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20 Things You Think Are Illegal but Aren’t

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 10/4/2018 Lauren Cahn

It may come as a surprise, but all of these things are legal in the U.S., at least in some parts.

Having a monkey for a pet: Ross had one on Friends, so maybe you thought you too could keep a monkey as a pet. The thing about Friends, though—it's fictional. In real life, you can't have a pet monkey anywhere in New York, Alaska, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, and Vermont. That said, good news for wanna-be monkey parents: It's legal in all the 38 other states. In fact, in Oregon, you can have a monkey as a service animal, should your needs require it.https://primatestore.com/forsale.asp © Ksenia Lev/Shutterstock Ross had one on Friends, so maybe you thought you too could keep a monkey as a pet. The thing about Friends, though—it's fictional. In real life, you can't have a pet monkey anywhere in New York, Alaska, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, and Vermont. That said, good news for wanna-be monkey parents: It's legal in all the 38 other states. In fact, in Oregon, you can have a monkey as a service animal, should your needs require it.https://primatestore.com/forsale.asp

Having a monkey for a pet

Ross had one on Friends, so maybe you thought you too could keep a monkey as a pet. The thing about Friends, though—it's fictional. In real life, you can't have a pet monkey anywhere in New York, Alaska, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, and Vermont. That said, good news for wanna-be monkey parents: It's legal in all the 38 other states. In fact, in Oregon, you can have a monkey as a service animal, should your needs require it.https://primatestore.com/forsale.asp

Owning other exotic animals: Think you can't have a bear for a pet? You're wrong if you live in Massachusetts, where you can legally purchase your very own living, breathing Teddy. Want a pet giraffe? You can have one in Florida. Pet tiger? You can have one in Delaware, as long as you obtain a license. Pet cheetah? Pet lion? Oklahoma is fine with both, according to FindLaw.com. © Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock Think you can't have a bear for a pet? You're wrong if you live in Massachusetts, where you can legally purchase your very own living, breathing Teddy. Want a pet giraffe? You can have one in Florida. Pet tiger? You can have one in Delaware, as long as you obtain a license. Pet cheetah? Pet lion? Oklahoma is fine with both, according to FindLaw.com.

Owning other exotic animals

Think you can't have a bear for a pet? You're wrong if you live in Massachusetts, where you can legally purchase your very own living, breathing Teddy. Want a pet giraffe? You can have one in Florida. Pet tiger? You can have one in Delaware, as long as you obtain a license. Pet cheetah? Pet lion? Oklahoma is fine with both, according to FindLaw.com.

Fat-free chips made with Olestra: Back in the 1990s, Proctor & Gamble came out with a fat substitute called Olestra (also known as Olean), and for a while, people ate it up in products like WOW potato chips by Frito Lay. It fell out of favor once people started realizing their frequent trips to the bathroom seemed to happen soon after ingesting these fat-free treats. For a while, the FDA required warning labels on Olestra-containing foods, but not since 2003. Still fully legal in the U.S., Olestra is banned in Canada and all the countries in the European Union. Here are 9 more U.S. ingredients that are banned in other countries. © Jiri-Hera/Shutterstock Back in the 1990s, Proctor & Gamble came out with a fat substitute called Olestra (also known as Olean), and for a while, people ate it up in products like WOW potato chips by Frito Lay. It fell out of favor once people started realizing their frequent trips to the bathroom seemed to happen soon after ingesting these fat-free treats. For a while, the FDA required warning labels on Olestra-containing foods, but not since 2003. Still fully legal in the U.S., Olestra is banned in Canada and all the countries in the European Union. Here are 9 more U.S. ingredients that are banned in other countries.

Fat-free chips made with Olestra

Back in the 1990s, Proctor & Gamble came out with a fat substitute called Olestra (also known as Olean), and for a while, people ate it up in products like WOW potato chips by Frito Lay. It fell out of favor once people started realizing their frequent trips to the bathroom seemed to happen soon after ingesting these fat-free treats. For a while, the FDA required warning labels on Olestra-containing foods, but not since 2003. Still fully legal in the U.S., Olestra is banned in Canada and all the countries in the European Union. Here are 9 more U.S. ingredients that are banned in other countries.

