May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
Barnes & Noble CLE Books

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Quote of the Day - Keyboard work creates a class of unwanted things - one-letter typos, failures of phrasing, bad punctuation. If you don't want to delete these entirely, you can use the Return key to push them to the bottom of the screen. - Nicholson Barker
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Don't Call Your Legislator; They're Busy Correcting Typos

Typos.  They're the bane of lawyers, and now the bane of several state legislatures.

For example, New Yorkers need to beware of one new law passed by that state's legislature.  If you've got just the tiniest amount of alcohol in your body, say the weight of a liter of helium (about 0.18 grams), then you're legally drunk.  New Yorkers, in fact, are all automatically in violation of the law because more than 0.18 grams of alcohol occurs naturally in most everyone's bloodstream

That result is thanks to a typo in a new law.

That's right.  Legislators passed a get-tough, drunk-driving law intending to establish a new limit of 0.18 percent of your blood alcohol content to create an "aggravated driving while intoxicated" standard.  But somehow in the rush to get the law on the books, someone stuck the word "gram" after the limit instead of "blood alcohol content."  The law was intended to prevent prosecutors from allowing a plea bargain to a lesser charge if the offender's BAC was above 0.18% of blood alcohol content, but the mistake makes the law essentially unenforceable. 

New Yorkers aren't the only ones in trouble, though.

In Arizona, a ballot measure approved by voters meant to tax each pack of cigarettes by 80 cents.  Unfortunately, the ballot measure added a period in front of the 80 cents - .80 - actually making it only 8 cents per pack.  Legislators are going to collect the tax anyway, it will just be 90% less than they expected. 

Perhaps the worst typo, however, is the one that converted $8 million into 1.5 cents.  Legislators in Hawaii passed a cigarette tax increase designed to generate the $8 million for cancer research.  They intended to tax each cigarette 1.5 cents, but forgot to specify in the statute that the tax was per cigarette, instead enacting a tax that plopped a whopping 1.5 cents on the tobacco industry,

Imagine if a court made that mistake in one of those billion-dollar tobacco verdicts. 


Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 at 21:36 Comments (0)


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