My running partner and I were mid-chat during our long run this weekend when we were stopped by a police officer. Our offense? Crossing the street when the light was red. Thankfully, he let us off with a warning, but it got me thinking — what else am I doing that’s illegal? Everything varies by state and city, but here are some interesting laws you might be breaking (unknowingly) on your run:
Jaywalking: This is defined differently depending on the state, but in general, jaywalking laws require that pedestrians obey traffic control signals unless otherwise instructed by law enforcement. FindLaw explains that beginning to cross the street at an intersection with a “Don’t Walk” sign flashing would violate jaywalking laws. Many states require that pedestrians cross only at crosswalks, which can be designated by white lines or can be unmarked. An unmarked crosswalk is simply an area around 10 to 15 feet wide between two adjacent street corners. Some state and local laws allow pedestrians to cross certain streets outside of a crosswalk but require pedestrians to yield to any vehicles when doing so. Generally, pedestrian traffic rules require that pedestrians yield to motorists any time they are outside of a crosswalk. Many local jaywalking laws forbid crossing an intersection diagonally, unless traffic signals specifically allow diagonal crossing. Many jaywalking laws forbid walking in the street when a sidewalk is available. Disregarding signs or barricades put up to guide pedestrians also constitutes jaywalking.
Tossing your empty Gu packet or water bottle in someone’s trashcan (or on the ground): Again, this law varies by city, but in many cases you can’t throw out your trash in someone else’s bin. According to Seattle 911, a police and crime blog, “No person shall throw, discard, or deposit litter on any street, sidewalk, or other public property within the City, on any private property within the City and not owned by the person, or in or upon any body of water within the jurisdiction of the City, whether from a vehicle or otherwise.”
Public urination: Urinating in public is illegal in every state. According to CriminalDefenseLawyer.com, violations of local ordinances are generally punishable by fines, community service or both. Local governments set the amounts of the fines. A typical fine might be from $50 to $500, depending on the circumstances.
Spitting: Think twice before hocking that loogie. According to the Massachusessets Legislature website, “Whoever expectorates or spits upon any public sidewalk, or upon any place used exclusively or principally by pedestrians, or, except in receptacles provided for the purpose, in or upon any part of any city … shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty dollars.”
Running on the wrong side of the road: According to Alaska law, “where a sidewalk is not available, a pedestrian walking upon a highway shall walk on a shoulder as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway. Where neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, a pedestrian walking on a highway shall walk as near as practicable to the outside edge of the highway and, if walking along a two-way roadway, shall walk only on the left side of the roadway. No pedestrian may walk on a controlled-access highway except in an emergency.” In Washington state, “Where sidewalks are not provided … move only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction and upon meeting an oncoming vehicle shall move clear of the roadway.”
Running in the street when there are sidewalks: In Washington, D.C., “Where sidewalks are provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway,” BeStreetSmart.net reports.
Running at night (if you’re younger than 18): In many cities, there are curfew laws in place to “prohibit or limit your right to be out in public at certain times and are intended to maintain a certain level of order and safety in public spaces,” FindLaw reports. Most curfew laws apply only to those under the age of 18, while other curfew laws are enacted temporarily in response to a natural disaster or civil disturbance.
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