Foods containing arsenic: Arsenic is one of the World Health Organization's top ten chemicals of 'major health concern.' 'Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with higher rates of skin, bladder, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease,' reports the FDA. The FDA has released statements about the presence of arsenic in rice, apples, and all organic fruits. But unlike the countries of the European Union, the U.S. has no ban on arsenic in our food. Find out the strangest food law in every state. © Natacha_S/Shutterstock Arsenic is one of the World Health Organization's top ten chemicals of 'major health concern.' 'Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with higher rates of skin, bladder, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease,' reports the FDA. The FDA has released statements about the presence of arsenic in rice, apples, and all organic fruits. But unlike the countries of the European Union, the U.S. has no ban on arsenic in our food. Find out the strangest food law in every state.

Foods containing arsenic

Arsenic is one of the World Health Organization's top ten chemicals of 'major health concern.' 'Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with higher rates of skin, bladder, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease,' reports the FDA. The FDA has released statements about the presence of arsenic in rice, apples, and all organic fruits. But unlike the countries of the European Union, the U.S. has no ban on arsenic in our food. Find out the strangest food law in every state.

Baby walkers: A baby walker is a seemingly adorable wheeled device that allows an infant to 'stand upright' and 'walk' by fluttering their tiny feet on the floor. But some medical experts believe they impair baby's development, and some go so far as to call them dangerous (since they can help a baby go to places they shouldn't be, like the top of a staircase). Baby walkers are banned in Canada, but they're legal here in United States pretty much across the board. © Rchat.photo gallery/Shutterstock A baby walker is a seemingly adorable wheeled device that allows an infant to 'stand upright' and 'walk' by fluttering their tiny feet on the floor. But some medical experts believe they impair baby's development, and some go so far as to call them dangerous (since they can help a baby go to places they shouldn't be, like the top of a staircase). Baby walkers are banned in Canada, but they're legal here in United States pretty much across the board.

Baby walkers

A baby walker is a seemingly adorable wheeled device that allows an infant to 'stand upright' and 'walk' by fluttering their tiny feet on the floor. But some medical experts believe they impair baby's development, and some go so far as to call them dangerous (since they can help a baby go to places they shouldn't be, like the top of a staircase). Baby walkers are banned in Canada, but they're legal here in United States pretty much across the board.

Spanking in school: Any kind of physical force used as a means of discipline (slapping, spanking, paddling, etc.) is known legally as 'corporal punishment.' If you were never spanked in school, perhaps it's because you grew up in New Jersey, where corporal punishment in schools has been illegal since 1867. However, corporal punishment is permitted in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. © BonNontawat/Shutterstock Any kind of physical force used as a means of discipline (slapping, spanking, paddling, etc.) is known legally as 'corporal punishment.' If you were never spanked in school, perhaps it's because you grew up in New Jersey, where corporal punishment in schools has been illegal since 1867. However, corporal punishment is permitted in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

Spanking in school

Any kind of physical force used as a means of discipline (slapping, spanking, paddling, etc.) is known legally as 'corporal punishment.' If you were never spanked in school, perhaps it's because you grew up in New Jersey, where corporal punishment in schools has been illegal since 1867. However, corporal punishment is permitted in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

Spanking at home: Spanking in school is legal in many states, but spanking at home is legal in all states. So is kicking, slapping, and whipping, as long as it's considered 'reasonable discipline' by a parent or caretaker. What is reasonable discipline? That's determined by case law, so if you're accused of 'child abuse' when you thought you were engaging in 'reasonable discipline,' your local judge will get to decide what's reasonable and what isn't.http://www.newspressnow.com/news/local_news/experts-weigh-in-on-spanking/article_00b24c74-4f02-537a-8182-717e395b4c26.html © MPIX/Shutterstock Spanking in school is legal in many states, but spanking at home is legal in all states. So is kicking, slapping, and whipping, as long as it's considered 'reasonable discipline' by a parent or caretaker. What is reasonable discipline? That's determined by case law, so if you're accused of 'child abuse' when you thought you were engaging in 'reasonable discipline,' your local judge will get to decide what's reasonable and what isn't.http://www.newspressnow.com/news/local_news/experts-weigh-in-on-spanking/article_00b24c74-4f02-537a-8182-717e395b4c26.html

