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

Nowadays, there are twice as many regulations and laws as there have ever been in past centuries, and for good reason. However, these often lead to misconceptions about what is considered legal and what isn’t. These 17 things that you may think are illegal, surprisingly enough, aren’t.

Filming Police

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Another topic that has raised major discussion is that of filming the police. As long as you don’t interfere with their duties, you are free to film them. This is part of the “First Amendment right to record,” says The Takeaway. It is a constitutional right.

Eating Behind the Wheel

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While eating and driving simultaneously may seem like a big mistake, this is perfectly legal in many states. Just make sure it doesn’t cause any accidents or distractions, though. If it does happen, this could be considered reckless and deemed an offense, and you could be charged accordingly.

Recording Conversations

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Before you decide to record a conversation over the phone or an online meeting, make sure at least one person in the room is aware of this. In many jurisdictions, it is legal to record conversations in this manner. This is known as “one-party consent,” as mentioned in Justia. Knowing this law can save you a lot of legal implications later.

Using VPNs

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Online privacy in many countries is a necessity, and the use of VPNs is seen as legal and a common practice. In countries where there is strict internet censorship, however, VPNs are restricted. So, if you plan to use a VPN when traveling, do some research on local laws and regulations before leaving.

Turning Left on Red

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In some states in the U.S., especially if you are coming from a one-way street and driving onto another one-way street, if you happen to turn left on a red light, it is not illegal. This may not be the case in every state or city, though.

Driving Barefoot

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Not just an urban legend, but many people love the idea of or prefer to drive barefoot. This is not illegal. The warning of caution here is to make sure whether driving with footwear or without can impede your driving skills. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Swearing in Public

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Did you know that swearing in public is legal? While considered rude by many, unless it’s directed at someone in a way that threatens violence or may constitute harassment, you are welcome to do it. But it isn’t encouraged, of course.

Dumpster Diving

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FindLaw mentions a case from the 1980s, known as “State of California v. Greenwood,” where the Supreme Court ruled that searching for trash is considered legal. As long as it does not conflict with any county, state, or city regulations. Once an item is trashed in the bin, it is considered public domain. However, if it’s on private property, it would be trespassing and deemed illegal.


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Illegally crossing the street or jaywalking may have been illegal back in the day, but not anymore. The pedestrian laws state that everyone has equal rights on the highway, as long as you are considerate and don’t injure others in your way. The emphasis is placed on safety and common sense when crossing a street.

U-turns in Residential Areas

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As long as there are no other vehicles or traffic lights within 200 feet of your car, you can make a U-turn in a residential area. In areas where there are signs that prohibit this activity, it should be taken seriously. As always, checking the local traffic laws is advised.

Breastfeeding in Public

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A very debatable topic over the past few years has been that of breastfeeding in public. This act is protected by certain laws in many countries. The law supports that mothers have the right to nurse or breastfeed their babies in public, whenever and wherever they need to.

Not Wearing a Seatbelt in a Parked Car

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When you’re driving, not wearing your seatbelt could get you stopped and fined. But when you have your car parked, and you don’t wear a seat belt, it is perfectly legal. Generally, this is about common sense too, but when it comes to moving vehicles, the laws may differ.

Giving Food to the Homeless

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Where homelessness is rampant in certain cities, in many cases, it is inevitable to hand out food. This is considered legal, even though a few cities have tried to restrict or at least regulate this activity.

Collecting Feathers

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It is illegal to own feathers from protected birds in your home, but it’s entirely legal to collect the feathers you find in nature for your purpose. If you do have feathers from certain protected bird species, you would need a permit for them. This is covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the U.S., as explained on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.

Sleeping in Your Car

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Another thing that most people may think is illegal but is not is sleeping in your car. When it comes to parking your car and sleeping in it overnight, the laws may differ depending on the state. Especially in cases where you parked in a public parking lot, residential area, or street.

Owning Exotic Animals

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One of the more unfortunate yet legal activities that an increasing number of people indulge in is owning an exotic animal. This is restricted to a certain extent when it comes to the location or the type of animal, and some individuals require a permit, while other cities ban it entirely.

Using a Fake Name Online

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As long as you don’t use your legal name online to commit fraudulent or illegal activities, you can use a fake or pseudonym name online. However unusual this may seem, and no one is entirely sure if this is regulated, many people do it, and it is considered legal.

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