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Did You Break the Law and Not Know it?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 22, 2011 5:50 AM

You may think that you've never broken the law. But with 4,500 federal criminal statutes and 300,000 other regulations, you probably have. And even if you didn't know about the obscure federal law, you may still be on the hook.

That's because you're presumed to know the law -- yes, all 304,500 criminal statutes (and the state ones, too!).

Ready to start studying? If not, check out the obscure federal laws listed below. They may change your mind.

If you like Smokey the Bear, beware:

Whoever ... knowingly and for profit manufactures, reproduces, or uses the character "Smokey Bear" ... or any facsimile thereof, or the name "Smokey Bear" shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both. (18 U.S.C. § 711)

Wish you were a 4-H Youth? Well, don't put it on your resume if you weren't:

Whoever, falsely and with intent to defraud, holds himself out as or represents or pretends himself to be a member of, associated with, or an agent or representative for the 4-H clubs ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both. (18 U.S.C § 916)

Need to find a private bush when camping in national parklands? Put out your fire first:

Whoever, having kindled or caused to be kindled, a fire in or near any forest, timber, or other inflammable material upon any lands owned, controlled or leased by, or under the partial, concurrent, or exclusive jurisdiction of the United States ... leaves or suffers said fire to burn unattended, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both. (18 U.S.C. § 1856)

The federal criminal code also has an entire section devoted to mutiny and shanghaiing sailors. It doesn't get more obscure than that.

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