19 Things Most People Think Are Illegal—But They’re Not

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By Jonathan Trent

We’re often led to believe that certain things are illegal, often because we assume that something is so immoral that it has to be outlawed. However, there are many misconceptions about what the law permits. Here are 19 things people wrongly think are illegal.

Driving Naked

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If a cop pulls you over and sees you driving your car in the nude, surprisingly, they won’t be taking you to the police station. If they see you exit the car while in the nude, that’s a different story, as you’ll likely be brought in for indecent exposure.

Performing Surgery While Tired

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It’s undeniably better for patients for a surgeon to have a good night’s sleep before taking to the operating table because, as News in Health reminds us, sleep helps you think more clearly and focus better. Despite this, it’s still not against the law for a surgeon to be tired while doing their job.

Driving While Tired

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Although it is a very dangerous risk to take, you can’t be arrested for showing signs of tiredness behind the wheel. Many states have tried to implement a law prohibiting drowsy drivers, but only New Jersey and Arkansas have proved successful. Either way, just pull over and grab a coffee!

Bringing Your Own Snacks to The Movies 

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Smuggling a selection of snacks into the movies was many children’s first rush of adrenaline, not wanting to find out the consequences if they were caught. In actual fact, it’s not against the law at all, with most cinema workers not even batting an eyelid at the sight of imported sweet goods.

Recording a Conversation

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In 40 of the 50 states, it’s 100% legal to record a conversation with somebody without them knowing that they are being recorded. In the remaining 10, there are mixed consent laws, which vary depending on the context of the situation and the reasoning behind the recording.

Driving With the Interior Light On

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Driving a car with the interior light on is very distracting, but it is not illegal. The myth has been regurgitated in many cars across the globe, mainly by disgruntled parents trying to stop their child’s constant requests to turn the light on.

Marrying a Step-Sibling

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While it might make family dinners slightly uncomfortable for all involved, there are no laws against marrying your step-sibling, as neither person in the relationship is related by blood. General society is less likely to be as understanding as the law, but you certainly won’t get arrested.

Marrying Your First Cousin

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Believe it or not, in half the states in the USA, you are permitted to marry your cousin. There are a handful of rules in specific states, such as both people having to be over 65 years old, and it’s without question even more taboo than marrying a step-sibling. Ultimately, though, it’s legal!

Women Going Topless

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Contrary to popular belief, most states are fairly lenient when it comes to a woman going topless in public. It may be banned by local law, though, so it’s best to check before you leave the house. The only places where it is illegal state-wide are Tennessee, Indiana, and Utah.

Spanking Your Child

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As abhorrent and backward as a parent hitting their child may seem to some parents, it’s perfectly legal in all states. Obviously, this is providing the hits don’t turn into something that could be deemed as assault or child abuse. However, it’s frowned upon greatly, including by us!

Corporal Punishment in Schools

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According to UK Legislation, corporal punishment administered by teachers to students has been banned in all schools since 1998. However, the same rules do not apply in the US, with 18 states still allowing teachers to discipline children with violence. Despite this, it’s increasingly rare to witness these days, thankfully.

Drinking Below the Age of 21

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Shockingly, in 29 states, you can legally drink under 21 if you are on private property and in the presence of your parents! Moreover, in 25 states, under-21s can drink for religious reasons, and in 11 states, minors can drink for educational purposes. However, the absolute minimum age is generally 18.

Counting Cards at a Blackjack Table

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Counting cards is one way to get on the wrong side of a casino and will likely result in a permanent ban if you are caught. However, as it isn’t technically cheating, there is no way that you can be arrested for it. Frankly, we think it’s plain skillful!

Burying People in the Backyard

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Although there are not many people who would even dream of doing it, it’s not illegal to bury a deceased human in your backyard. However, if you are going to exercise this freedom, check local laws, as many of them prohibit human burials within a certain distance of a body of water.

Baby Walkers

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While standing your baby upright and allowing them to walk around may not seem as though it is doing harm, baby walkers have been found by Harvard Medical School to be a leading cause of injury in infants. They can also cause issues with a baby’s cognitive development, but ultimately, they’re not illegal.

Selling Foods Containing Arsenic

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It’s well known that the U.S. has some of the most relaxed food laws in the world; the country’s food producers are still legally allowed to sell foods containing arsenic, for example! Arsenic is poisonous and heightens the risk of developing cancers and diseases, so we have no idea why it’s not illegal!

Owning Exotic Pets

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It’s widely assumed across the United States that it is illegal to own exotic pets such as lions, tigers, and monkeys. However, many states allow people to own these traditionally wild animals, with the state of Florida even allowing pet giraffes. Good luck finding a suitable enclosure for them, though!

Flipping Off Police Officers

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Surprisingly, ‘flipping off’ unassuming police officers is actually protected under freedom of speech laws. However, it will likely be seen as provocative and may come close to being regarded as disorderly conduct, so it’s far from a recommended way in which to behave.

Sleeping in Your Car

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Finally, as The Guardian reports, a rise in homelessness has led to an increasing number of Americans sleeping in their car, which most people assume is illegal. However, if you are parked legally and haven’t consumed any alcohol, you can pretty much pitch up anywhere, so this is just a myth–go for it!

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