You May Think You Have Nothing to Hide … But You Are Still Breaking Laws Which Government Spying Could Discover and Use Against You

You Break the Law Every Day … Without Even Knowing It

Wired notes:

James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and former defense attorney, notes in his excellent lecture on why it is never a good idea to talk to the police:

Estimates of the current size of the body of federal criminal law vary. It has been reported that the Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes. These laws are scattered in over 50 titles of the United States Code, encompassing roughly 27,000 pages. Worse yet, the statutory code sections often incorporate, by reference, the provisions and sanctions of administrative regulations promulgated by various regulatory agencies under congressional authorization. Estimates of how many such regulations exist are even less well settled, but the ABA thinks there are ”nearly 10,000.”

If the federal government can’t even count how many laws there are, what chance does an individual have of being certain that they are not acting in violation of one of them?

As Supreme Court Justice Breyer elaborates:

The complexity of modern federal criminal law, codified in several thousand sections of the United States Code and the virtually infinite variety of factual circumstances that might trigger an investigation into a possible violation of the law, make it difficult for anyone to know, in advance, just when a particular set of statements might later appear (to a prosecutor) to be relevant to some such investigation.

For instance, did you know that it is a federal crime to be in possession of a lobster under a certain size? It doesn’t matter if you bought it at a grocery store, if someone else gave it to you, if it’s dead or alive, if you found it after it died of natural causes, or even if you killed it while acting in self defense. You can go to jail because of a lobster.

If the federal government had access to every email you’ve ever written and every phone call you’ve ever made, it’s almost certain that they could find something you’ve done which violates a provision in the 27,000 pages of federal statues or 10,000 administrative regulations. You probably do have something to hide, you just don’t know it yet.

And that’s just federal laws.

Crazy State Laws

Here is a small sample of state and local laws which are still on the books today:


  • One is not allowed to play dominoes on Sundays
  • Men are not allowed to spit in front of the fairer sex
  • One is not allowed to wear a fake mustache to church


  • It is legal to shoot bears, but walking up to a sleeping bear to take a photograph is strictly prohibited
  • It is prohibited to view a moose from an airplane


  • Cars cannot be driven in reverse in Glendale, Arizona
  • An ordinance passed in Nogales prohibits wearing suspenders
  • Women are not allowed to wear pants in Tucson


  • Mispronouncing the name of the state of Arkansas is illegal


  • It is illegal to eat an orange sitting in a bathtub
  • In Riverside, one cannot carry their lunch down the street between 11 am to 1 pm.  Kissing on the lips is illegal in that town … unless both parties wipe their lips with carbonized rose water
  • A person is not allowed to wear cowboy boots in Blythe, if he does not own at least two cows
  • It is illegal to cry on the witness stand in Los Angeles
  • Cats and dogs in Ventura County can have sex only if they have the permit to do so
  • The copyright to the term ‘San Francisco’ is held by the city of San Francisco One cannot manufacture any item with the name San Francisco without the permission from the city


  • It is illegal to dispose of used razor blades
  • It is against the law to train dogs for obedience or any other purpose
  • It is illegal to kiss your wife on a Sunday in Hartford
  • It’s against the law to eat in your car, in Bloomfield


  • It is illegal for anyone to fly over any water body without sufficient supplies of food and water


  • A husband is not allowed to kiss his wife’s breast
  • Only the missionary position is legal when having sex
  • It is an offense to bathe naked
  • It’s a crime to parachute on Sundays
  • Women are fined for falling asleep under the hair dryer and so is the salon owner


  • In Jonesboro, it is illegal to say “Oh, Boy”


  • One is fined if one does not own a boat


  • A man cannot gift his lover a box of candy that is less than fifty pounds in weight
  • It is strictly prohibited to walk along the street with a red-tipped cane
  • It is a crime to ride a merry-go-round on Sundays


