NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 21, 2006

New York lawmakers accidentally got too tough with a get-tough drunken-driving law, inserting an error that set the standard for "aggravated driving while intoxicated" below the amount of alcohol that can occur naturally.

The one-word mistake makes the new law unenforceable, says Lt. Glenn Miner, a New York State Police spokesman.  However, drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher can still be prosecuted under other state laws.

In a few other cases around the nation, typos and other blunders have redirected millions of tax dollars or threatened to invalidate new laws:

  • In Hawaii, for instance, lawmakers approved a cigarette-tax increase to raise money for medical care and research; cancer researchers, however, will get only an extra 1.5 cents next year -- instead of the more than $8 million lawmakers intended because legislators failed to specify that they should get 1.5 cents from each cigarette sold.
  • Another gaffe occurred in Arizona, in which a misplaced period on the state's ballots raised questions about a cigarette tax voters approved Nov. 7; the error called for an increase of 80 cents per pack, but the ballot had .80 cents per pack.

Lawmakers in New York plan to fix the mistake the next time they convene, says Mark Hansen, a spokesman for the state Senate's Republican majority.  He says it's not clear how the mistake happened or why no one caught it before legislators voted.

Source: Brad Heath, "Small mistakes cause big problems," USA Today, November 21, 2006.

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