Strange Laws We’ve All Probably Broken

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( — March 2, 2016) — Laws are constantly changing. Over the past few years, we’ve seen gay marriage legalized in all 50 states, medical marijuana approved in a handful of states, and multiple changes to gambling laws throughout the world. And while we’re all aware of the major felonies, there are some smaller laws you may not be familiar with.

Do You Really Know the Law?

We all know not to murder, steal, break traffic laws, or do drugs in public places, but there’s a lot more to the legal system in the United States than these straightforward rules. Do you really know what’s legal? Well, if you aren’t aware of the following laws – which you’ve probably broken at least once – then you still have some things to learn.

1.      Leaving Your Teenager Alone at Home

We all get to the point where we trust our children enough to leave them at home for an hour while we run an errand. Did you know this could be illegal under certain circumstances, though? While many states don’t have any laws governing how old children have to be when left home alone, other states have a specific number. For example, in Illinois, leaving a 13-year-old at home is grounds for legal action. Here’s the full list of ages by state.

2.      Throwing Out Mail

If you’ve ever lived in a home or rented a property where the previous owner/tenant still gets a bunch of mail on a daily basis, you probably just toss the mail right into the trash. Well, this is actually illegal. While you probably won’t ever get caught, throwing away mail comes with a penalty as high as $250,000 and five years in jail. That’ll make you think twice!

3.      Connecting to Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks

Since we all walk around with devices that have the ability to surf the web, we’re constantly looking for internet connections in order to avoid using our data plans. And while there are plenty of legitimate situations where you can access a Wi-Fi network (think restaurants that give you their password), there are also times where you’re unknowingly breaking the law. According to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, it’s a crime to access a network without authorized access (even if there’s no password).

4.      Placing a Friendly Wager

We’ve all found ourselves watching a game on TV and placing a friendly $5 bet on our favorite team to win. There’s no harm in this. However, if you bet more than $2,000 in a single day, you could wind up in jail. The Illegal Gambling Act of 1970 states that gambling involving five or more people and $2,000-plus is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

5.      Singing Happy Birthday

Can you think of any worse way to celebrate a birthday than by going to jail? Well, most people don’t realize that they frequently break the law when singing the Happy Birthday song to friends and loved ones. Time Warner actually owns the copyright to the song and it’s technically illegal to sing it in public without paying royalties. We know; it’s ridiculous, but it’s still the law!

It’s not just the Happy Birthday song, either. In the 1990s, the Girl Scouts of America were threatened by the ASCAP with fines of up to $100,000 per performance for singing copyrighted songs around the campfire. 

Putting it All Together

As you can see, staying within the legal limits of the law isn’t always easy. While it’s highly unlikely that you’d ever be charged or prosecuted for breaking one of these laws, it just goes to show how complex and ever-changing the legal system is.