WESTMINSTER - Drug dealers in Carroll don't have much in common with Chicago's infamous gangster Al Capone, but County Attorney Chuck W.
Thompson hopes a newly enacted ordinance changes some of that.
The County Commissioners passed yesterday a law designed to hit drug dealers where it hurts -- in their wallets and pocketbooks. The ordinance levies a 50 percent sales tax on illegal drug transactions, and will penalize dealers who evade the tax.
"If you remember, they didn't get Al Capone for the other crimes he was accused of," said Thompson, who drafted the law for the county. "They got him for tax evasion and sent him to jail for a long time."
The new law, which goes into effect Dec. 1, requires drug dealers to report their illegal transactions to the county tax collector within 10 days of the sale.
The dealer also will have to identify the drug, its source and its previous owner.
While Thompson admits he does not expect to see hordes of Carroll drug dealers flocking to the tax collector's office, he believes the tax may have some law enforcement benefits.
"It will be used if a person is convicted of distribution of drugs based upon a sale," said Thompson. "If they have not reported the transaction, they can be charged with a violation of tax law and subjected to additional criminal penalties."
Drug dealers who fail to pay the tax -- set at 50 percent of the street value of the drugs sold -- could be required to pay the tax and a $500 fine.
"I don't think we are looking at it as a device to derive any measurable revenue from," said Thompson. "But it is to the county's benefit to have an additional disincentive for drugs dealers."
In addition to the monetary penalties, the misdemeanor tax-evasion offense also carries a jail term of up to six months.
"It's not necessarily going to do a lot on its own, but in conjunction with everything else, it adds up," said Thompson, who discovered that the General Assembly gave local governments the authority to adopt the tax while researching an unrelated legal matter.
Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said he thinks the new law is "something fairly simple we can use to fight the drug menace from another angle."
"The only way to beat (drugs) is by hurting the thing that drives it -- the profit motive," said Hickman.
Hickman said the street value of the drugs will be determined at the time of a suspect's arrest by consulting with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
He said the State's Attorney's Office will begin using the law as soon as it goes into effect.
"We're going to be keeping an eye out for anyone who fits the mold," said Hickman.
County Commissioners Julia W. Gouge and Jeff Griffith voted on the new law. Commissioner President John L. Armacost did not attend the vote on the law.