  • All bachelors should be called master, not mister, when addressed by their female counterparts according to a state law
  • It is illegal to speak English. The officially recognized language is ‘American’
  • It is illegal for barbers to use their fingers to apply shaving cream on a customer’s face
  • It is illegal for women over 200 pounds wearing shorts to ride horses, in Chicago
  • An individual may be arrested for vagrancy, if he does not have at least one dollar bill on person


  • All males 18 to 50 years old must work six days a year on public roads
  • It is illegal to indulge in ‘spiteful gossip’ and ‘talking behind a person’s back’
  • It is illegal to take baths between the months of October and March
  • Mustaches are illegal if the bearer has a tendency to habitually kiss other humans
  • One is not allowed to carry a cocktail from the bar to a table; only the waiter or waitress can do it


  • A man with a mustache may never kiss a woman in public
  • The ‘Ice Cream Man’ and his truck are banned in Indianola
  • Kisses may last for as much as, but no more than, five minutes
  • Within the city limits, a man is not allowed to wink at any woman he does not know in Ottumwa
  • A husband in Ames is not allowed to drink more than 3 gulps of beer while lying in bed with his wife after making love or holding the wife in his arms


  • In Kansas City, one cannot say the name ‘George Washington’ without adding the phrase ‘blessed be his name’
  • Pedestrians crossing the highways at night must wear tail lights


  • No female weighing between 90 and 200 pounds shall appear in a bathing suit on any highway within the state, unless she be escorted by at least two officers, or unless she be armed with a club.
  • A person needs a license to walk around nude in his/her property
  • A woman may not buy a hat without her husband’s permission in Owensboro


  • It is considered illegal for a woman to drive a car unless her husband is waving a flag in front of it


  • Shoelaces must be tied while walking down the street in Portland
  • It is illegal to blow one’s nose in public in Waterville


  • Eating while swimming in the ocean is prohibited in Maryland
  • It is illegal to mistreat oysters in Baltimore
  • A kiss more than one second is illegal in Halethrope
  • A woman is not allowed to go through her husband’s pocket while he is sleeping
  • One cannot swear within the city limits of Baltimore


  • Any person caught eating peanuts in church may be jailed for up to one year
  • It is illegal to take a bath unless prescribed by a physician, in Boston
  • It is illegal to peep into the windows of automobiles in Milford


  • A wife’s hair belongs to her husband, and it is illegal to alter her hairstyle without his permission
  • One may not swear in front of women and children
  • It is illegal to sleep in a bathtub in Detroit


  • It is compulsory for all men driving a motorcycle to wear shirts
  • Each and every man in Brainerd is required to grow a beard by law
  • No child under the age of 12 is allowed to talk over the phone unless monitored by a parent in Blue Earth
  • In Alexandria, it is illegal for any man to make love to his wife with the smell of garlic, onions or sardines in his breath If the wife requests him, it becomes mandatory for the husband to brush his teeth
  • Hamburgers are not to be eaten on Sundays in St Cloud


  • It is illegal for a man to be sexually aroused in public
  • It is illegal to create unnecessary noises in Oxford


  • It is illegal for four unrelated women to rent an apartment together (to prevent prostitution)
  • Yard waste may be burned any day except on Sundays, in Buckner
  • Hard objects cannot be thrown by hand in Excelsior Springs
  • Dancing is strictly prohibited in Purdy


  • It is considered felony for a wife to open her husband’s mail
  • It is illegal for a man and a woman to have sex in any position other than missionary style
  • It is illegal for unmarried women to fish without a companion


  • If a child cannot hold back a burp during church service, the parents can be arrested
  • It is not legal for a tavern owner to serve beer unless a nice kettle of soup is also brewing
  • A man is not allowed to run around with a shaved chest
  • It is illegal to sleep naked in a hotel/motel room
  • The owner of every hotel in Hastings is required to provide each guest with a clean and pressed nightshirt. No couple, even if they are married, may sleep together in the nude. Nor may they have sex unless they are wearing one of these clean, white cotton nightshirts
  • Barbers are forbidden from eating onions between 7 am and 7 pm, in Waterloo


