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5 Things You Didn’t Realize Were Illegal in Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

5 Things You Didn’t Realize Were Illegal in Texas

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Most folks in Texas are law-abiding citizens in their day-to-day lives. They drive the speed limit, pay for their purchases and avoid engaging in illegal actions. However, some people may not realize that some of their seemingly innocent actions have actually violated state or federal laws.

There are a variety of actions that may seem harmless or ordinary that are actually illegal. Even if courts don’t regularly prosecute people for these criminal offenses, it may still be possible to face fines or even jail time for some of these activities. Knowing more about these laws may help people avoid prosecution or penalties.

#1. Accessing An Unsecured Wi-Fi Connection

It’s a common scenario: a person who is in a parking lot outside of a business or even in their home needs to access the Internet. If their personal Wi-Fi connection is down or if they don’t have time to enter a coffee shop to make a purchase, they may sign on to an unsecured network to browse the Internet for a few minutes.

Even if they only engage in legal activities for a few moments, they may still be guilty of violating the law. According to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, it is a federal felony offense to gain access to any computer system without prior authorization. For example, while a coffee shop may allow paying customers to access their public Wi-Fi network for free, a person sitting outside of the shop could be committing a crime by accessing the same network.

#2. Downloading Copyrighted Material

Many people download copyrighted material like movies and songs from the Internet every day. This has become one of the most popular ways to distribute digital content. However, downloading this kind of material without paying for it might constitute a serious crime. This crime can take several forms:

  • Using a torrent service to download material
  • Distributing copies of copyrighted software
  • Broadcasting copyrighted material on video or music-sharing websites

These actions might violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, or DMCA. While this may not lead to jail time, it could lead to lawsuits brought by content creators.

#3. Illegal Gambling

Most people think there is nothing wrong with placing a friendly bet on a football game or a race. In most cases, this activity may not be illegal. In any case, this action would be very hard to prosecute. However, criminal charges may be brought against citizens who engage in organized gambling.

According to the Illegal Gambling Act of 1970, gambling that violates state and/or local laws that occurs between five or more people and earns over $2000 in one day is a criminal action. This could lead to a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

#4. Illegal Interview Questions

When searching for a job candidate, a hiring manager may ask a wide range of questions to find out more about a potential applicant. This is a standard part of the hiring process but some questions may be off-limits due to privacy laws set in place by the federal government.

For example, employers may not ask:

  • How many children an applicant has
  • Where an applicant lives
  • Questions about an employee’s health or medical history

Without specific authorization, employers are not allowed to ask these questions or they may face prosecution on charges of illegal discrimination.

#5. Mistake of Law or Mistake of Fact Crimes

In Texas, the prosecution must prove that a defendant knowingly, intentionally, willingly or recklessly engaged in an illegal action in order to get a conviction for many offenses. However, this is not always the case. For certain offenses, it is possible to convict a person of an offense even if they claim that they did not know that their actions were against the law.

This may take the form of a claim of mistake of law. For example, a person who has been charged with DWI cannot successfully claim that they weren’t aware that driving while intoxicated was illegal. DWI laws are so well-known that ignorance of the law is not a realistic defense.

These claims may also take the form of mistake of fact. For instance, a defendant may try to claim that they were unaware of certain facts that made their actions illegal. If an adult has sex with a minor, it is not a defense to prosecution to claim that they were misled about the minor’s age. Even if the minor lied about his or her age, the adult could still be charged with illegal sexual conduct.

Legal Defenses

Even if defendants didn’t realize that they were breaking the law, a legal defense is still possible. Hiring a defense attorney is the best way to prepare a strong defense against criminal charges.

Have you been charged with an activity you didn’t know was illegal? It’s important to establish your legal representation as early as possible. The Law Office of Greg Tsioros can help protect your rights. Call his office today at (832) 752-5972.

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