When you think of the word “criminal,” the image that comes to mind is probably that of a grizzled convict with a penchant for violence. In reality, a criminal is anyone who breaks the law, even if it’s a relatively minor one. Many honest, upstanding people commit crimes on a daily basis, essentially making criminals of themselves. These are ten of the most common illegal activities; how many of them are you guilty of?
- Breaking the Speed Limit – No matter how much of a hurry you’re in, zipping down the highway well above the speed limit is illegal. For many drivers, the speed limit is something they consider an arbitrary number until they see those flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror. Regardless of how dangerous and reckless speeding may be, it’s definitely one of the most disregarded legal edicts.
- Copyright Infringement – To those that grew up before the Internet took over, copyright infringement probably refers to the wholesale stealing and sharing of music, movies and books that rightfully belong to the studios that produced them or the artists that created them. Copyright law is actually so complex that it’s an accepted specialty for attorneys, and you’re breaking it every time you sing “Happy Birthday” to someone.
- Grocery Store Grazing – Popping a grape in your mouth as you make your way through the produce section of your favorite grocery store not only opens you up to the possibility of exposure to dangerous pesticides because the fruit hasn’t been properly washed, it’s also illegal! Charges of theft for plucking a single grape may be unheard of, but it doesn’t make the action any more legal.
- Jaywalking – Walking across the street in the middle of the block, skipping the crosswalk and disregarding traffic signals is obnoxious pedestrian behavior, and can be quite dangerous. It’s also extremely common, and completely against the law.
- Leeching Off of Unsecured WiFi Networks – When you pick up a mobile device and see that you’re in range of an unsecured private network, you probably don’t think twice about connecting. Under the very vaguely worded Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, you could be charged with unauthorized access to a computer or website. WiFi squatting doesn’t typically lead to prison time, but it could in theory. Under the CFAA, connecting to an unsecured WiFi network is technically a federal crime.
- Littering – In today’s “go green” society, throwing your garbage on the ground is likely to be regarded with absolute scorn and social shunning by those around you. If you do manage to escape the angry eyes of the masses, however, you could still find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Littering ordinances don’t just apply to the side of the highway, even though that’s where you see the most signs warning you against it.
- Forgoing a Bicycle Helmet – Rising fuel prices, a burgeoning hipster culture and efforts to reduce individual carbon footprints have all contributed to the rise in popularity of the bicycle as acceptable adult transportation. Helmets might ruin your hairstyle and make you look silly, but it’s illegal in many places to ride without one (you might want to check that out).
- Paying or Getting Paid Under the Table – There are a variety of industries in which this behavior seems to be particularly prevalent, but none so much as the domestic worker industry. Nannies, housekeepers and household managers are so often paid under the table that the IRS estimates less than half of domestic workers employed in the United States are tax compliant. Just because it’s common doesn’t make it penalty-free, though. If caught, an employer faces back taxes, penalties and accrued interest on the debt.
- Unauthorized Parking in Handicapped Spots – Maybe you’re just running inside the store for a second, or maybe you’re waiting for someone you’ve dropped off to make a quick purchase. No matter how you justify it to yourself, parking in a handicapped spot is illegal.
- Utilizing the “Rolling Stop” – Approaching a four-way stop with no visibility constraints and no other traffic seems like reasonable grounds for the “rolling stop,” but failure to come to a complete stop is illegal and can net you a citation.
Whether you’re essentially honest and consider yourself a law-abiding citizen or not, there’s a good chance that you’ve broken at least one of these laws in your lifetime. Some, you may bend to the breaking point on a regular basis. Keep in mind that this behavior may seem harmless, but it’s still against the law and could lead to a hassle if you’re caught in the act.