  • Sex without a condom is considered illegal
  • Men who wear mustaches are forbidden from kissing women, in Eureka

New Hampshire

  • New Hampshire law forbids you to tap your feet, nod your head, or in any way keep time to the music in a tavern, restaurant, or cafe
  • Citizens may not relieve themselves while looking up on Sundays
  • Any cattle that crosses state roads must be fitted with a device to gather its feces

New Jersey

  • It is against the law to ‘frown’ at a police officer
  • One may not dance or wear shorts on the main avenue
  • All cats must wear three bells to warn birds of their whereabouts
  • It is forbidden for a woman, on a Sunday, to walk down Broad Street without wearing a petticoat
  • It is illegal to buy ice cream after 6 pm, in Newark
  • Lovers in Liberty Corner should avoid satisfying their lustful urges in a parked car. If the horn accidentally sounds while they are frolicking behind the wheel, the couple can face a jail term

New Mexico

  • It’s forbidden for a female to appear unshaven in public in Carrizozo, New Mexico

New York

  • While riding in an elevator, one must talk to no one, and fold his hands while looking towards the door
  • It is illegal for a woman to be on the street wearing ‘body hugging clothing’
  • A fine of $25 can be levied for flirting. This is an old law that specifically prohibits men from turning around on any city street and looking ‘at a woman in that way’. If convicted a second time for a crime of this magnitude, it calls for the violating male to be forced to wear a ‘pair of horse-blinders’ wherever and whenever he goes outside for a stroll
  • A man can’t go outside while wearing a jacket and pants that do not match, in Carmel
  • It is illegal to eat on the street in residential neighborhoods, and the only beverage you can drink on the beach is water in a clear plastic bottle, in Ocean City

North Carolina

  • All couples staying overnight in a hotel must have a room with double beds that are at least two feet apart. Making love in the space between the beds is strictly forbidden
  • In Charlotte, women must be swathed in at least 16 yards of fabric before stepping out into public
  • Fights between cats and dogs are prohibited in Barber
  • Before a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage, he must be inspected by all the barnyard animals on the young woman’s family’s property, to ensure a harmonious farm life, in Raleigh
  • It is required that one must pay a property tax on their dog, in Rocky Mount

North Dakota

  • It is illegal to lie down and fall asleep with your shoes on
  • It’s against state law to serve beer and pretzels at the same time in any bar or restaurant
  • You may be jailed for wearing a hat while dancing, or even for wearing a hat to a function where dancing is taking place, in Fargo


  • It is against the law to roller skate without notifying the police
  • Women are forbidden from wearing patent leather shoes (to avoid men seeing the reflection of their underwear)
  • It is illegal to run out of gas
  • Breastfeeding is not allowed in public
  • It’s illegal to catch mice without a hunting license in Cleveland
  • Any person who leans against a public building will be subject to fines in Clinton County
  • It’s illegal for a woman to strip off her clothing while standing in front of a man’s picture, in Oxford
  • You cannot eat a donut and walk backwards on a city street


  • Women are forbidden from doing their own hair without being licensed by the state
  • Dogs must have a permit signed by the mayor in order to congregate in groups of three or more on private property
  • By law, a kiss can last for 3 minutes, in Tulsa
  • It is against the law to open a soda bottle without the supervision of a licensed engineer, in Tulsa


  • One may not bathe without wearing ‘suitable clothing’, i.e. that which covers one’s body from neck to knee
  • It is illegal to whisper ‘dirty’ things in your lover’s ear during sex
  • Anyone with a bad reputation is prohibited from distributing malt beverages, in Oregon


