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Report: Drug dealers being charged with not having defunct tax stamp

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MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Some Wisconsin drug dealers are still being charged with not having a required state tax stamp for their products – even though the Revenue Department stopped selling those stamps in 2004.

A federal appeals court said back then that the tax stamp law was all but unconstitutional. But people still get arrested for it – and it’s a felony with up to six years in prison.

The Janesville Gazette said 28 people were charged last year with violating the now-defunct tax stamp requirement.

In the wake of that news story, the State Patrol says it will soon issue an executive order telling all state troopers to stop arresting people for not having what they can no longer get.

Sergeant Nate Clark of the Milwaukee High-Intensity Drug Trafficking enforcement group said he didn’t know that tax stamps are no longer being sold until now.

The governor and Legislature started requiring drug tax stamps in 1989, to get a bigger take from the illegal drug trade. But the State Supreme Court said it forced people to incriminate themselves, and it was ruled unconstitutional in 1997.

Lawmakers then fine tuned the law. But in 2004, a federal appeals court said the state was wrong to seize almost $5,000 from a drug dealer’s assets to pay for a tax stamp.

The court said the tax was so severe that it was really a punishment – and adding a drug charge constitutes double jeopardy. The state simply stopped selling the tax stamps after that. 

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