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Buy smokes, go to jail


Starting today, state Department of Revenue agents will begin stopping Tennessee motorists spotted buying large quantities of cigarettes in border states, then charging them with a crime and, in some cases, seizing their cars.

Critics say the new “cigarette surveillance program” amounts to the use of “police state” tactics and wrongfully interferes with interstate commerce. But state Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr says his department is simply doing its job, enforcing a valid state law while protecting Tennessee retailers who properly pay state taxes.

Yes, for denying the state a few dollars, you’ll be a felon.

14 Responses to “Buy smokes, go to jail”

  1. Rustmeister Says:

    Glad I quit smoking.

  2. ParatrooperJJ Says:

    They used to do this in Ohio also. The tax collectors would set up shop outside NKY stores and call in tags to the State Police of people who bought alcohol and cigarettes and then stop them when they crossed the border. It finally stopped when KY threatened to arrest the OH cops. Even today about once a year someone gets busted for more importing more than one liter of alcohol or one carton of cigarettes. It is a felony here also.

  3. Blounttruth Says:

    Taxation without representation, would be interesting to see a Ron Paul type put an end to the police state, and allow the constitution be the rule of law and actually support the people. Tennessee needs a cigarette tax like I need a bullet in the head, it all goes to feed the monster, and we allow the monster to grow and grow.

  4. # 9 Says:

    I hate to point out the obvious but this is blatantly illegal. As long as you do not sell smokes you purchase across the state line there is not an issue. This 24 carton limit is unconstitutional.

    What in the hell is wrong with the State of Tennessee government? Was the Interstate Commerce act repealed?

  5. CTD Says:

    Unbelievably, the People’s Republik of Illinois does the same thing with fireworks (virtually all of which are illegal in the IL nanny state). They radio in people’s tags buying bottle rockets at stands just across the Indiana border, then hunt them down.

  6. UNHchabo Says:

    Mass. cops used to do this with NH liquor stores, since MA had Blue Laws.

  7. CarlS Says:

    The last time I researched the “Use tax” ( another euphemism for theft by government ), it stated that residents purchasing items from out of state were obligated to report those purchases. It did not state that anyone is required to get prior permission ( tax stamps ) to make said purchases. Therefore, possession of a lawful substance or article of manufacture can not logically be either a misdemeanor or a felony. See the cited requirements following this article. Any efforts by the “Department of Revenue” to search vehicles or seize them is blatantly illegal, a clear violation of civil rights, and should be resisted. Failure to do so will just encourage more abuse under color of law.

    USE TAX is applied when merchandise (tangible personal property) is purchased from outside the state of Tennessee and imported into the state for use or consumption. DUE DATES – Monthly, Quarterly, Annually (based on qualifications): 20th day of the month following the end of the reporting period. Depending upon the frequency of your purchases, you may file quarterly or annually. Source: TN GOV REVENUE WEBSITE

    In the interpretation of statutes levying taxes it is the established rule not to extend their provisions, by implication, beyond the clear import of the language used, or to enlarge their operations so as to embrace matters not specifically pointed out. Gould v. Gould, 245 U.S. 151 (1917)

  8. Ravenwood Says:

    I could have sworn it was unConstitutional for states to regulate interstate commerce. As long as the smokes are for personal use, there shouldn’t be a problem.

  9. # 9 Says:

    As long as the smokes are for personal use, there shouldn’t be a problem.

    We have a winner.

  10. straightarrow Says:

    Ohhhh, but the cops can abuse you so anybody not submitting is a doucebag. Didn’t you read the article above?

  11. JKB Says:

    Well, revenuers are an old and persistent “problem” in Tennessee. Whether it is whiskey or cigarettes, the revenuer wants his cut. Technically, he wants his cut for everything bought out of state but they fear going after more than the “sin” taxes will cause an uprising. While the enforcement on buying cigarettes out of state may be stepping up, the tradition is very old and time-honored. It comes up every few years when the tax equilibrium between the states gets out of whack.

    Personally, I’m waiting for some enterprising restaurant in a surrounding free state to put up a big sign encouraging smokers to enjoy a meal before crossing into hostile territory. I wonder if they would harass TN smokers who crossed over to enjoy a meal and a smoke in freedom?

  12. triticale Says:

    It isn’t merely regulating interstate commerce. It seems to me that this is an interstate tariff, specifically prohibited in the Constitution.

  13. # 9 Says:

    Via Donald Sensing we learn that buying just 26 cartons of cigarettes across the state line can cause you to lose your car.

    Under state law, bringing more than two cartons of cigarettes into the state without paying Tennessee taxes is a “Class B” misdemeanor, carrying punishment of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Bringing 25 or more cartons is a “Class E” felony, with minimum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum of six years plus a fine of up to $3,000. In addition, the specific state statute dealing with untaxed cigarettes provides that vehicles used to transport more than two cartons “are considered contraband and are subject to seizure,” says a Department of Revenue statement.

    Farr said that agents have been instructed to seize any vehicle carrying more than 25 cartons of cigarettes without Tennessee tax stamps. In cases where three to 24 cartons are involved, he said vehicle seizure is “at the officer’s discretion.”

    Does vehicle seizure seem extreme to you?

    Donald then gets to the constitutional issues:

    I think it’s simply beyond arguing that Tennessee is attempting to regulate commerce across state borders, authority for which is reserved by the Constitution to the US Congress, and is thereby usurping a federal power.

    I hope there is a court case to test this. Few have mentioned how much TennCare received from cigarette taxes. With the restaurant ban next Monday and the extremists actions of the Dept. of Revenue, will this case major TennCare money problems?

  14. Greg Morris Says:

    Funny thing is, there have actually been more than a few cases of organizations who fund terrorists using this simple tax issue to make a lot of money for the Bad Guys. The thing is, these idiots were bringing TRUCKLOADS of cigarettes across state borders to sell. The crime there is tax evasion (and in more than one case, funding terrorists), and busting them is a good thing. Busting someone for taking personal property across state borders is unconstitutional.

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