Foggy interpretations of state causes problems

Sometimes believing you know the law can cause more difficulties than realizing you’re foggy about your legal rights and responsibilities. What follows is a brief discussion of several subjects where misconceptions (or “myths”) about law are common with the result that problems abound. Please note that the discussion is restricted to Illinois law; the law of other states may be quite different.

I. Automobile Registration.

Myth #1. If I buy a car, I can satisfy the registration requirement by taking my registration plates off my old car and putting them on my new one.

Fact. You can assign your registration plates and sticker, if any, to your new car, but you must first apply to the Secretary of State and pay the registration fee required. It is also unlawful and very unwise to permit other persons to use your plates after you have sold the car to that person, or use another person’s plates after you have purchased the car.

Myth #2. Whether I am transferring registration from an old car to a newly purchased one, or applying for new registration, I have a grace period during which I can drive my car before applying for registration.

Fact. No grace period is provided under Illinois law. You can operate your newly purchased vehicle legally only after you apply for registration and have obtained a temporary permit from the Secretary of State.

Myth #3. I’m ok so long as I have my new car registration plates and/or sticker in my car; I can put them on later.

Fact. Illinois law requires that “every registration plate shall at all times be securely fastened in a horizontal position to the vehicle … in a place and position to be clearly visible … and in a condition to be clearly visible.”

II. Contract Law

Myth #1. I can’t be held responsible for a contract if I’m not 21 years old.

Fact. The legal age of majority in Illinois for most legal purposes including entering into valid contracts is 18. Moreover, contracts entered into by person under 17 years of age may be enforceable against the person if the contract otherwise voidable may also be enforceable if affirmed by the minor upon reaching the age of majority.

Myth #2. A contract is not enforceable against me if I never signed anything.

Fact. Valid contracts can be oral or written. A law, called the Statute of Frauds, makes certain oral contracts “voidable” that is, subject to being held unenforceable in a suit brought to enforce the contract in question. You should consult a lawyer to see if the Statute of Frauds applies to your transaction. In any event, this defense is not available to help you avoid responsibility to pay persons for goods or services you have already received.

Myth #3. I can change my mind about a contract and void it within 3 days after I enter into it.

Fact. There is no general right to void or reject a contract within 3 days. A specific statute permits a consumer to cancel a contract for the sale of merchandise in excess of $25.00 resulting from unsolicited contract at the consumer’s residence (i.e., by a door-to-door salesman), provided notice of cancellation is given to the seller within 3 business days and the merchandise is returned in its original condition. The seller must also give you notice of your right to cancel the contract and how to do so.

III. Criminal Law.

Myth #1. “Finders keepers, losers weepers,” I can keep any lost property I find.

Fact. If you take possession of lost or mislaid property, you risk being charged with theft unless you make reasonable efforts to find out who the owner of the property is and return the property to that person. You are under no duty to take possession of the property in the first place.

Myth #2. While it is illegal to carry a firearms without a

Hermit, it is ok to protect oneself with other weapons such as a bludgeon, black jack, or switchblade knife.

Fact. Anyone who sells, purchases, possesses or carries the weapons cited, or a slingshot, sandclub, sandbag, metal knuckles, or a throwing star commits the offense of unlawful use of weapon, a Class A misdemeanor. Possession of other weapons, including a razor, billy club, broken bottle, stun gun, or dangerous knife with intent to use them unlawfully against another is also a misdemeanor.