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Court Discusses Imposing Tax on Possession of Illegal Drugs


The question before the court in this case is whether imposing a tax on the possession of illegal drugs after the state has imposed a criminal penalty for the same conduct is in violation of the constitutional prohibition of successive punishments for the same crime.

Law Review

Montana’s Dangerous Drug Tax Act went into effect on the first of October, 1987. The Act imposes a tax on both the possession and the storage of illegal drugs. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said the Act specifically states that the tax will be collected only after the state and federal fines or forfeitures have been satisfied. The imposed tax is either 10% of the market value of the drugs or specified amount depending on the drug. For example, the charge for marijuana is $100 per ounce and the charge for hashish is $250 per ounce. The charge is whatever is greater.

The Act authorizes the DOR to adopt rules to administer the tax and enforce it. The money that is collected is to be used to support youth evaluations and chemical abuse programs and to help enforce drug laws.

Under the rules of the act the taxpayer must file a return within three days of being arrested. In addition, the police officer is required to file the form for the individual should they fail to do so.

Case Background

There are six respondents in this case. The group has operated a farm for many years and in 1986 they started to grow and sell pot. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said about two weeks after the Dangerous Drug Tax Act came into effect the farm was raided by police officers. The individuals were arrested and all of the marijuana was taken. This included plants, materials, and all paraphernalia.

There were criminal charges filed against all six of the respondents. Two of the respondents were sentenced to prison and the other four had deferred or suspended sentences placed upon them.

A Nassau County Drug Possession Lawyer said the civil forfeiture action was filed as well to recover cash and equipment that had been used in the marijuana operation. This action was settled in the sum of $18,016.83 in cash and various forms of equipment.

Case Discussion and Decision

The main question before the court is whether or not the drug tax of the state is punitive. The issue of double jeopardy is made clear by the fact that a civil sanction is considered to be punishment to the extent that it serves the purpose of retribution and deterrence. However, the amount of the sanction must not be disproportionate to the crime committed.

It is a fact that both the state and federal governments spend a lot of money on drug control activities. A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer said the respondents in this particular case are directly responsible for some of these costs. This includes the costs to detect their activity, investigation costs, and the price to prosecute and incarcerating them for the crimes.

While measuring the exact cost that each drug case represented would be next to impossible. For this reason, the tax imposed by the state is reasonable and does not hinge on any of the rights of the individuals involved.

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