10 Things You Thought Were Illegal That Are Actually Legal

Most of us have been taught about the most basic of laws for as long as we can remember. We’re told not to do certain things for fear of getting arrested and being thrown in jail – the possibility of which is far more dramatic when you’re a little kid who is scared of everything. But some of those “illegal” activities we were warned about as children actually aren’t illegal. Yes, it’s true: some of things you’ve thought your whole life were against the law are perfectly legal. Whether it’s societal taboos, scare tactics from parents, or silly urban legends, we’ve been led to believe that some really weird things are not allowed. And since we’ve always believed that, we probably never thought to look them up to do some fact checking.

That’s what I’m here for! These so-called illegal activities won’t get you thrown in a jail cell immediately, but that doesn’t mean they’re 100 percent kosher. Some are frowned upon, some are in a weird legal gray area, and others can still get you in some sort of trouble. I don’t mean to encourage any deviant behavior, but I want to give you a general knowledge of what’s going on with your legal system. Between state laws to federal laws, there are tons of legal glitches that are worth noting. Obviously, don’t do the things that are morally heinous, but everything else? Totally in legal bounds. These ten things you thought were illegal are actually perfectly legal: 

Walking Around Topless

FREE THE GIRLS, Y'ALL. Indiana, Tennessee, and Utah - no dice. Literally everywhere else? TAKE YOUR DAMN TOP OFF. Sick of the double standard that literally every man can walk around topless with no repercussions? Us too. Luckily, most states in the US allow you to walk around topless. Sure, you might get some freaked out (and pervy) stares, and some strange comments, but if you're into it, go for it.

Source: iStock

Corporal Punishment In Schools

I knew my father and grandparents used to get wacked with rulers in school, but I never thought that practice was still a thing. In 19 states, it's still legal for your teacher to physically reprimand students with a wide variety of materials no questions asked. Of course, most school districts and individual private schools outlaw this behavior, but since it's one of those outdated laws that never got repealed, it's technically still okay in some states if your teacher smacks you with a sanded down baseball bat. Yikes.

Source: iStock


As crazy as it sounds, it's not illegal to eat another human. Really. However, murder and desecration of a corpse is illegal - maybe don't do those things. The consumption of human flesh? Not illegal! So, if you were to willingly consent your body to be consumed by another person after death, you have every right to do so.

Source: iStock

Defacing U.S. Currency

We've all encountered some bills that have doodles on them or some other decoration and thought, "Oh, no! I can't use this now, everybody's going to think it's fake!" For the record, you can't deface U.S. currency to appear as if the bills are a larger value and you can't melt down coins for the value of their metal, but you can doodle, draw, and otherwise do funny things with your money and no one can say anything to you about it, other than ask you to stop. It's a matter of personal taste, not illegal v. legal (and hey, it's totally legal).

Source: iStock

Killing A Praying Mantis

Has anyone else heard this urban legend? My mom's justification was that they were endangered. Praying mantises eat pesty insects, they're believed to be good luck, they're so long and elegant, it's hard to think of why anyone would kill them (other than being afraid of bugs, of course). So, if you get spooked and throw a book at one? You aren't going to be arrested. I even heard versions of this fake law with fines up to $500 attached? Not the case. You can kill whatever bug you want.

Source: iStock


Hey, don't have sex with animals. It's wrong, cruel, and disgusting. Still, in more than ten states, there is no law stating that you are forbidden to have sex with animals. It's perfectly legal. Doesn't make it NOT heinous, but technically protected under the law. Gross.

Source: iStock

Secretly Recording A Phone Call

Since this law comes down to states rights and their discretion, it's best to look it up before you press record. However, a lot of states only require one party (aka you) to be cognisent of the phone call being recorded in order for it to be considered legal. Of course it's shady and you might not be able to use it in a media production without the other person's consent, however, there's nothing stopping you from recording a phone call for evidence to be used later. Again - check with your state - but this is most likely totally legal.

Source: iStock

Cutting Off A Mattress Tag

You may have noticed there's a rather large tag hanging off of your mattress with some rather strongly worded warning against cutting said tag OR ELSE. The way it's worded makes it seem like tampering with that tag in the slightest is extra illegal, but it's only legal to cut it if you're the owner of the mattress. The tag-test is there to protect people against buying weird used mattresses at retailers. So, once the mattress is yours, cut away! (And if I'm being real, no one checks that stuff anyway.)

Source: iStock

Counting Cards

Otherwise known as using math and probability to guess what card is coming next in card games typically played at a casino, may appear to be illegal: if you're caught coutning cards, you're thrown out of most establishments. There's a whole movie about a card counting ring and they all went down for it. However, it's not illegal to count cards, it's just strongly discouraged. Think about it: it's basic strategy. If you're a serious card player and also very good at math, what's stopping you? How can you legislate this? How can they proove it?

Source: iStock

Riding In The Bed Of A Pickup Truck

Everybody should wear their seat belt while driving, so obviously the bed of a pickup truck, which doesn't even technically have seats, is clearly in violation of the seat belt laws, right? Sometimes. In nearly half of the states in America permit riding in the bed of a pick up truck. Some have restrictions against the age of the passengers, what is present with you in the back of the truck, and what the trip is for. You can look it up state by state if you want to see if this is a possibility for you this summer, but as a former pick up truck owner, this is personally exciting for me.

Source: iStock

What did you secretly think was illegal? Do you know any other weird things that are actually legal? Let us know in the comments!

You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.


9 Things Teens Can Legally Do That You Never Knew About

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