driving Illegal

20
Driving Over the Speed Limit

When was the last time you actually went the speed limit? Though technically it’s illegal to exceed the speed posted on those signs, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t regularly go faster than they are supposed to. Unless they are…

Woman Driving Slow Illegal

21
Driving Under the Speed Limit

Also technically illegal, you’ve probably done this when trying to be extra careful of your driving or when you are trying to figure out if you missed a turnoff. You’d have to be going way below the speed limit to catch the attention of the police, but you would not be the first person to be cited for it.

Red traffic light Illegal

22
Turning Right on Red

While it’s legal in many states, some do not allow it—not that many people heed the law when they’re in a hurry and there’s no oncoming traffic. You have probably treated it like a Stop sign: coming to a stop, looking both ways, then getting on with your travels. As long as you didn’t do it in front of a cop car, you were probably fine.

Stop Sign Illegal

23
Rolling Through a Stop Sign

Speaking of Stop signs, this is a bad habit of anyone who has cruised through the suburbs trying to get back home after a long day or taken the advice from Waze that sent you going through Stop-sign-filled intersections that slowed you down much more than if you’d just stayed in the stop-and-go traffic of the main streets. It’s against the law but you know you’ve done it.

Driving Through Red Light Illegal

24
Driving Through a Red Light in the Middle of the Night

You’re driving down a wide open street in the dead of night when you get to a red light. You wait, and wait, and wait and it’s still red. After a minute or so, you should probably be ticketed for not just driving through and getting on with your drive.

No U-Turn Illegal

25
Doing a U-Turn When It’s Illegal

Like the “Midnight Red,” sometimes you just need to be going the opposite direction from whence you came and there aren’t many options for doing that. Are you really going to just keep driving for another mile hoping a U-turn sign will pop up, or attempt one of those right-right-right horseshoe turns, or are you going to do the easy option of flipping a U-turn when you’re not supposed to? And for more ways to be safe behind the wheel, learn the 10 Rules Safe Drivers Abide By.

Businessman on Bike Illegal

26
Rolling Through a Stop Sign on Your Bike

If you are a bike rider than you have absolutely done this before, looking both ways then cruising through the Stop sign to get on your way. Nine times out of 10 you won’t run into any issues, but be extra sure there are no cops around, just in case.

Businessman Putting on Seatbelt Illegal

27
Not Wearing a Seatbelt

You don’t want to make a habit of this, but we have all done it. You hop into your car and know you are just going a few blocks, and forget to buckle your belt. In most cases this is no problem, but remember: A majority of car crashes occur within five miles of the victim’s home.

Public Intoxication Illegal

28
Public Intoxication

Another kind of law-breaking that we’ve probably all done: public intoxication. Laws vary from one state to another about what constitutes being “too drunk” in public and the consequences of doing so (for example, in Indiana, it can mean up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine; in Texas you’ll pay no more than $500), but there’s a good chance we’ve all bent, if not broken the rule.

Men Drinking in Public Illegal

29
Drinking in Public

Beyond being fully drunk in public, simply having a drink in your hand is against the law in most of the country. While you may not be the type to brown-bag it while strolling through the neighborhood or even to keep a flask in your pocket, you’ve probably taken your drink from the bar onto the sidewalk on a nice day once or twice.

Teens Making a Meme Illegal

30
Making a Meme

Well, making a meme with media that is not in the public domain, that is. Which is most material that you’re likely to see in memes, such as movie and celebrity images. But while using copyrighted images may put you in some potential legal trouble, the “fair use” rule can probably keep you out of it. Beyond copyright, you can also be sued by the subject of the meme—if it’s a really mean meme.

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