Opinion of the Court
sons who have been arrested for possessing marijuana constitute the entire class of taxpayers subject to the Montana tax.
Taxes imposed upon illegal activities are fundamentally different from taxes with a pure revenue-raising purpose that are imposed despite their adverse effect on the taxed activity. But they differ as well from mixed-motive taxes that governments impose both to deter a disfavored activity and to raise money. By imposing cigarette taxes, for example, a government wants to discourage smoking. But because the product's benefits—such as creating employment, satisfying consumer demand, and providing tax revenues— are regarded as outweighing the harm, that government will allow the manufacture, sale, and use of cigarettes as long as the manufacturers, sellers, and smokers pay high taxes that reduce consumption and increase government revenue. These justifications vanish when the taxed activity is completely forbidden, for the legitimate revenue-raising purpose that might support such a tax could be equally well served by increasing the fine imposed upon conviction.22
Scalia's dissent, post, at 804. Nor does the statute require us to comment on the permissibility of "multiple punishments" imposed in the same proceeding, cf. Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163 (1874); North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U. S. 711 (1969), since it involves separate sanctions imposed in successive proceedings.
22 In this case, it is significant that the same sovereign that criminalized the activity also imposed the tax. Contrarily, most of our cases confirming that the unlawfulness of an activity does not prevent its taxation involve taxes on acts prohibited by other sovereigns. For example, United States v. Constantine, 296 U. S. 287 (1935), involved a federal excise tax on retail liquor sales that violated state law. Id., at 293. Likewise, in James v. United States, 366 U. S. 213 (1961), a federal tax on embezzled money was imposed upon a man who had pleaded guilty in state court to conspiracy to embezzle. Id., at 214. And Marchetti v. United States, 390 U. S. 39 (1968), involved a federal tax on gambling activities primarily prohibited under state law, though as the Court there noted, some federal statutes also prohibited activities ancillary to wagering. Id., at 44-47. The importance of the distinction between same sovereign proceedingsPage: Index Previous 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Next
Last modified: October 4, 2007