Spanking at home

Spanking in school is legal in many states, but spanking at home is legal in all states. So is kicking, slapping, and whipping, as long as it's considered 'reasonable discipline' by a parent or caretaker. What is reasonable discipline? That's determined by case law, so if you're accused of 'child abuse' when you thought you were engaging in 'reasonable discipline,' your local judge will get to decide what's reasonable and what isn't. http://www.newspressnow.com/news/local_news/experts-weigh-in-on-spanking/article_00b24c74-4f02-537a-8182-717e395b4c26.html

Marrying your cousin: Although some view it with a negative stigma, the fact is you can marry your cousin in every state in the United States. The only issue is which cousin. At least 34 states go so far as to allow you to marry your first cousin, which is your aunt/uncle's kid. That being said, some states in which marriage between first cousins is permitted only permit it under certain circumstances (as in Arizona, where the couple must be over 65 years of age or in West Virginia, where only adopted first cousins are allowed to wed). Check out these 13 marriage laws you might be breaking right now. © Kazin Sergey/Shutterstock Although some view it with a negative stigma, the fact is you can marry your cousin in every state in the United States. The only issue is which cousin. At least 34 states go so far as to allow you to marry your first cousin, which is your aunt/uncle's kid. That being said, some states in which marriage between first cousins is permitted only permit it under certain circumstances (as in Arizona, where the couple must be over 65 years of age or in West Virginia, where only adopted first cousins are allowed to wed). Check out these 13 marriage laws you might be breaking right now.

Marrying your cousin

Although some view it with a negative stigma, the fact is you can marry your cousin in every state in the United States. The only issue is which cousin. At least 34 states go so far as to allow you to marry your first cousin, which is your aunt/uncle's kid. That being said, some states in which marriage between first cousins is permitted only permit it under certain circumstances (as in Arizona, where the couple must be over 65 years of age or in West Virginia, where only adopted first cousins are allowed to wed). Check out these 13 marriage laws you might be breaking right now.

Backyard burials: In most states, it's perfectly legal to bury your loved ones right in your backyard. Just be sure to pay attention to zoning laws (for example, laws which say how close to a body of water a burial may take place), and it's always a good idea to consult a specialist. © aswphotos134/Shutterstock In most states, it's perfectly legal to bury your loved ones right in your backyard. Just be sure to pay attention to zoning laws (for example, laws which say how close to a body of water a burial may take place), and it's always a good idea to consult a specialist.

Backyard burials

In most states, it's perfectly legal to bury your loved ones right in your backyard. Just be sure to pay attention to zoning laws (for example, laws which say how close to a body of water a burial may take place), and it's always a good idea to consult a specialist.

Drinking booze...even if you're under-age: The minimum age for legally drinking alcohol is 21 in all 50 states, but there are loopholes in all but five (those are Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and West Virginia). For instance, there are: 29 states where minors can drink legally on private property with parental presence and consent 6 states where minors can drink on private property without parental presence and consent 25 states where minors can drink for religious reasons 16 states where minors can drink for medical reasons 11 states where minors can drink for educational purposes (think: culinary school)Read on for 13 more of the strangest liquor laws in America. © anweber/Shutterstock The minimum age for legally drinking alcohol is 21 in all 50 states, but there are loopholes in all but five (those are Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and West Virginia). For instance, there are:
  • 29 states where minors can drink legally on private property with parental presence and consent
  • 6 states where minors can drink on private property without parental presence and consent
  • 25 states where minors can drink for religious reasons
  • 16 states where minors can drink for medical reasons
  • 11 states where minors can drink for educational purposes (think: culinary school)
  • Read on for 13 more of the strangest liquor laws in America.

    Drinking booze...even if you're under-age

    The minimum age for legally drinking alcohol is 21 in all 50 states, but there are loopholes in all but five (those are Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and West Virginia). For instance, there are:

    29 states where minors can drink legally on private property with parental presence and consent

    6 states where minors can drink on private property without parental presence and consent

    25 states where minors can drink for religious reasons

    16 states where minors can drink for medical reasons

    11 states where minors can drink for educational purposes (think: culinary school)

    Read on for 13 more of the strangest liquor laws in America.

    Removing that mattress tag: Bought a mattress? Go ahead, and remove that mattress tag. It's not illegal. The tag is there for commerce purposes. Its removal is illegal only before purchase by the consumer. © Ivelin/Shutterstock Bought a mattress? Go ahead, and remove that mattress tag. It's not illegal. The tag is there for commerce purposes. Its removal is illegal only before purchase by the consumer.

