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Posted on July 20, 2015

Laws You Didn’t Realize You Break

Laws You May Not Realize You’re Breaking:

We all do things that are a calculated risk, like jaywalking when there’s no traffic, but we know this act of breaking the law probably won’t result in going to jail. Knowing what the law is helps us avoid getting caught doing something illegal, but there are some laws on the books that even those of us who like to think of ourselves as law abiding may be guilty of breaking. Here are a few crimes that you may not be aware you’ve been committing.

1. Selling a Cigarette on the Street

You just came out of a meeting and you are stressed, so you go outside to smoke a cigarette. A person walking by asks to buy a smoke off you. You sell him the cigarette, but a police officer sees you.

Under California Penal Code section 308.2(a)1, you could be charged with an infraction for selling a cigarette unless it is in a sealed package and is labeled properly. An infraction is like a traffic ticket, and you will have to pay a fine but no jail time is required.

2. Encouraging Somebody to Commit Suicide

break the law

Your ex calls you up yet again and threatens to kill herself if you don’t agree to see her. You’re tired of the emotional blackmail, so you sarcastically tell her to go ahead and get it over with. The next thing you know, the police are knocking on your door with a warrant for your arrest.

Under California Penal Code section 4012, you could be accused of a felony if you aid, encourage, or advise somebody to commit suicide.

If you are convicted of this crime, you could face a prison sentence depending on the circumstances of your case.

3. Rubbernecking

There’s an accident on the freeway, and one of the cars involved looks like your friend’s vehicle, so you stop to make sure it isn’t your friend. Soon, you are being arrested.

Under California Penal Code section 402(a)3, if you go to the scene of an emergency or stop at the scene of an emergency and you get in the way of emergency personnel who are trying to aid the injured parties and deal with the emergency, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor.

4. Giving Spray Paint to a Minor

7 laws you didn't realize you broke

Your little sister’s friend asks you if he can have that can of cool spray paint to redo his bookshelf. The police show up at your house a week later and arrest you.

According to California Penal Code section 594.1(a)(1)4, if you give a minor 6 ounces of spray paint or more, you could be committing a misdemeanor. An exception is made for parents, guardians, and schoolteachers who supervise the use of the art supplies.

If you are convicted of a first offense, you could be required to clean graffiti off a property in addition to paying fines and serving jail time.

5. Disclosing a Phone Message

You hear your roommate’s phone beeping so you listen to the message and discover that he is seeing somebody else while he’s dating your friend. You tell your friend about it and she confronts him. Next thing you know, your friend is bailing you out of jail.

Under California Penal Code section 637.2(a)5, if you disclose the contents of a phone message that is intended for another person without that person’s permission, you could be charged with invasion of privacy and sentenced to up to one year in jail and fined up to $5,000.

In addition to criminal charges, you could be sued civilly for damages if you invade the privacy of another individual.

6. Posting a Performance of a Copyrighted Song on the Web

You record a drunken karaoke performance of your friends singing Sabbath Bloody Sabbath on your phone and post it in an online chat room for Halloween. It is stupid and funny and goes viral on the Web. A couple weeks later, you receive a complaint and a summons to appear in court.

Under 17 U.S.C. Section 5016, you could be found liable for violating federal copyright law and sued for damages. Owners of the copyright of the original song, whether it’s a record company or the musician or music group, can sue you and your friends who performed the song unless you or your friends have permission from the copyright owner to post the performance online.

Any artistic performance or work is automatically protected by copyright law, regardless if somebody files an application for a copyright. This area of law can be very complicated and expensive.

7. Wi-Fi Piracy

You live next door to a coffee shop and you regularly log on to their Wi-Fi network without buying anything. You could be guilty of larceny under California Penal Code Section 487.

A first violation could result in up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.7 The best way to avoid this charge would be to go to the coffee shop, buy something, and use the Wi-Fi as a paying customer.

One Response to Laws You Didn’t Realize You Break

  • Jordan says:

    Great list here of laws that might be a little more obscure! It’s important to know that some things that seem relatively harmless can actually be breaking the law. Thanks for sharing.

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