November 15, 2019 | Jess Silverberg

People Share The Things Everyone Thinks Are Illegal But Actually Aren't

Most people are easy to convince. In many cases, it only takes being told something once for someone to believe a claim and never question it again, so long as the claim has at least some degree of logic behind it. However, it's always good to get a second opinion—you never really know if the things that people tell you are actually true or not. The last thing you'd want is to live your entire life not knowing that the very things you thought you were sure about are actually complete and utter lies. This article takes from that vein and explores the things that everyone thinks are illegal, but actually aren't. People from around the world took to the internet to submit their claims. Do you agree with them? Read on to find out:


Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!

#1 No "One Free Phone Call"

There is no "one free phone call." By law, the police have to give you as many phone calls as you need to contact an attorney. I got arrested once and they put me in a communal holding cell with a couple of phones that people could use all they wanted. Local calls only, which sucked since I was out of town.


#2 Rated R For All

It is legal to buy and sell tickets to R rated movies to those under 17. The policy is a self-regulation imposed by theaters and movie distributors. The same applies to M-rated video games. Most stores have a policy of not selling M-rated games to children under 17, but it's not backed by any law.


#3 They're Just Jerks

Driving in Pennsylvania without removing the snow from the roof of your car. Yeah, they're jerks. No, it's not illegal. They can, however, be found liable for damages if the snow dis-avails itself of their car and causes harm.


#4 Barefoot On The Pedal

Apparently driving barefoot is not illegal. My entire life has been a lie. I was 100% positive that this was a law in New Hampshire, where I learned to drive. A few minutes on Google has proven to me that I was actually 100% wrong.



#5 Cops And Liars

Cops lying to suspects. It's totally legal and holds up in court. The Wire had a hilarious scene about this that my law professor played in class and confirmed was arguably legal. It's funny in the context of a TV show. Then, I remember cops are allowed to do this in real life, and if a suspect says ANYTHING, truthful or not, it'll be used against them.


#6 Faking Death

If I remember correctly, it's not illegal to fake your death. But it is illegal if you collect insurance on it. Or if you use it as a means to get out of a legal responsibility like debt, alimony, etc. If you aren't doing it for any of that, then what's the point of faking it?


#7 Tank Wars

Owning a tank is completely Legal in the US and UK (though I believe you need a tracked vehicle license, and the cannon has to be deactivated). You also need rubber tracks (called parade tracks) in the US in order to drive it on the road, but once you do that, you can even take it on the highway.


#8 Counting Cards

Counting cards at the casino. You won’t be arrested for it, but anyone who’s ever seen the film Casino knows you may wish you had. It's not illegal, but it will get you banned from pretty much every casino out there.


#9 An Unsafe Practice

Drink a bottle while driving in Germany. You can do it, but if you have too much in your blood after that bottle, you are screwed. Denmark too. You can have as much opened adult beverages in your car as you want as well, as long as you don't consume too much.

man driving a car wearing wrist watchUnsplash/weikei


Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Stories that matter — delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you!
Error, please try again.

#10 Flowers, Beware

Picking bluebonnet flowers in Texas. It's not illegal at all. Pick some, take them home and put them in a vase if you like. That's just something moms told their kids so they wouldn't literally pick ALL of them out of the yard. Same in Ontario—many people think picking trilliums is illegal. I think it was a rumor spread so people would leave them alone.



#11 The Thing About Tulips

In Iowa, there are a couple of towns that have a tulip festival. Apparently picking a tulip is a $200 fine per tulip. One of the towns is a college town so it kind of makes sense to guard it against tipsy undergrads. Still, I think it’s rarely enforced.


#12 Never Served, Never Protected

It’s not illegal to wear military uniforms. It’s not even illegal to lie about serving. It’s only illegal if you use it to manipulate others or profit in your favor. I've seen enough videos on YouTube to know that it will get you yelled at and humiliated, though.

OCP-ABU-BDU-DCUThe National Guard

#13 Mattress Tags

It's legal to remove mattress tags. It's only illegal if the seller removes the tags before trying to sell it. It's even written right on the tag itself: "Under penalty of law, this tag is not to be removed except by the consumer." This leaves much room for technicalities.


#14 Easy Manipulation

Filming the police in America. It's actually a little concerning how little people know about their rights in the US. People are INTENTIONALLY kept in the dark when it comes to knowing their rights. A prime example of this is the lack of funding for public schools. Uninformed people are easier to manipulate, and the people doing the manipulating have the means to keep people uninformed.