    Removing that mattress tag

    Bought a mattress? Go ahead, and remove that mattress tag. It's not illegal. The tag is there for commerce purposes. Its removal is illegal only before purchase by the consumer.

    Driving naked: If you want to get behind the wheel of your car buck naked, that's your prerogative. It's totally legal. There is one hitch, however; getting in and out of the car could cause you legal problems. If someone sees you (and complains), you could be prosecuted for public lewdness. This is the dumbest law in every state. © Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock If you want to get behind the wheel of your car buck naked, that's your prerogative. It's totally legal. There is one hitch, however; getting in and out of the car could cause you legal problems. If someone sees you (and complains), you could be prosecuted for public lewdness. This is the dumbest law in every state.

    Driving naked

    If you want to get behind the wheel of your car buck naked, that's your prerogative. It's totally legal. There is one hitch, however; getting in and out of the car could cause you legal problems. If someone sees you (and complains), you could be prosecuted for public lewdness. This is the dumbest law in every state.

    Sleeping in your car: In at least 14 states, it's perfectly legal to sleep in your car at a rest stop (you'd think it would be more, right?). But it's not really illegal to sleep in your car anywhere, unless your car is parked illegally or if you're too drunk to be driving (if your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit, you should not be in your car at all). © Ensuper/Shutterstock In at least 14 states, it's perfectly legal to sleep in your car at a rest stop (you'd think it would be more, right?). But it's not really illegal to sleep in your car anywhere, unless your car is parked illegally or if you're too drunk to be driving (if your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit, you should not be in your car at all).

    Sleeping in your car

    In at least 14 states, it's perfectly legal to sleep in your car at a rest stop (you'd think it would be more, right?). But it's not really illegal to sleep in your car anywhere, unless your car is parked illegally or if you're too drunk to be driving (if your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit, you should not be in your car at all).

    Driving while drowsy: One third of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by over-tired drivers. However, it's not illegal to drive a car while drowsy except in New Jersey and Arkansas. And most states that have attempted to put such a law on the books have failed thus far. Check out these 18 bizarre things that have been banned around the world. © Thanakrit Pongprawat/Shutterstock One third of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by over-tired drivers. However, it's not illegal to drive a car while drowsy except in New Jersey and Arkansas. And most states that have attempted to put such a law on the books have failed thus far. Check out these 18 bizarre things that have been banned around the world.

    Driving while drowsy

    One third of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by over-tired drivers. However, it's not illegal to drive a car while drowsy except in New Jersey and Arkansas. And most states that have attempted to put such a law on the books have failed thus far. Check out these 18 bizarre things that have been banned around the world.

    Performing surgery without having slept: One would hope a surgeon had a good night's sleep before opening anyone up on an operating table. Unfortunately, despite widespread knowledge of how sleep deprivation impairs cognitive performance and motor skills, there's no law that says a surgeon must have had a good night's sleep or even any opportunity to sleep before performing surgery. © Dmitry Zimin/Shutterstock One would hope a surgeon had a good night's sleep before opening anyone up on an operating table. Unfortunately, despite widespread knowledge of how sleep deprivation impairs cognitive performance and motor skills, there's no law that says a surgeon must have had a good night's sleep or even any opportunity to sleep before performing surgery.

    Performing surgery without having slept

    One would hope a surgeon had a good night's sleep before opening anyone up on an operating table. Unfortunately, despite widespread knowledge of how sleep deprivation impairs cognitive performance and motor skills, there's no law that says a surgeon must have had a good night's sleep or even any opportunity to sleep before performing surgery.

    Recording a conversation: In one-party consent states, such as New York, you can legally record a conversation with someone who has no idea you're recording the conversation. For the most part, all states are one-party consent states, except for these 10: California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. Connecticut and Nevada are 'mixed' consent states, where the consent laws vary by situation. Check out these 25 bizarre international laws you'd never guess were real. © APISITH/Shutterstock In one-party consent states, such as New York, you can legally record a conversation with someone who has no idea you're recording the conversation. For the most part, all states are one-party consent states, except for these 10: California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. Connecticut and Nevada are 'mixed' consent states, where the consent laws vary by situation. Check out these 25 bizarre international laws you'd never guess were real.

