Andrew Parker

25 Things You Always Thought Were Illegal But Aren’t

TV shows and urban legends can give us the wrong ideas about what’s legal and what isn’t. Sometimes, they can make you think that even completely normal things are illegal. But don’t worry, because today, we’re looking at 25 things that are legal, even though some people think they’re not.

Collecting Rainwater

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You might’ve heard that collecting rainwater on your property is illegal. Technically, it is, but only in Colorado, Arkansas, Nevada, Illinois, and Utah, where they’re trying to stop people from overusing rainwater. But in the other states, it’s completely legal as long as you’re collecting for personal use.

Lights in the Car

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All of our parents told us that turning on the interior light of a car is illegal when someone’s driving. But guess what? It’s not true at all. It can be a little distracting if the light’s on, but there’s no law specifically banning it. Next time you need to find something in your car at night, don’t worry about turning on that light.

Owning a Lock Picking Set

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Owning a lock pick might make you sound like a criminal, but just having them isn’t illegal. In most places, it’s only a crime to use them for illegal purposes. Locksmiths and hobbyists own them legally all the time. As long as you’re just trying to figure out how locks work as a hobby, you’re totally fine.

Using a Permanent Marker in Public

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Some people think you’re not allowed to use a permanent marker in public because it’s associated with vandalism. But it’s only illegal if you vandalize something, not if you own or use a marker itself. It’s fine to use your Sharpie for legit reasons, like labeling your stuff or creating art where it’s allowed.

Counting Cards in a Casino

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Lots of casinos won’t allow you to count your cards, but it’s not against the law to use your brain to count them. But you should remember that casinos are private places, so they do have the right to show you the door if they see you counting cards. There are no laws against being sharp, but you might not be welcome back.

Selling Unpasteurized Milk

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Selling raw milk straight from a cow sounds like a no-go, but it’s actually okay in many states. It’s not exactly a free-for-all as the rules are pretty strict so that everything’s safe and clean. If you’re craving some fresh milk straight from the farm, you should be able to do so, as long as you check your local laws first.

Taking Photos in Public Places

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Lots of people get worried about taking photos in public places. Why? Because they think it’s nosy or, at worst, illegal, but that’s not exactly the case. You’re free to snap away at anything you see when you’re out and about in public places. Some people are worried about their privacy, but that doesn’t make it illegal.

Jaywalking Without Cars

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Jaywalking really gets misunderstood. While most places generally don’t encourage it, and you can sometimes get a ticket for it, in many areas, it’s only illegal if you’re obstructing traffic. If you’re crossing without any cars around, it’s not usually an issue. Just make sure it’s clear and safe before you make your move.

Dumpster Diving

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Believe it or not, digging through trash, aka dumpster diving, isn’t against any federal law. Of course, you’ll need to check local laws, as some places might have specific rules about searching through bins. But, on the whole, one person’s trash can actually be another person’s treasure.

Recording Police in Public

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It’s completely legal to record the cops while they’re working in public, and it’s protected under the First Amendment. We’re guessing some people think it’s not allowed because they’re worried about privacy or security. Either way, as long as you keep out of their way, you can film them without worry.

Not Wearing a Seatbelt in a Parked Car

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You’ve probably heard all the warnings about wearing a seatbelt, and they’re there for a reason. But if your car isn’t moving, feel free to unbuckle because there’s no law saying you’ve got to be strapped in when you’re parked. Just remember it’s only when you’re stationary and not just waiting in traffic.

Not Reporting Money Found

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Finding a pile of cash and keeping it might not feel right, but if it’s a small amount, there’s no need to report it. Of course, this changes from place to place, but generally, there’s a limit below which you’re fine. In California, for example, you can claim the money if it’s under $250 and the original owner hasn’t responded to your attempts to contact them.

Barefoot Driving

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There’s no rule against driving without shoes anywhere in the USA, although we sort of think there should be. If you’re coming back from a beach day and you feel comfortable going barefoot, it’s your call. But you should wear shoes for better control of your vehicle, as being unable to use the pedals properly is a crime on the road.

Crossing State Lines With Alcohol

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Transporting alcohol across state lines sounds serious, yet it’s actually fine for personal use. Some people think it’s illegal because of the rules during Prohibition, but as long as you’re not moving a whole truckload, taking a few bottles over state lines for yourself is okay. It’s perfect for those vacations when you want to bring your favorite wine or craft beer.

Sharing Passwords for Streaming Services

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Don’t get us wrong, streaming services aren’t exactly fans of password sharing, and that’s why they’re cracking down on it. But sharing passwords isn’t a crime. They might shut down your account because you’re breaking the service agreement, but you won’t face any legal trouble. Just don’t sell your login info.

Burning the US Flag

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We definitely can’t recommend burning the flag, mainly because it’s so provocative. Even so, it’s allowed as a kind of free speech under the First Amendment, as it’s a legally protected way to show your unhappiness about something. It’s not something anyone should be doing, though.

Cursing in Public

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Speaking of free speech, you’ve also got the right to express yourself in public, even with some colorful language. So, that means you’re completely allowed to curse as long as you’re not threatening someone or encouraging violence. But it’s not going to get you any awards for politeness.

Leaving a Child in a Car

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Leaving a kid alone in a car is a big no-no, but it’s not always against the law. The key issue is the child’s safety as some places do have some specific laws about leaving children unattended. If there’s no risk, technically, there might not be a legal issue, although it’s always best to be careful. 

Resisting a False Arrest

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It’s a real gray area, but on the whole, resisting an arrest that’s clearly unlawful might not be illegal. Of course, it’s a complicated situation, and you’re usually better off just doing what you’re told and sorting it out later. Knowing your rights is important, but getting legal advice afterward is your best bet.

Gambling at Home

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A friendly game of poker in your living room with your friends isn’t always against the law, as long as you’re not running a gambling ring. Nobody’s going to bust down your door for playing cards for bragging rights. Relax because your small-stakes game, on the whole, is totally within the law.

Removing a Mattress Tag

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This next one’s one of those old wives’ tales that’s just not true. The scary tag on your mattress that says “Do not remove?” That’s for the sellers, not for you. Once you buy the mattress, feel free to rip it off if it bothers you, and most people do it anyway because it can be a little annoying.

Flying a Drone

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Got a new drone and can’t wait to try it out? Don’t worry, because you should be fine with using it without a permit. For personal use, you just need to follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Guidelines, like making sure it’s under 55 pounds and flying under 400. And, of course, avoid any airports.

Collecting Coins from Public Fountains

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Technically, scooping up coins from a public fountain isn’t illegal, although we don’t recommend it. It’s generally considered more of an etiquette issue than a legal one. But regularly collecting these coins could get you in trouble for other reasons, like trespassing or vandalism. Don’t make a habit of it.

Honking Your Car For Fun

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Giving your car horn a quick press, just because you feel like it, isn’t illegal. It’s true that doing it out of anger or doing it too much can get you a ticket in some places for noise disturbance. But if you’re just saying hi to a friend as you drive by their house, it’s totally fine as long as you don’t get carried away.

Walking Barefoot in Stores

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“No shirt, no shoes, no service” is more of a suggestion than a law. Legally, there’s no federal law that stops you from walking into a store barefoot for whatever reason you’d want to do that. But store owners are allowed to set their own rules. Don’t be surprised if they ask you to come back with shoes on.

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