Minneapolis Police, 4th Precinct Shut DownFlickr

#15 Topless Tuesdays

Females going topless. Not in every state, but in a surprising number. Even in places where they say it's illegal for women to be topless, the courts have set the precedent that it is not enforceable, as the only difference in the law just gender and it amounts to discrimination.

Girl and Her SunburnsFlickr

#16 Undercover Protections

Saying you're not a cop, if you are a cop and someone asks you if you're a cop. Really, in general, it's completely legal for law enforcement to lie to you, but not the other way around. Then again, it may well depend on the jurisdiction. In general, if you're in the US I'd recommend invoking your rights to silence and an attorney rather than lying. I am not a lawyer and that's not legal advice, but that's what I'd do.



#17 Torrent Technicality

Way too many people I talk to outside of IT are under the assumption that using a torrent client at all is illegal when, in fact, it's only illegal to pirate using it. And, in most countries, it's completely legal to download anything for your own personal use.


#18 Pyromaniacs

Buying a flamethrower, apparently. Especially if they are glorified blow torches like Elon Musks. You might have a harder time depending on ordinances of where you live if you want to buy something bigger, like an M2.

Strontium_in_a_pyrotechnic_pieceWikimedia Commons

#19 All The Types Of Lines

In Ontario, on multilane highways, the yellow lane dividers for one direction are sometimes dashed, solid-dash, single solid, or double solid. You can cross those yellow lines legally—any of them, even the solid yellow and double solid yellow. They are just indicators of risk.

A solid dash means it's safe for the dashed side but risky for the solid side. A single solid means it's risky for both sides, while a double solid means it's very risky for both sides.

But there is no punishment for crossing such yellow lines in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. It is, however, illegal to cross a solid white line.


#20 The First Step To Unionizing

Talking about your salary on the job. This is just something they tell you so that the other employees don't figure out pay discrepancies (I got paid more at the bookstore starting out because I had a decade of retail experience—the manager who hired me told me not to let anyone know because they would all get mad). Unfair pay practices are the first step to unionizing.


#21 Personal Use Only

Having a copy of the original movie, song or game that you bought. People keep saying that it's illegal to have a copy of something like that, but that's not true IF you already paid for it once... so long as that copy is personal use only. I think that’s where most people run into problems. Many seem to think that buying something gives them the right to copy and distribute it to whomever they want. You can copy it, that’s fine, but selling or otherwise sharing it is a no-no.


#22 Ignorance Of The Law

Ignorance of the law is a valid excuse, provided you're a cop:

"In a splintered 8–1 ruling, the court found that cops who pulled over Nicholas Heien for a broken taillight were justified in a subsequent search of Heien’s car, even though North Carolina law says that having just one broken taillight is not a violation of the law.

The ruling means that police did not violate Heien’s rights when they later searched his car and found cocaine, and that the cocaine evidence can’t be suppressed at a later trial."

1280px-Vehicle_drug_search_australiaWikimedia Commons


#23 At-Home Poker Games

Having a poker game where you're playing for money. A lot of people think it needs to be a clandestine thing. But in many U.S. states, it's not illegal to gamble for money in your own home as long as "the house" isn't taking a cut. My certainty about this is restricted to New York.

Texas_Hold_'em_TurnWikimedia Commons

#24 Congress Controversy

Insider trading by members of Congress, even though it's out-and-out theft. Congress critters should be banned from making trades during their terms, but good luck getting Congress to enact that rule upon itself.


#25 Jaywalk As You Please

Jaywalking in the UK. In fact, there is no such thing as jaywalking, you can cross the street whenever you want.


#26 It's Mine Now

Ignoring the person who wants to check your bags on the way out of Walmart, etc. Just totally ignore them and walk right by. You gave Walmart your money, so now that bag of stuff belongs to you. And nobody has the right to search through your own bag of stuff.


#27 No Reason Needed

Getting fired without cause. Unless you can prove it was due to a federally protected right, such as religion or age, then it's totally legal. Or, if you live in a "just 'cause" state (I believe there are only seven), then you are in an "at-will" state... which is what made this possible. The ratio of states used to be very different.


#28 Psychedelic Exceptions

There are hundreds of psychedelic "research chemicals" that are sold legally that are simply labeled as "not for human consumption." This just goes to show that banning illicit substances is an impossible task. All it does is increase the overall harm from illicit substance use.

