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Seemingly Harmless Things That Are Actually Illegal in Some States

Laws are created with our best interests in mind, to keep structure and stability among the members of our community — or at least we thought so until we did a little digging. Now, you probably consider yourself a good, honest, law-abiding citizen, right? Well, depending on where you live, you may have — unbeknownst to you — actually committed a crime just by doing one of these completely normal activities. Strange, yes, but also quite true.

While these state laws sound completely ridiculous, they’ve actually landed a few folks in jail. From keeping a goldfish as a pet to letting your Christmas lights hang outside for too long, these totally typical activities are actually outlawed in certain places. Don’t believe us? Read on.

1. Goldfish Bowls

Goldfish - Giphy

(Photo Credit: Giphy)

Keeping a Goldfish as a classroom pet may seem pretty innocent, but this typical first-pet experience is actually illegal in several places, including certain towns in Italy and the UK. According to council official Giampietro Mosca of Monza, Italy, “A fish kept in a bowl has a distorted view of reality and suffers because of this.” Well, when you put it like that, we can actually (sort of) see their point.

2. High Heels

High Heels - Giphy

(Photo Credit: Giphy)

Nowadays it seems like we need a permit for everything, doesn’t it? We need permits to open restaurants, to build houses, to catch fish, and to… wear high heels. Yes, you read that right! Women (and men if they really want to) need a special permit to wear high heels in Carmel, California. Adopted in 1975, this seemingly silly law was made to protect city walkers from tripping on Carmel’s pretty cobblestone sidewalks.

3. Singing ‘Happy Birthday’

Happy Birthday - Giphy

(Photo Credit: Giphy)

“Happy Birthday” is probably one of the most well known songs ever sung. In fact, the Guinness Book of Records calls “Happy Birthday” the most popular song in the English language. But did you know the song is under a copyright law? Singing “Happy Birthday” for any commercial purpose, at all, could cost you anywhere between $5,000 and $30,000! You shouldn’t be worried, though. If you want to sing the song at home or at a birthday party, you’re safe.

4. Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights - Giphy

(Photo Credit: Giphy)

It looks like Clark Griswold is out of luck on this one. Residents who live in San Diego are required to have their Christmas lights packed up and stowed away by February 2 (okay fine, understandable). If not, it could result in a $250 fine.

California wasn’t the only state to be a Grinch about Christmas lights. At one time, the internet was swirling with rumors that Maine had a similar law, until Sue Wright, a reference librarian at the legislative law library in Augusta, Maine, debunked that myth once and for all. “Out on the Internet, they don’t do fact-checking and they don’t understand the difference between an ordinance and a law,” Wright told We’re glad she cleared that up!

5. Stealing Wi-Fi

Wi-fi - Giphy

(Photo Credi: Giphy)

If you’ve ever found yourself helplessly searching for a Wi-Fi signal, only to end up borrowing your neighbor’s connection, then you, my friend, have broken a law. Although the laws vary from state to state, piggybacking on someone else’s Wi-Fi is a serious offense in some states. In 2005, a Florida man was arrested after he parked his car outside someone’s house to use their internet connection. And if you’re ever the giver in this situation and allow your neighbors to mooch off of your connection, you might want to re-read your internet provider’s terms of service. Some companies prohibit users from allowing others to use their Wi-Fi connection. Better safe than sorry!

6. Eating Fried Chicken Incorrectly

Fried Chicken - Giphy

(Photo Credit: Giphy)

In Georgia, “finger-licking” isn’t just a suggestion; it’s mandatory. Thanks to a law adopted in 1961, it’s illegal to eat fried chicken with anything other than your fingers. It might sound funny, but when it comes to food (especially fried chicken), Southerners don’t kid around. In 2009, a 91-year-old lady was arrested by Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper for eating her chicken with a fork.

Weird or not, maybe we should all start looking into some of these laws. If a 91-year-old lady can get in trouble for eating chicken with a fork, then who knows what other crazy laws are lurking out there, just waiting to make us a criminal?

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