Virginia is considering instituting higher penalties on cigarette traffickers buying cartons in the state and them selling them in higher-tax states. Currently, Virginia has the second-lowest excise tax in the country, at $3 a carton.
Virginia, home to tobacco giant Philip Morris, has some of the lowest cigarette prices in the country, allowing traffickers to purchase smokes here and then sell them in other states with higher tax rates designed to deter smoking. For example, New York City imposes an excise tax of $58.50 per carton, and nearby D.C. is at $25.00 per carton; this creates a situation in which smugglers can sell lower than legitimate retailers and skirt state regulations.
According to a report by ABC news, the ATF estimates that a car can carry 10 cases of cigarettes (60 cartons), which could lead to a hypothetical profit of $34,000. That kind of profit can make it attractive to organized crime or terrorist groups, which is one of the reasons lawmakers are taking notice.
The practice is known as “smurfing,” and the new law would double the current penalty to a year in prison. In addition, repeat offenders who are found smuggling 500 cartons or more would be subjected to up to 10 years.
Being accused of a crime can be a frightening and often humiliating experience, and you do not need to go through it alone. An experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney can help you navigate our complicated criminal justice system, and will almost certainly be able to secure a better outcome for your case than you would be able to on your own. Any legal deficiency with the way an arrest or investigation was conducted could be grounds to have the charges against you reduced or even dismissed. Unfortunately, these legal rules are not self-executing, meaning that someone needs to point out the rule's violation to the court. As a result, it is important to have your case reviewed by an experienced Fairfax criminal defense lawyer. The law firm of Wilfred Yeargen is dedicated to protecting the rights of Virginians accused of crimes. To schedule a consultation, contact us today at (703) 352-9044 or via email by filling out the contact form on the right side of this page.