7 Everyday Things You Didn’t Know Were Illegal
You’ve probably broken every single one of these laws.
Using a fake name online
When you’re trying to protect your information online, it seems a lot smarter to create a fake name than giving away any real details about yourself. But while you might be safe from hackers, you might not be safe from the law. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act has a stipulation that says you can’t use a computer “without authorized access,” which can include not following a site’s terms of service, according to NPR. It would depend on the site’s policy, but if you actually bother reading the fine print, you’ll probably see a line agreeing not to provide false information. Famously, one Rhode Island prison guard famously had to pay a $500 fine for setting up a fake Facebook page of his boss. The state has since revoked its law against “use of fraudulent information,” though. Here are more of the dumbest laws in every state.
You probably know you shouldn’t steal your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, but logging onto the free Wi-Fi from a Starbucks you’re passing seems innocent enough. In reality, though, it’s not. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 laid out laws against hacking, but it’s just vague enough that even low-level Wi-Fi theft could get you arrested. One Michigan man was even fined $400 and given 40 hours of community service in 2007 for connecting to a café’s Internet without paying for anything. He’d been piggybacking its free Wi-Fi during his lunch breaks for more than a week, according to FOX News. These days, now that most Wi-Fi is password-protected, you could probably argue your way out of a fine, but there haven’t been enough court cases to set a clear standard, according to Wired.
Ignoring your eBay habit on your tax returns
If you run your eBay profile like a garage sale, just getting rid of junk you already own, no need to declare your profit on your tax returns. But if buying and selling for profit are more like a hobby or full-blown business, the IRS could track you down, according to TurboTax. Just like any other side-hustle, you’re required to declare your earnings and pay taxes. You won’t believe these weird things are banned in the United States.
Having a few too many drinks
Obviously drinking and driving is illegal, but you could get arrested even if you walk home (or to the next bar). Public intoxication is usually a misdemeanor, but state laws vary. In Texas, for instance, the Class C misdemeanor of being drunk in public could mean a fine up to $500. Sometimes you don’t actually even need to be drunk—police can arrest you just for looking intoxicated, and you’d need to prove yourself sober later. (Find out how to tell if you’ve been binge-drinking without realizing it.) You probably won’t get arrested just for giggling with your friends, but police could stop you if you are being a loud nuisance or look like you can’t take care of yourself. “I’ve had clients who have been arrested for just sitting on the curb and looking like they’re about to pass out,” Los Angeles–based criminal defense attorney Diana Aizman tells Vice.
If you need to hock a loogie, better wait until you can find a trash can. In states and cities around the country, including Massachusetts; New York City; and Dodge City, Kansas, it’s illegal to spit on sidewalks or in public. The rules were meant to stop the spread of disease, but you have to admit spitting in front of everyone is also just plain gross. These foods are illegal in the United States.
Sitting on the sidewalk
If you’ve been waiting for a bus or a friend for ages, you’ll probably be tempted to take a seat on the curb until they arrive. In some cities, though, it could be illegal to sit down there. About 53 percent of American cities—including Santa Cruz, California, and Virginia Beach, Virginia—have laws against sitting or lying down in public, according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
Walking to a crosswalk when there’s no traffic coming might seem silly, but crossing without one could lead to a hefty fine. States and cities set their own laws, but you could get a ticket if you’re caught—sometimes as high as $250 in places like New York City and Los Angeles. Next, read about these everyday things you didn’t realize could get you sued.