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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
June 4, 1900

Young Man Started Off an Unoccupied Automobile in Washington.

Special to The New York Times.

WASHINGTON, June 3.—The popularity of the automobile has led to a movement for the official recognition of a new crime. The District Commissioners are now drafting a law making it a punishable offense to start off an unoccupied automobile.

Some days ago a hilarious young man who had dined not wisely but too well found an automobile standing in front of an office building. The owner had gone inside. The gay youth, who understood automobiles, started this one off, and there was much excitement for the population of Washington for some time thereafter.

The young man went unpunished, because it was found that there was no law applicable to the case. The framers of the code did not consider the possibility of horseless carriages. A resourceful policeman suggested that the youth should be punished for "setting off an infernal machine." Another thought the offense might come under the head of reckless driving.

Neither of these suggestions met with favor, and the Commissioners found themselves face to face with a new and unpunishable crime. Their attorney has been instructed to draft an ordinance covering the case.

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