Think of a crime and you’ll likely picture a famous murder or a complex heist. Or maybe even more common, but still rather nefarious, offences such as burglary or fraud. Heinous acts committed by unrepentant career criminals. People that are very different from you because you’re not a criminal, are you? Or are you?
We’re not making wild accusations. Quite the opposite. It’s just that, contrary to what we all might believe, many of us commit crimes on an almost daily basis.
These are the 14 crimes you may be committing without even realising.
1. Getting angry at other road users
Okay, so getting a bit riled up while driving isn’t, in itself, against the law. But swearing or gesticulating at other road users is. The 1998 Crime and Disorder Act actively prohibits ‘aggression at the wheel’ and includes yelling, swearing, or waving your fist in an intimidating fashion. It can come with a fine of up to £1,000.
Nuisance noise doesn’t just have to be loud music or shouting. Using a loud vacuum between 6pm and 8am on a weekday, or 11pm and 8am on a weekend - if disturbing enough to a neighbour (say, in a block of flats or terrace) - and you could fall foul of the law. Crime doesn’t have to be a dirty business.
3. Eating behind the wheel
We all know that using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous and - rightfully so - against the law. The police don’t have a particular problem with phones, though. The rules actually state that you can’t do anything that seriously distracts you from driving. So having a snack while behind the wheel could lead to you getting pulled over.
4. Watching television without a TV Licence
It's an offence under section 363 of the Communications Act 2003 to watch live television without a valid TV Licence. We're not just talking about BBC channels, either. It's any channel that broadcasts live. Even watching a live broadcast on YouTube requires a TV licence. The same goes for any TV service or its accompanying streaming service (such as BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub).
5. Using a neighbour’s Wi-Fi
Theft is theft. You don’t have to be stealing a priceless piece of art to be a thief. Piggybacking off someone else's unsecured Wi-Fi is a breach of the 1990 Computer Misuse Act and the Communications Act of 2003. Seek permission and it's okay. Fail to and you could be landed with a fine.
6. Flying a kite
UK aviation laws state that no kite must be flown higher than 30 metres in the air. Fair enough, you might think, but it goes further than that. The Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 says that it's illegal to fly any kite at any height in any public place. That is, however, a rather antiquated law that even the most conscientious and by-the-book police officer is unlikely to be too interested in.
7. Keeping your car smelling fresh
If you like to dangle one of those little fragrant cardboard trees from your rear-view mirror, you’re breaking the law. You could be fined up to £1,000 and/or given three points on your licence for anything hanging like that. So the fluffy dice are also a no-no. You must have a ‘full view of the road ahead’ in order to drive safely. The same goes for the road behind, so car stickers could also see you transgressing.
8. Failing to inform the DVLA about a change of address
Given that driver’s licences are official legal documents, they must be 100% accurate, all of the time. Forget to inform the DVLA of something like a name change or the fact that you’ve moved house and you could receive a fine for breaking the law.
9. Running fake social media accounts
It can be tricky for the law to keep up with the ever-evolving ways of the technological world we live in today. They’re trying, though. Setting up phoney accounts in order to troll, harass or catfish someone can now see you in hot water with the law.
10. Going on holiday with your child
Jet off on holiday during term time with your children and you could find yourself in trouble. There are pretty strict laws around when you can take kids out of school for leisure reasons. Ignore them and a hefty fixed penalty notice could very well be landing on your doormat.
11. Singing Happy Birthday in a restaurant
You're out for dinner and trying to enjoy your linguine when the table next to you starts singing ‘Happy Birthday' to one of their party. It’s annoying. “If only it was illegal and the police could stop this,” you think to yourself. Well, it is. And they can. Although they almost certainly won’t.
It’s nothing to do with the singing having disturbed you and your pasta-eating, though. It’s a copyright issue. Warner Chappell owns the rights to the song and any public performance - regardless of context - legally needs to have the company’s permission.
12. Downloading music, films, or TV online
Copyright is violated when music, films, or television shows are downloaded without the required permission or payment. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 now protects copyrighted materials quite securely in the United Kingdom. If you download or distribute copyrighted information without authorisation, you may face a civil case and find yourself paying thousands of pounds in damages. Best stick with Crime + Investigation Play
Deep down, we all know that littering is antisocial and against the rules. But do we all know just how illegal it is?
People who litter may be fined or prosecuted in court. As an alternative to prosecution, authorised officers may issue a fixed penalty charge of up to £150 for an offence. If the perpetrator is prosecuted and found guilty in court, the fine may be increased to a not insignificant £2,500.
14. Opening someone else’s letters or parcels
The Postal Services Act of 2000 prohibits anyone from opening up another person’s mail without a reasonable excuse. So you can open an elderly arthritic relative’s letters for them. But snoop through your neighbour’s bills or interfere with their post so that they don’t receive it (or do but you cause a delay in them receiving it) and you’re breaking UK law and could face prosecution.