This will be fun to watch--because there WILL be a Federal lawsuit.
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.
Agents have already been watching out-of-state stores that sell cigarettes near the Tennessee border to “get a feel where problem areas are,” Farr said.
While declining to be specific, the commissioner said “problem areas” are generally along interstate highways with exits near the Tennessee border.
Of course, 4th Amendment will come into play here. Searching cars for legal products is not founded on "probable cause" under any circumstance--although it may be interesting to watch a case which involves re-selling the butts.
That "protecting retailers" phrase is also of interest. Here we have a State official who explicitly states that they are using State law-enforcement resources to "protect retailers" from importation of legal products from another State for personal use. That's a new one, but similar to the Wisconsin expenditures to implement the Internet Sales Tax regime.
Of course, I will be pricing cigarettes in Illinois when the Republicans cave on the butt tax, and I intend to utilize the differential for my own benefit. There are many others who will be doing the same thing. It's one thing to ask for a self-declaration for 'use-tax' purposes but another thing entirely to do search-and-siezure. And as to 'use-tax': shall the State of Wisconsin begin collecting "use-tax" on gasoline purchased in Minnesota but used in Wisconsin?
And there are rules which come into play, beginning with Rule Number One:
NEVER allow a cop to search your vehicle for cigarettes. It ain't no crime to have 20 cartons of cigarettes in the USA which were legally purchased for personal consumption, even if they were purchased in another State.
After Rule Number One comes Rule Number Two: have your attorney's number on speed-dial.
Rule Number Three: have a nice "damages" number in mind--about 10x what you actually want.
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I can see it now: after Don Doyleone gets his oil franchise tax and we go fill up in Illinois, the state Gestapo will come down on us like a ton of bricks.
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