120911-F-MY676-015Vance Air Force Base

#29 Go Wherever You Please

Trespassing isn't illegal in the UK unless you cause distress, damage to property or harm to a person whilst trespassing.


#30 It's Your Art

Photography. I get harassed by ignorant people quite often when I go out to take pictures. You are allowed to take pictures of just about whatever you want in a public space. You are even allowed to take pictures of private things such as houses and whatnot from public spaces.


#31 Mother's Rule

In California, USA. I was taught that it was illegal to have the light on in the backseat while the car was in motion. Turns out my mother just didn’t like having the light on while driving.


#32 Let It Burn

Burning the US flag in the US. In fact, burning a flag is the proper and respectful way to dispose of one according to the US flag code.  It's not legally enforced, so you can do what you like. I used to do flag retirements in Boy Scouts before I quit. In about four hours we'd have at least two people get out of their cars and yell at us for burning the flag.

140614-F-OB680-129Seymour Johnson Air Force Base

#33 Best Avoided

Asking an interviewee about their race, religion, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, etc is not illegal. It is, however, tremendously stupid because it opens you up to expensive discrimination lawsuits.


#34 Totally Unnecessary

People think that it's illegal to build your own firearms, but it's not—if you can legally own it, you can legally build it yourself. The caveat is that unless you are a licensed manufacturer, you aren't allowed to transfer ownership of it to anyone else—it is yours forever.

gray and blue Open signageUnsplash/mikepetrucci

#35 Aussie Perspectives

As an Aussie, I was very surprised to learn that Americans are allowed to text while at a stop light. Not all states, but definitely in some. Apparently, these are all state-dependent in the US. For example, in Maryland, the car has to be parked (unless you're a cop, then you can do whatever). Here, you're not allowed to text while at the wheel of a car unless it is parked.


#36 The Grey Area Of Politics

There are a lot of grey or dubious areas in politics and campaign finance. A Congressman can't accept money for a particular vote, but he can accept a large campaign donation from an organization that he knows wants him to vote a certain way. Likewise, they are free to "trade" votes with each other on different issues.


#37 Wrong Advice

Taking photos of people. I had teachers in high school tell me that it was illegal to take someone's photo without their consent, which is false. As long as you're in a public setting, you're free to take photos. This may be location-dependent, however.


#38 Self-Defense Is Not Illegal

Getting into a fistfight. If someone is bothering you it is possible to ask them to fight. If they say yes the fight is on. You can still get in trouble for disturbing the peace but not battery. Also, someone doesn't have to hit you first to be a threat. There is a thing called fighting words and you can actively defend yourself.


#39 Phoenix Jones

There was a guy in the Seattle area who dressed up as a superhero and would fight guys who were being jerks. He would call a policeman over, have the party agree to fight, and then kick the heck out of them with witnesses. His name's Phoenix Jones—he has a whole "super squad" who join him and patrol various areas.


#40 Smuggling Gum

Chewing gum in Singapore. It's perfectly legal—it's just the sale and distribution of it that is illegal. So how do you get the gum? Smuggle it in in your luggage from overseas and pray you'll don't get surprise checks from immigration.


#41 Viking Funerals

I inquired at a cremation facility I was doing work at and, in my area, it is completely legal to have a Viking-style funeral, like with a flaming arrow shot at a boat that the body is in.

The only real restrictions are a) you have to do it somewhere it's not going to cause a panic (like a smaller tributary, or back river, not at the shore during peak tourist season), and b) you have to have a fire marshal in attendance, just in case it gets out of control.


#42 Speed Limits

In Texas, speed limits aren't legal maximum speeds. They're considered the upper threshold of the safe speed in good conditions. If you're cited for speeding, the speed limit is prima facie evidence that you were driving at an unsafe speed. If you can positively demonstrate you weren't driving unsafely, you won't be fined. Since the posted limit is prima facie evidence, it's not enough to simply say "Nothing bad happened," you need to actively overcome the presumption that your speed was unsafe.


#43 Pirating ROMs

Some people think emulating games is illegal. It isn't. It is, however, to pirate the ROM.


#44 Swiss Law

Here in Switzerland, if you find an online version of a film, book, song, etc., you are legally allowed to use it.


#45 Draw On G.W.

Defacing money. As long as you don't try to change the value, you're fine. Go ahead and draw those mustaches and Ray-Bans on G.W.


Want to learn something new every day?

Stories that matter — delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.