    Recording a conversation

    In one-party consent states, such as New York, you can legally record a conversation with someone who has no idea you're recording the conversation. For the most part, all states are one-party consent states, except for these 10: California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. Connecticut and Nevada are 'mixed' consent states, where the consent laws vary by situation. Check out these 25 bizarre international laws you'd never guess were real.

    Marrying your step-sibling: It may seem like a taboo, and certainly society tends to frown upon step-sibling relationships, the fact remains if you want to marry your stepbrother or stepsister, there is no U.S. law prohibiting it. © ALICIA GARSIDE/Shutterstock It may seem like a taboo, and certainly society tends to frown upon step-sibling relationships, the fact remains if you want to marry your stepbrother or stepsister, there is no U.S. law prohibiting it.

    Marrying your step-sibling

    It may seem like a taboo, and certainly society tends to frown upon step-sibling relationships, the fact remains if you want to marry your stepbrother or stepsister, there is no U.S. law prohibiting it.

    Going topless: In most U.S. states, it is just as legal for a woman to go topless as it is for a man. Notable exceptions include Indiana, Tennessee, and Utah. Some local laws ban female breast-baring, and police officers in some municipalities will arrest topless women for 'disorderly conduct,' however such laws and such arrests are not likely to stand judicial/constitutional scrutiny. Don't miss these 8 things that will probably be illegal in the next 50 years. © Vilenija/Shutterstock In most U.S. states, it is just as legal for a woman to go topless as it is for a man. Notable exceptions include Indiana, Tennessee, and Utah. Some local laws ban female breast-baring, and police officers in some municipalities will arrest topless women for 'disorderly conduct,' however such laws and such arrests are not likely to stand judicial/constitutional scrutiny. Don't miss these 8 things that will probably be illegal in the next 50 years.

    Going topless

    In most U.S. states, it is just as legal for a woman to go topless as it is for a man. Notable exceptions include Indiana, Tennessee, and Utah. Some local laws ban female breast-baring, and police officers in some municipalities will arrest topless women for 'disorderly conduct,' however such laws and such arrests are not likely to stand judicial/constitutional scrutiny. Don't miss these 8 things that will probably be illegal in the next 50 years.

    Sexually assaulting an animal: The criminal codes of most states prohibit people from engaging in sexual conduct with non-human animals. Currently, there are five states that do not have such a law on the books: Hawaii, Kentucky, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming. However, just because it's legal, that definitely does not mean you should do it. © Okssi/Shutterstock The criminal codes of most states prohibit people from engaging in sexual conduct with non-human animals. Currently, there are five states that do not have such a law on the books: Hawaii, Kentucky, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming. However, just because it's legal, that definitely does not mean you should do it.

    Sexually assaulting an animal

    The criminal codes of most states prohibit people from engaging in sexual conduct with non-human animals. Currently, there are five states that do not have such a law on the books: Hawaii, Kentucky, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming. However, just because it's legal, that definitely does not mean you should do it.

    Dog-dining, cat-consumption: If you were so inclined, and we are by no means suggesting that you should be, you would be legally entitled to consume dog meat. Same with cat meat. That being said, the sale of both dog meat and cat meat is prohibited. So anyone interested in dining on dog-dining or cat-consumption must be prepared to obtain the meat themselves. And that must be accomplished in a humane fashion, or else the animal cruelty laws kick in. Again, we strongly recommend you take a pass on this one. Next, check out these 50 things you won't believe are banned in the U.S. © Vladislav Noseek/Shutterstock If you were so inclined, and we are by no means suggesting that you should be, you would be legally entitled to consume dog meat. Same with cat meat. That being said, the sale of both dog meat and cat meat is prohibited. So anyone interested in dining on dog-dining or cat-consumption must be prepared to obtain the meat themselves. And that must be accomplished in a humane fashion, or else the animal cruelty laws kick in. Again, we strongly recommend you take a pass on this one. Next, check out these 50 things you won't believe are banned in the U.S.

    Dog-dining, cat-consumption

    If you were so inclined, and we are by no means suggesting that you should be, you would be legally entitled to consume dog meat. Same with cat meat. That being said, the sale of both dog meat and cat meat is prohibited. So anyone interested in dining on dog-dining or cat-consumption must be prepared to obtain the meat themselves. And that must be accomplished in a humane fashion, or else the animal cruelty laws kick in. Again, we strongly recommend you take a pass on this one. Next, check out these 50 things you won't believe are banned in the U.S.

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