’Know Your Rights’ Seminar Presented By NASABA At Asian American Convenience Stores Association Second Annual Convention
TAMPA – December 6, 2006 – Members of the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) and the South Asian Bar Association of Florida presented a “Know Your Rights” seminar regarding the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine at the Asian American Convenience Stores Association (AACSA) Second Annual Convention in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, December 3, 2006.
The speakers, both of whom are South Asian attorneys, discussed the federal and state laws regulating the sale of cold medicines with convenience storeowners and employees. The speakers included a defense attorney from the California bay area and a local immigration lawyer from the Tampa area who both provided different perspectives on the enforcement of the different laws surrounding the sales of these items at convenience stores.
The program began with a recap of the indictments that brought this issue to the attention of the South Asian community, when 49 convenience store owners and employees in Rome, Georgia, were arrested for the illegal sale of precursors to methamphetamines in what was called Operation Meth Merchant. Of those arrested, 44 were of South Asian descent. Many states, including Florida, have enacted laws restricting the sale of common cold medicines like Sudafed, and nationwide, law enforcement is telling merchants to be suspicious of large sales of charcoal, coffee filters, aluminum foil and kitty litter.
Jai Gohel, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney with the Cardoza Law Offices in Walnut Creek, California, explained what methamphetamine is and the types of cold medicines that meth producers purchase for use in the manufacture of meth. Mr. Gohel warned the retailers about the U.S. Attorney General’s high priority on fighting meth and the resolve of Federal law enforcement officers on the sale of controlled substances. Mr. Gohel explained the federal limitations on the amount of pseudoephedrine that can be sold and the other requirements that went in to effect on September 30, 2006. Mr. Gohel briefly discussed the state laws involving the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Mr. Gohel explained the devastating impact of meth addiction in rural areas, not only in the increase of other crimes committed by meth addicts, but also the destructive effects meth labs have on the environment.
Mr. Gohel reviewed the penalties, both monetary and jail sentences related to these offenses. He also advised the audience that the defenses used by many of those arrested in Operation Meth Merchant, including a failure to understand the informant’s slang words and other “cultural defenses” relating to the purchase of the illegal items and selective prosecution have not been successful. Most of the defendants in Georgia were either deported or served an average of 5 months in jail.
Dilip Patel, an immigration and business attorney in Tampa Bay, Florida, explained to storeowners and employees the devastating immigration consequences that could arise even for unintentional or technical violations of the new laws. Mr. Patel explained to the storeowners the need for contacting experienced criminal and immigration lawyers when faced with these types of charges so that the storeowners would be better able to handle the sometimes draconian deportation consequences.
“The criminal penalties and immigration consequences that could arise from even minor violations of the new state and federal restrictions on the sale and placement of everyday cold medicines undescores the need to ensure that the South Asian c-store community is made aware of the requirements and possible penalties for noncompliance” stated Habib F. Ilahi, a member of NASABA’s Executive Committee and coordinator of the Convenience Store Outreach program for NASABA. Mr. Ilahi added, “NASABA is pleased that the Asian American Convenience Stores Association is taking a proactive approach on protecting and educating its membership on the new requirements, as well as helping to keep precursors out of the hands of those who manufacture methamphetamine.”
The North American South Asian Bar Association (“NASABA”), representing the interests of over several thousand South Asian attorneys, has 24 chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. NASABA advocates for the South Asian community in North America; provides a networking forum for all South Asian attorneys; supports those who value diversity in the legal profession; helps law students and others interested in the law develop contacts with practitioners; provides information to members on careers and the legal market; and educates and disseminates information to the South Asian community about the law, legal access, and relevant legal issues.
For more information, please see NASABA’s website: www.na-saba.org.
SOURCE: North American South Asian Bar Association
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