#3. Betting With Friends
So, you're drinking away at the local bar, trying not to think about how your significant other shouted "Ray Romano" during sex last week, when you notice the game playing on the TV. Turning to your buddy, you bet him that the defending team will definitely make the next basket. They don't. You bet again and again, upping the ante each time. At the end of the night, you've bet and lost more than $2,000.
Angry at yourself, you get up to leave, when suddenly a SWAT team storms the place, pushes you to the ground and cuffs you.
"Is this about the dead hookers? It is, isn't it?"
What Did I Do?!
You see, all those bets you made violated the Illegal Gambling Act of 1970. According to the IGA, any betting that goes against state or local law, involves five or more people and has a revenue of at least $2,000 in one day constitutes an illegal gambling operation, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
By comparison, punching your wife warrants about a tenth of the jail time.
And that SWAT team/bar wager scenario we described above? That really happened. The guy's name was Sal Culosi, and in 2005 he was overheard in a bar by a Virginia cop betting with his friends on college football to the tune of like $50. The cop befriended Culosi, and over the course of a couple of months led him to raise the stakes until one day Culosi crossed the magical border of $2,000.
A SWAT team arrived at his doorstep to arrest him and shot him through the heart.
It turns out gambling really does cause violence. Police violence, but still.
#2. Writing "Disturbing" Material
Are you an aspiring writer age 16 to 24? If so, how is your zombie story coming along? Seriously, even if you're not really into stuff like that, there must be some piece of "dark" writing you left behind somewhere, like a blog or a LiveJournal or a Facebook posting about some weird vampire Nazi dream you had or some moody lyrics you wrote back when you had a beard and a single pair of jeans.
Well, you better hope that no one finds what you've written "disturbing," because your goth phase might be breaking the law.
Honestly? We're OK with this one.
What Did I Do?!
Some state laws actually make it illegal to write about things that can freak other people out. Illinois, for example, has regulations against "disorderly conduct," which usually means stuff like prank calling 911, but can also apply to writing "disturbing fiction."
No, it doesn't even matter whether you make it public or not. If someone reads something you wrote and finds it reprehensibly soul-poisoning, you may face 30 days of jail time and a $1,500 fine.
And yet, Stephenie Meyer walks free.
In Kentucky, writing about a fictional military attack can result in a second-degree FELONY charge of making terrorist threats. And in Oklahoma, a completely made-up story wherein a person gets injured or killed can get you arrested for planning to cause serious bodily harm, the maximum penalty for which is 10 years in prison.
In 2007, a Chicago high school student named Allen Lee was arrested for disorderly conduct over a class writing assignment involving stream of consciousness where the students were supposed to write whatever came to their minds. Instead of page after page filled with "boobs" and "weed," Lee ended up with an unsurprisingly nonsensical jumble of words and phrases, including "Super Mario," "ballet" and four instances of "stab." After reading his assignment, Lee's teacher turned it in to the school officials, who collectively decided that they must expel the straight-A student and have him arrested. You know, before he goes on a writing spree.
"Call the police, we have a Code Kafka! Repeat, CODE KAFKA!"
Oklahoma high school student Brian Robertson found himself in an even more baffling situation in 2001, when he discovered an evacuation manual on the school computer and used it as a basis to write a story about a commando attack on his school. When his teacher discovered the story, Robertson was immediately suspended and arrested under the Oklahoma statute preventing "planning acts of violence." Though in the end the case was thrown out, Robertson missed a year of school and was fired from his job, which you may notice leaves him with both the knowledge and the motive to carry out his fictitious assault.
#1. Owning a Permanent Marker
Let's say you're relaxing in the park one day when the cops come up and ask to talk to you. Apparently there was a string of muggings in the area and they'd like to search your bag. You agree because you've done no wrong and have nothing to hide, but also because they're cops and they have guns. Inside your bag, they find all the usual stuff: textbooks, pens, permanent markers, a mini flamethrower, the drug salvia and the insanely explosive compound tannerite. You know, nothing illegal.
Pleased with your law-abidingness, you reach to get your bag back when suddenly the cops grab you by the arm and haul you off to jail.
What Did I Do?!
Actually, it was about the permanent markers. According to basically every anti-graffiti state law out there, it is illegal simply to possess "broad-tipped indelible markers" or "aerosol cans" in a public place, because they can be used to commit acts of vandalism. You can find such regulations all over the United States, from Florida to New York to California, which also make it a crime to buy permanent markers for anyone under 18. California, remember, is a state where it is legal to buy weed if you have a doctor's note.
On the one hand, it's kind of understandable, seeing as in California alone the removal of graffiti costs millions of dollars each year. On the other hand, it also means you theoretically can spend up to a year in prison for holding outdoor arts and crafts classes for homeless orphans, and it technically makes any art school guilty of possessing contraband.
"Screw busting grow houses. Art class is where the real money is."
But That Will Never Happen to Me, Right?
Since a 2007 felony arrest for tagging, a reformed ex-graffiti artist from California, Cristian Gheorghiu, was arrested a number of times for breaking parole because the authorities kept finding "vandalism tools" in his apartment. There were stickers, posters, a computer and markers, which, according to the sheriff's office, clearly pointed to Gheorghiu's revived criminal activity, and not the fact that he's making a living nowadays selling legitimate art.
The Art of Smear
Put it on a canvas, and suddenly it's no longer offensive garbage.
Right now, these parole violations (aka "owning stuff") can make it illegal for Gheorghiu to possess even a ballpoint pen. But OK, the guy was on parole, so as long as you don't get arrested for vandalism or graffiti, carrying markers shouldn't be a problem, right?
Not exactly. Just take a look at the case of the 13-year-old from Oklahoma who was taken into custody by the police for allegedly writing on his desk, which violated an Oklahoma City ordinance against the possession of permanent markers.
Hope the jail time is worth it, clowndick.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see what happens when Swaim tours an orphanage.
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