A report from NACSOnline.com reveals that cigarette smuggling in the state of Maryland is on the rise and is costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost tax revenue. Maryland assesses a $2 excise tax per pack and the government is intent on trying to keep those tax dollars within the state. Presently, it is a violation of state law to enter MD with more than two packs of cigarettes purchased out of state. A spokesperson for the state comptroller states that any county that borders a low-tax state, including Prince George and Cecil counties, is potentially a target.
The spokesperson for the state comptroller says the practice of smuggling cigarettes continues because the penalties are “not very bad,” which can create an environment that breeds repeat offenders. If caught, smugglers currently face criminal charges of transporting and possession of untaxed cigarettes. “Transporting” of untaxed cigarettes carries a fine of $50 per carton and a possible threat of two years in prison, and “possession” is considered a Maryland misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
The comptroller is sponsoring legislation to stiffen the penalties for cigarette smuggling; specifically, one would increase the per-carton penalty to a $150 fine and imprisonment for up to two years for first time offenders. Repeat offenders could face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $300 per carton. To show the substantial increase in this crime, state police at Berlin Barrack are on track to seize approximately four times more cigarettes than last year, already having made five arrests this year and seizing 1,600 cartons. In 2011, only four arrests were made and 1,737 cartons were seized.
Anyone facing criminal charges in the state of Maryland would be well-advised to seek professional legal counsel to help protect them from harsh penalties. The Annapolis criminal defense attorneys with the law firm of Alpert Schreyer have years of experience defending all types of criminal charges and will make certain your lawful rights are protected throughout your case. To see how we can assist you, please call (866) 444-6363 to schedule your free consultation.