Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
It’s the “little things” in life that make us happy. Until those “little things” are misdemeanors.
When you’re arrested for something you didn’t even know was a crime, or had no understanding you were doing anything wrong, those “little things” quickly turn life into anything but happy. And anyone can get arrested for something minor.
Let’s look at some of the most surprising “little things” that can, unfortunately, get you arrested and charged with a misdemeanor:
Failing to pay a traffic ticket…
If you got a ticket and never paid it, you could have a warrant out for your arrest. All it would take to put you in jail would be a police officer pulling you over.
So was the case for Crissy Brown, a college student from Alabama. When she was pulled over for expired car registration tags, the officer pulled her information up, found out she had a warrant out for an unpaid ticket and took her immediately to jail.
She spent the next 8 hours feeling like a criminal because she didn’t have the money to pay her initial ticket. “It only took 8 hours of incarceration to make me feel like I was criminal,” she said about the bitter experience.
…or a “catching a fish out-of-season” ticket
This doesn’t just happen with traffic tickets either. Michigan resident Kyle Dewitt was issued a ticket one day after catching an out-of-season fish. Because that type of bass wasn’t allowed to be caught that time of the year, an officer gave him a fine. Dewitt was told he would receive instructions in the mail on how to pay.
A few months went by and he didn’t receive anything. So, he called and found out a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Not knowing what to do, he drove to the jail to settle things, only to be put behind bars.
A week later at his court hearing, he was told he had to pay another fee by the end of the day. Because he didn’t have the means to pay the fee, he was put in jail a second time. Ordered to spend three days, Dewitt was released early thanks to intervention by the ACLU of Michigan.
Swearing in public
In some states, including South Carolina, Massachusetts and Virginia, using “bad words” in public can get you arrested.
Despite the chance of facing opposition from First Amendment advocates, some state laws “allow towns to enforce local laws that give police the power to arrest anyone who ‘addresses another person with profane or obscene language’ in a public place.”
For example, in Virginia using profanity in public is classified as a Class 4 misdemeanor.
In a real-life situation, South Carolina resident, Danielle Wolf was shopping in a North Augusta market in 2014 when she was arrested for using the “F-word” in front of her kids.
Apparently, her husband kept putting frozen pizzas on top of the bread in their shopping cart and Wolf said some profanities in frustration. Another shopper heard her swearing so she called the police.
Wolf was arrested that night for swearing and charged with disorderly conduct – which, according to the city ordinance, includes “utter[ing], while in a state of anger, in the presence of another, any bawdy, lewd, or obscene words or epithets.”
After Miley Cyrus twerked on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in a controversial performance, many people thought the act of “twerking” – or bending over at the waist and dancing in a provocative manner – should be outlawed.
It seems some states are doing just that.
Such was the case for Florida resident, Valerie Dixon who was spotted by a police officer twerking in front of a bus full of children. Reported to be “dancing in a vulgar manner,” Dixon was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
A month before, also in Florida, vlogger Carmel Kitten was arrested for recording a twerking video at a public bus stop.
Some estimates cite nearly 1 in 3 Americans will see the inside of a jail cell at some point in their lives. But this doesn’t mean all match your imagination of what defines a “criminal.” It’s common for ordinary citizens to not realize they’re crossing the law. A look at some of the surprising, minor ways one can be arrested is proof of this.