More than 60 percent of all cigarettes sold within New York have been smuggled into the state. New York has the highest state tax on cigarettes in the United States and in New York City, an additional tax is tacked on, pushing the price of a pack of cigarettes above $12. With such high taxes, it should come as no surprise to lawmakers that people look for an alternative. Unfortunately, the solution chosen to prevent tax evasion is vigorous prosecution of people accused of cigarette smuggling.
If you are under suspicion of smuggling cigarettes, you could be charged with a state or federal criminal offense. A New York cigarette smuggling lawyer at Bukh Law Firm, PLLC. can provide legal representation with the goal of avoiding conviction or reducing penalties for smuggling.
New York Laws on Cigarette Smuggling: Learn the Penalties
New York Tax Law Code Section 1814 establishes penalties for evading or attempting to evade state cigarette taxes. The consequences of smuggling cigarettes to avoid taxes are determined based on the amount of cigarettes, any past convictions, and your role in a cigarette smuggling operation.
- If you attempt to evade taxes on 10,000 or more cigarettes or 22,000 or more cigars, you can be charged with a Class E felony.
- If you attempt to evade taxes on 400 or more pounds of tobacco, you could be charged with a Class E felony.
- If you are not an agent licensed by the commissioner and you possess cigarettes for sale or you transport unstamped or unlawfully stamped cigarettes, you may be charged with a misdemeanor for a first conviction or with a class E felony if you have 10,000 or more cigarettes or a prior conviction.
- If you are unlicensed and you transport, possess, sell, or attempt to sell 30,000 or more unlawfully stamped or unstamped cigarettes, you can be charged with a Class D felony.
There are also similar penalties imposed for selling or transporting cigars or loose tobacco, as well as consequences for altering or possessing a counterfeit registration certificate or sticker. Conviction for any misdemeanor or felony smuggling offense can lead to jail time. Arkady Bukh has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in NYC TOP RATED ON:
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Federal Laws on Cigarette Smuggling
Like New York State, the federal government also makes trafficking in contraband cigarettes or tobacco a criminal offense. 18 U.S. Code Chapter 114 addresses the crime of cigarette smuggling. A cigarette is defined under this law to include any wrapped roll of tobacco. Contraband cigarettes is defined as 10,000 or more cigarettes that do not have a stamp or other required evidence that state tax has been paid.
Shipping, receiving, transporting, possessing, selling, distributing, or purchasing contraband cigarettes or contraband smokeless tobacco is declared unlawful under Code Section 2342. Making false statements or representations related to records of the shipment, distribution or sale of 10,000 or more cigarettes in a single transaction is also illegal.
Code Section 2344 imposes a penalty of up to five years incarceration for violating Code Section 2342, or up to three years if your offense was related to problems with record keeping. Contraband cigarettes or tobacco may also be seized and destroyed or used for undercover investigations.
Getting Help from a Cigarette Smuggling Defense Lawyer
Although most cigarette smuggling cases are tried under state law, the federal government does become involved under certain circumstances. Smuggling cigarettes has often been viewed by law enforcement as a method of funding organized criminal enterprises. Those who are involved in an organized smuggling operation could also find themselves prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Whether you face state or federal charges, you could be imprisoned if convicted. You should speak with a New York cigarette smuggling attorney for help negotiating a plea, raising defenses, or introducing reasonable doubt so a prosecutor cannot meet the burden of proving guilt to a jury.
Call today to speak with criminal defense lawyers at Bukh Law Firm, PLLC that can help you with smuggling charges.