The 10 Weirdest Illegal Things Most People Don’t Realize Are Illegal, According to Reddit

Have you ever stopped to wonder whether you’ve ever done anything illegal without realizing it? I sure have — and so, it seems, has Reddit. For today’s AskReddit thread du jour, I went and waded through a whole lot of legalese and even more layperson’s translations of legalese… and it was surprisingly enlightening. The thread in question, “What is something illegal most people do regularly without realizing it?”, was posted yesterday by Redditor abootypatooty, and it’s all kinds of fascinating. It’s also hilarious. Because that’s how Reddit rolls.

As is the case with many AskReddit threads, this one moves a little further from its initial topic the deeper into it you get; by the time you get to the bottom of the barrel, for example, it’s sort of a combination of rants about bad driving and a pissing contest to see who can come up with the most obscure law in existence (as one Redditor summed it up about 2,000 comments in, “In this thread: Things that people know are illegal, things that aren’t illegal, [and] nothing else”). If you look around, though, there are a bunch of gems that do fit the original subject — so here. Have 10 of my favorites, which I've also done my best to confirm with a little bit of stealthy Google-fu. Which ones are you guilty of? (Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. Your secrets are safe.)

1. Mailbox Stuffing

According to the United States Postal Service, “only authorized U.S. Postal Service delivery personnel are allowed to place items in a mailbox. By law, a mailbox is intended only for receipt of postage-paid U.S. Mail.” According to a Redditor who commented below the original post, the law’s roots stretch pretty far back (although I haven’t been able to confirm it myself, so take it with a grain of salt):

2. Asking Someone to Prom by Writing a Cute Message on the Sidewalk with Sidewalk Chalk

I assume the charge was something like defacement of public property. But hey, at least he wasn’t, y’know, going around and destroying national parks by painting on them with acrylics, right? There's a special place in whatever netherworld you believe in for the woman who did that.

3. Attending Church without Proper Protection in Massachusetts

Ah, my home state! A paper on Colonial gun control laws clarifies it as follows:

“What sort of arms? The 1630/1 statutes are not specific that ‘arms’ meant guns. These orders could be read as requiring everyone to be armed with swords, halberds, or pikes. But as will be seen, the other statutes adopted in the following years, especially the March 9, 1636/7 statute requiring everyone to bring their muskets to church, shows that ‘arms’ meant guns.”

According to another Redditor, though, it’s likely that the original law is likely no longer in effect:

4. Having a Bunch of Friends Over to Watch the Super Bowl on a Large Screen TV

Showing the Super Bowl to a group of people on a television larger than 55 inches apparently counts as copyright infringement. Even weirder is how this little tidbit arrived in the public eye: The NFL once freaked out at a church for planning a Super Bowl party for their congregation. Yikes.

5. Using Your Windshield Wipers Continuously without Turning on Your Headlights in California

There’s actually a little bit of confusion about this one; Snopes reportedly debunked the claim, but AAA’s digest of motor laws says it’s still active. Maybe it’s better just to err on the side of caution?

6. Driving with Headphones In

Again, it varies by state; it’s illegal in some places, it’s not illegal in others, and in some places, it’s legal if you have only one ear in. Lifehacker teamed up with AAA in 2012 to clear up the issue — check out the infographic they made for details on each state.

7. Taking Venus Flytraps from the Wild in North Carolina

It’s poaching. File this one under “things I learned from the podcast Criminal.

8. Jaywalking

To be fair, I’m pretty sure most of us in the U.S. know it’s illegal — but have you ever seen anyone actually get ticketed for jaywalking?

9. Uh… This:

What? Just… what?!

10. Smoking Too Close to the Entrance of a Public Building

It’s actually 20 feet in California, according to the city of Santa Clara:

“7597. (a) No public employee or member of the public shall smoke any tobacco product inside a public building, or in an outdoor area within 20 feet of a main exit, entrance, or operable window of a public building, or in a passenger vehicle, as defined by Section 465 of the Vehicle Code, owned by the state.”

Images: mrjoro/Flickr; Giphy (4)