  • Any motorist driving along a country road at night must stop every mile and send up a rocket signal, wait 10 minutes for the road to be cleared of livestock, and continue
  • Any motorist who sights a team of horses coming towards him must pull well off the road, cover his car with a blanket or canvas that blends with the countryside, and let the horses pass. If the horses appear skittish, the motorist must take his car apart, piece by piece, and hide it under the nearest bushes
  • No man may purchase alcohol without written consent from his wife
  • It is illegal to sing in your bathtub
  • Ministers are forbidden from performing marriages when either the bride or groom is drunk
  • Men are banned from getting aroused in public, in Allentown

Rhode Island

It is illegal to sell toothpaste and a toothbrush to the same customer on a Sunday, in Providence

South Dakota

  • Movies that show police officers being struck, beaten, or treated in an offensive manner, are forbidden


  • It is illegal for a woman to call a man for a date
  • It is illegal for a woman to drive a car unless there is a man either running or walking in front of it waving a red flag to warn the approaching motorists and pedestrians, in Memphis


  • The entire Encyclopedia Britannica is banned in Texas because it contains a formula for making beer at home
  • One needs a 5 dollar permit before going barefoot
  • It is illegal for kids to have unusual haircuts, in Mesquite


  • It is illegal not to drink milk
  • It is a felony to persistently tread on the cracks between paving stones on the sidewalk of a state highway


  • Denying the existence of God is considered illegal
  • Women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth


  • All bathtubs are to be kept outside in the yard and not inside the house
  • One cannot work on a Sunday
  • Driving without shoes is prohibited
  • Children are not allowed to go trick-or-treating on Halloween
  • It’s against the law to tickle a girl under her chin with a feather duster in order to get her attention, in Newport
  • It is illegal to kick your wife out of bed, in Lebanon


  • One needs a license to sell condoms in Washington state

West Virginia

  • It is unlawful for chickens to lay eggs before 8 am and after 4 pm
  • One is not allowed to snooze on the train
  • It’s against the law to eat candy less than an hour and a half before church service in the town of Salem


  • Car dealers cannot sell cars on Sundays
  • It is illegal to wake a fireman when he is asleep


  • Women cannot stand within 5 feet of a bar while drinking
  • One is not allowed to take pictures of a rabbit during the month of June
  • In Cheyenne, residents cannot take a shower on Wednesdays

Do you imagine that it is possible for you to go through life without violating a federal, state or local law?   It’s impossible.

As Stalin’s notorious chief of secret police famously said:

Show me the man and I will find the crime.

NSA Spying Can Trap You In Suspected Wrongdoing

Top NSA whistleblower William Binney – the former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program – has repeatedly explained that just because you “haven’t done anything wrong” doesn’t mean you can’t be severely harmed by spying:

The problem is, if they think they’re not doing anything that’s wrong, they don’t get to define that. The central government does.

Binney explains that the government is storing everything, and creating a searchable database … to be used whenever it wants, for any purpose it wants (even just going after someone it doesn’t like).

And he notes that the government will go after anyone who is on its enemies list:

If you ever get on their enemies list, like Petraeus did, then you can be drawn into that surveillance.


Similarly, Edward Snowden said:

Because even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude … to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody – even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.

[If people don't oppose the surveillance state now] it will be turnkey tyranny.

Remember, it’s not just the NSA which is spying on your. Numerous government agencies are spying on all of your data, and sharing that information with federal, state and local law enforcement, the drug enforcement agency, the IRS and many others. So if any of those agencies thinks – rightly or wrongly – that you might have broken a law, they might target you.

Get it?

Mass surveillance is incredibly dangerous … and no one is immune.

Category: Legal, Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

10 Responses to “You Break the Law Every Day…Without Even Knowing It”

  1. holzter says:

    I’ve been a longtime appreciator of WB posts — mostly by way of cross-posting at naked capitalism or here — but this silly post is the kind of thing that gives lefties a bad name.

    Yes, the surveillance has gotten out of hand and ought to be reined in.

    But no, you’re not going to be prosecuted for one of those goofy crimes, lists of which belong in humorous feature stories, not offered up with an alarmist tone in this kind of serious context.

