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‘Know Your Rights’ Seminar Presented by South Asian Attorney Group

December 2006
‘Know Your Rights’ Seminar Presented by South Asian Attorney Group

Members of the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) and the IndusBar of Georgia presented a "Know Your Rights" seminar at an educational meeting hosted by the Atlanta Retailers Association (ARA) on November 12th. The speakers, all of whom were South Asian attorneys, discussed the laws and regulations surrounding the sale of cold medicines, from different perspectives to over 200 convenience store owners and employees. The speakers included a federal narcotics prosecutor, a Gwinnett County assistant district attorney, a criminal defense attorney, and an immigration lawyer.

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. Of those arrested, 44 were of South Asian descent. Many states, including Georgia, have recently enacted laws restricting the sale of common cold medicines like Sudafed, and nationwide, the police are warning merchants to be suspicious of sales of charcoal, coffee filters, aluminum foil and Kitty Litter.

Dave Vatti, an Assistant U.S. Attorney from Connecticut, explained what methamphetamine is and the types of cold medicines that drug producers purchase for manufacturing meth. Mr. Vatti 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. "The use and manufacture of methamphetamines has skyrocketed primarily because it can be made from everyday products," Mr. Vatti explained to the ARA membership, "and convenience and grocery stores are in the forefront." Mr. Vatti explained the federal limitations on the amount of pseudoephedrine that can be sold and the other requirements that went into effect on September 30, 2006.

Sabrina Nizam, a state prosecutor from Gwinnett County, Georgia displayed pictures of meth users entitled the "Faces of Meth" and provided the new laws passed in Georgia involving the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Ms. Nizam explained the devastating impact of meth addiction in rural Georgia.

Ash Joshi, a criminal defense attorney and former state prosecutor, 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, including a failure to understand the informant's slang words relating to the purchase of the illegal items, and selective prosecution have not been successful. Most of the defendants in Georgia have either been deported or served an average of 5 months in jail.

The last speaker was Suparna Malempati, a former criminal defense and immigration attorney, who explained to the retailers the devastating immigration consequences that could arise for store owners just by mere technical and unintentional violations of the new laws. Ms. Malempati explained to the retailers 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 procedures.

"Feedback from the attendees was extremely positive, and the store owners and employees had several questions regarding the new state and federal restrictions on the sale and placement of everyday cold medicines" stated Habib F. Ilah, a member of NASABA's Executive Committee and coordinator of the Convenience Store Outreach program for NASABA. For more information, please see NASABA's website at www.na-saba.org or IndusBar's website at www.indusbar.org

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