In Trouble with the Law

Some of The Most Common Ways People Break the Law

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Breaking the law is something that few people ever intend to do, but sometimes you may not even be aware you’re doing something that’s considered illegal. Below are a few commonly broken laws in the U.S. and what it means to break them.

First, here are some common laws that you may not have considered before.

  • Prank calling is a right of passage for some adolescents, but it may also be illegal in your area. It can be considered harassment or disorderly conduct with threatening remarks or repetitive calls.
  • Using unsecured WiFi (aka piggybacking) isn’t illegal everywhere, and even when you have permission from neighbors or businesses it can run you afoul of internet service plans and providers.
  • Throwing out mail belonging to previous tenants — even junk mail — is a felony. Instead, write ‘return to sender’ or ‘no longer at this address’ then put it back into a mailbox. This will alert the post office to handinspect the mail.
  • Failure to update your driver’s license when you move to a new state is illegal, whether you own a car or not. State laws vary on how much time you have to make the change, and some states allow students to keep the license of their home state.
  • Failure to get a dog license for your pet means that a lost dog may be adopted out or even euthanized if the local shelter is overcrowded. If a dog is found to be without a license, you may face a fine. And in some areas if a dog is unlicensed and then stolen, stealing it may not even be considered a crime.

Then there are the laws you probably knew about but may still take advantage of.

  • Jaywalking is the violation of traffic laws by pedestrians. This could mean failure to use the crosswalk or unsafely crossing a street that has heavy traffic. Depending on where you are, it’s one of those things that could carry a fine, simply be frowned upon or be completely illegal.
  • Copyright infringement is a law that some people may not realize they’re breaking, and it’s more commonly referred to as piracy. Anytime music, movies, games, books or a host of other things are downloaded or shared without permission is a violation of that item’s copyright.
  • Gambling is closely monitored and specific regulations vary based on location. You may want to check out the area laws before hosting that monthly poker night or starting an office pool for the big game.
  • Littering is something that nearly half of all Americans have admitted to in the past, with cigarette butts being the item most frequently dumped. Punishment can range from a fine to jail time, depending on the state.
  • Sharing prescribed medication through giving or selling is illegal – and in some states giving away or selling just one pill is a felony. Also, using medication not prescribed to you may lead to an adverse physical reaction, lawsuits or criminal charges.

Lastly, most everyone has likely heard of these, but they are still among the laws most commonly broken.

  • Underage drinking is mostly forbidden in the U.S. under the National Minimum Age Drinking Act passed in 1984. There are exceptions in certain states, such as for religious activities and with parental or guardian consent.
  • While smoking marijuana and using cannabis products is slowly being legalized in some states, the possession and/or use of it is still a criminal act in others.
  • Breaking traffic laws by speeding, driving without a seatbelt or using a cell phone while driving are common occurrences in many places and the threat of a traffic ticket isn’t always a deterrent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that injury accidents will affect two out of every three motorists in their lives and in 2017 alone more than 3,000 fatalities were the result of distracted driving.

Laws and the enforcement of them varies by state and municipality. If you’re not sure what the rules are where you live or work, be sure to look them up before you engage in anything that could turn you into a law breaker and get you in trouble.

When you need to take action for legal matters in life, start by calling one of our ARAG customer care specialists at 800-247-4184, Monday through Friday,
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time. They’re here to help you identify your needs, figure out next steps and help you connect with local network attorneys.


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