New York Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Indian Cigarette Shipper on Procedural Issue

Here is the opinion in People v. Laughing.

An excerpt:

At the time the instant charge was lodged against defendant, and at present, the taxability by New York of Native American manufactured cigarettes under the circumstances at play here lacked clarity. It is undisputed that the Department had a forbearance enforcement policy with respect to Native American manufactured cigarettes that are transported between reservations. Furthermore, defendant asserts that, when faced with decisions regarding the applicability and enforcement of the Tax Law to various situations involving the possession or transportation of Native American manufactured cigarettes, the Division almost uniformly deferred to the expertise of the Department and the primacy of its dealings with the Indian nations. While there can be no question that “it is the prerogative of a District Attorney to prosecute people who commit crimes,” it is equally true that “one of the reforms effected through the years in the procedure to dismiss accusatory instruments in the interest of justice was to remove the power to do so from the offices of District Attorney and Attorney–General and lodge it, instead, in the courts alone” (People v. Rickert, 58 N.Y.2d 122, 131 [1983] ). To be sure, the policy of the Department and the issues surrounding the Division’s actual enforcement of the Tax Law with respect to Native American manufactured cigarettes may very well be found insufficient to justify dismissal of the indictment in the interest of justice. Yet, we simply cannot say that the testimony sought on those issues “is utterly irrelevant” to the question of whether defendant’s prosecution here would be unjust[.]