12 Things You May Think Are Illegal - But Actually Aren't



Copy link

Over 1.6K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 12 Things You May Think Are Illegal - But Actually Aren't
Voting Rules
Vote up the legal activities you totally thought were verboten.

Between federal laws, state regulations, and local mandates, American citizens have a lot to remember if they want to follow the rules. While these laws are designed initially to keep the public safe, they can often be outdated and seem a little silly. Still, we obediently follow them in the name of good citizenship (and to avoid hefty fines or arrests). 

Because there are so many rules to consider, the average person usually doesn't bother to question a commonly known regulation. But what if we've been blindly following these “laws” all along, not realizing that they were just rumors or assumptions? 

Is it really illegal to kill a praying mantis? Will counting cards at a casino put a person in jail? What happens when a person removes a mattress tag? This list features things that you may think are illegal but actually aren't. Vote up the activities you are most surprised to find entirely lawful. 

Photo: osseous / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0

  • 1
    1,317 VOTES

    In Some European Countries, Escaping From Prison Is Not A Crime

    In America, escaping prison can add five years to a convict's sentence. While it may seem logical to believe that those imprisoned would be punished for leaving their confines, it's not a crime in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, or the Netherlands. 

    In Scandanavian countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, even criminals with murder charges enter the “open” prison system, where there are no bars or narrow cells to contain them from the outside world. Prisoners live in rooms that resemble college dorms, complete with their own bathrooms, showers, and flat screen TVs. The law also allows Scandanavian inmates to leave facilities during the day to attend work and visit family. 

    Though prisoners in Belgium and Germany don't enjoy the luxury of the open prison system, there are no laws that punish inmates who escape prison grounds. In these countries, prisoners are only punished further if they commit a crime - like assault or property damage - while executing their escape plans. 

    While prisoners who escape in the Netherlands don't acquire any extra incarceration time, any prisoner who is caught aiding the escapees can experience further sentencing of up to four years.  

    1,317 votes
  • 2
    1,390 VOTES

    Women Can Go Topless In 6 US States

    After Brit Hoagland and Samantha Six successfully sued Ft. Collins, CO, for banning women from taking off their shirts in public, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the law - making it legal for women to go topless in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas. 

    Participating in the #FreeTheNipple social media movement, the women argued that everyone should be able to take their shirts off when they are outside on a hot day, no matter their gender. Claiming that requiring women to wear shirts in public was an infringement of equal rights, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor. 

    According to Hoagland: 

    …No matter how you look, you should have the same freedom [as] the person next to you. And it’s also about equality. Addressing small parts of inequality can make a big difference in how people are treated on a day to day basis, and I thought free the nipple was just one small step closer to how it should be.

    1,390 votes
  • 3
    850 VOTES

    It Is Legal To Make A Left Turn At A Red Light In Some States, But Not All

    Taking a right turn at a red light when the intersection is free of oncoming traffic can save drivers a lot of time, allowing them to get to their destinations a little more quickly. While this practice is common knowledge throughout the US, some might not know that turning left at a red light is also sometimes legal. 

    California, Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington state laws allow left turns at red lights when drivers are transitioning from one one-way street to another. The only exception to the rule in these states is when signs specifically prohibit drivers from making the turn. However, cross-country travelers should note that in some states, including Connecticut, Washington, DC, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maine, New Hampshire, and North Carolina, turning left at a red light is never legal. 

    Most drivers in Missouri also fall under this law, except those passing through Kansas City. It's also illegal in South Dakota unless local laws post an exception. In New York City, drivers must stop and wait at every red light, regardless of whether they turn right or left. 

    850 votes
  • 4
    907 VOTES

    Counting Cards Is Not Prohibited By Any State Or Federal Laws

    Those who have the intellectual capacity to win at the casino by counting cards effectively are not punishable by state or federal laws. Casinos have the right to ban card counters from playing at their tables ever again, but these cheaters don't have to fear serving any time or paying extra fines. 

    Still, there are other ways that card counters may be arrested at the casino. Because casinos are private property and most have high-tech security systems, security has the right to require those caught counting cards to leave - and ban them from returning to the property. If card counters return after being banned from an establishment, the police can arrest them and press charges. 

    Other possible offenses include using electronic machines to count cards, assaulting casino employees, and disorderly conduct. 

    907 votes
  • 5
    894 VOTES

    No State Has A Law Against Driving Barefoot, But None Recommends It

    Many vehicle owners believe that driving barefoot is illegal, while others argue that there's no law against it. To set the record straight, a man named Jason Heimbaugh wrote to every state in the 1990s, asking for their stance on the subject. The results were unanimous - driving sans shoes is legal in all 50 states. 

    Still, just because it's legal doesn't necessarily make barefoot driving a good idea. Shoes provide uniform pressure and force between the driver's foot and the car pedals, allowing for more control when speeding up and stopping a vehicle. A bare foot can also easily slip off the pedal, creating a potentially dire situation in a matter of seconds. 

    894 votes
  • 6
    799 VOTES

    Yes, You Are Free To Flip Off The Cops

    It might not be the wisest decision to make, but the First Amendment allows frustrated Americans to raise their middle fingers and cuss out a cop. Still, they should be careful with their word selection, as "fighting words" and threats are not protected under the free speech law. 

    If offenders use foul language while giving a cop the bird, the officer could consider it disorderly conduct or a criminal threat. In that case, they will most likely be ticketed or arrested. Possible offenders should also keep local laws in mind. Some cities, like Fairfax, VA, forbid swearing in public. 

    Lawyers at Suhre and Associates, LLC, warn that while it's a police officer's job to keep their communities safe, a routine stop can quickly become an unpleasant confrontation. Officers who are annoyed or feel threatened know how to use the law to deliver maximum fines and sentences.

    799 votes