    • JohnT says:

      Most of the time you won’t be prosecuted for silly laws clogging the books. When they are mentioned it is usually to derided the poor job our legislators do in not cleaning out the books.

      But once in a while they are used, or at least threatened. In Calif it is a crime to wear a paper bag over one’s head, part of the state’s anti-syndicalism laws, meant to outlaw Wobblies, IMO, unconstitutionally. Some years ago, there was a demonstration, I think in SF, where the police and prosecutors threatened to prosecute the activists for hiding their faces with paper bags. I don’t think it was actually prosecuted, but the threat had a chilling effect.

  2. Bob K. says:

    Yet progressives tell us there are not enough regulations and government involvement. This is all by design in order to blackmail, intimidate, harass, and jail political opponents. Sound familiar? The stuff they knew about Romney and his supporters, the audits and harassment of Tea Party and other hard right groups in 2011 and 12, and the stuff they knew and exposed about his opponent when our current President was running for Senator. How Bush’s drunk driving arrest just happened to be outed the weekend before an election. On and on, and on.

    Tea Party people are called whackos, traitors and other nonsense because they see this monstrosity we have created and want it killed.

    Now we have given this beast the literal power of control over your life and death through government control of healthcare. No one is naive to think that this power and information will not be used to destroy opponents and those who wish the government be less involved in their lives.


    BR: Bob, you are conflating two separate issues.

    Regulations are a check on corporate power. The only entity with the size and authority to do that is the government.

  3. ilsm says:

    The US Army decided not to buy Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, JLENS.

    So the engineering set could be “deployed” over Washington, DC.

    JLENS “passed” most of its design tests meaning it performs as specified, but after nearly $1.5B for the development “system” the army must think it will not work in the field even with the contractor’s “unwarranted influence”.

    It could survey DC for cruise missiles. The radar can collect “images of ground targets”…….

  4. JohnT says:

    For Texas, add eleven oyster offenses, as noted by Grits for Breakfast.

  5. fresno dan says:

    I see your point – it has plenty of merit. By the way, I’m a big NC fan too!
    “The huge humpback whale whose friendliness precipitated a surreal seven-year — so far — federal hunt for criminality surely did not feel put upon. Nevertheless, our unhinged government, with an obsession like that of Melville’s Ahab, has crippled Nancy Black’s scientific career, cost her more than $100,000 in legal fees — so far — and might sentence her to 20 years in prison. This Kafkaesque burlesque of law enforcement began when someone whistled.”

    Now, it is hard to believe that whistling at a whale would precipitate such events, and hard to believe that there is no oversight of the prosecutors involved, and that it could continue. Yet, here is an example of something that is ridiculous on its face. How is it that the judge simply can’t end this due to ludicrous-ness??? How is it that no one is fired for the incompetent use of Federal tax dollars?
    Yet it is no laughing matter to the defendant.
    I would say the real problem is the lack of oversight of prosecutors. But if the people refuse to oversee the representatives who are suppose to oversee the prosecutors…..well, the relationship between law and justice will become even more nebulous.

  6. Capitalist Canuck says:

    “Cars cannot be driven in reverse in Glendale, Arizona”
    Makes backing out of the driveway a whole new challenge!

    Someone has to turn this into some kind of Trivial Pursuit game.

  7. Leo S says: says that all the cited Arizona laws are mythical. I did not check any others but from that sample, would expect a lot of inaccuracy. Nonetheless, the general point of the post is well-taken.
    Leo Schlosberg

  8. [...] Here’s a comprehensive article, with links to others, showing that you likely are guilty of one or more crimes without knowing it. All levels of government have crimes on the books that are too numerous to county. The article does list a number of antiquated state laws that the legislatures simply haven’t bothered to repeal, though they don’t enforce them. But the federal laws, that have been increasing rapidly in recent years, are the bigger worry. Because of the wide-ranging laws on the books, businesses spend a lot of money on compliance and are very conservative in their growth plans. It’s a longer piece but worth your time to at least skim it. [...]