The Naughty List: 10 Bad Behaviors That Aren’t Illegal

The Naughty List: 10 Bad Behaviors That Aren’t Illegal Photo (cc) by osseous

This post comes from Penny Gusner at partner site

There’s no shortage of bad choices that can lead to an arrest, but we went in search of bad choices that are surprisingly legal.

Laws vary by state, but here’s a “naughty list” of actions that typically won’t result in an expensive ticket, a court date or immediate jailing.

Keep in mind that even if your state doesn’t necessarily have a law making these things illegal, there may be some that fall under a local ordinance.

1. Flashing lights to warn of a speed trap

A federal judge ruled in February that it’s motorists’ First Amendment right to flash their headlights to warn other drivers of nearby law enforcement officers or speed traps.

Before this ruling, police could stop drivers who flicked on and off their headlights or high beams to caution other drivers of cops lying in wait. Law enforcement said flashing headlights to warn other motorists was interfering with a police investigation and that they could write tickets.

2. Driving barefoot

While driving a car without footwear may be unwise, it’s not illegal in any state. Alabama, however, does require anyone operating or riding on a motorcycle to wear shoes.

Even though it’s not illegal, driving barefoot could compromise your control of your vehicle. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles issued a press release in 2012 stating that driving in bare feet, socks or stockings is dangerous because your feet can slip off the gas or brake pedals.

While your lack of footwear on its own won’t get you a ticket, if police find that it somehow contributed to an accident, you could end up with a citation for negligent or reckless driving.

3. Swearing at a cop

Many of us mutter curses to ourselves when pulled over by a cop, but what if you let loose a profanity-laden rant at the officer? Luckily our First Amendment should keep you from being hauled off to jail, even if your state has a law against profanity.

Some states do have laws banning swearing. A law in Virginia for more than 50 years makes it a Class 4 misdemeanor to profanely curse or swear in public. And North Carolina has a law going back to 1913 that makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor if “any person in the hearing of two or more persons, in a loud and boisterous manner, use indecent or profane language.”

But even if your state has arcane laws on the books regarding profanity, your First Amendment rights protect your free speech, even when the vulgar language is being hurled at an officer. In 2011, a North Carolina judge found the state’s profanity statute an unconstitutional violation of freedom of speech and legislators have since been trying to repeal it.

One caveat: You could be cited for disorderly conduct if you incite violence with your swearing.

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