When Virginia lawmakers meet for the 2013 legislative session, they will consider measures to increase penalties for illegal cigarette trafficking.
During the 2012 legislative session, the General Assembly asked the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the practice and make recommendations before the start of the 2013 session.
The panel voted to keep the offense a misdemeanor, but double the maximum penalty from six months in jail to one year. A second offense with 25 or more cartons of cigarettes or a first offense of 500 cartons or more could be punished by up to five years in prison and a second offense could bring a 10-year sentence.
The problem, referred to as “smurfing,” occurs when a person buys cigarettes in a low-tax state to resell in a higher-tax state. Virginia currently has the second lowest taxes on cigarettes in the country. Currently, 30 percent of cigarettes sold in New York are from out-of-state due to the state’s high tax on a carton. The study found 70 percent of those from out-of–state originated in Virginia. One carton could carry a $3 tax in Virginia while the same carton in New York City could carry a nearly $60 tax on it.
Many dealers in the region have switched to smurfing cigarettes because of possible profits and lack of penalties compared to controlled substances. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives showed that a truckload carrying 800 cases of cigarettes could net nearly $4.1 million.
If you are facing any type of criminal drug charges, you may want to discuss your situation with a qualified criminal defense attorney. Call today for your free, initial consultation.