Criminalizing purchase of knockoffs?

Recent news articles have reported that a City Council member intends to introduce a bill to criminalize the purchase of counterfeit designer goods such as handbags and watches.  The proposed misdemeanor would carry up to a year in jail.  The bill has not been posted on the City Council's website yet, but a press release from the sponsor says, "The bill targets those who purchase goods which they should know are counterfeit, based on the cost or quality of the item or the conditions and location of the seller or sale." 

If this law is passed, enforcement will be difficult—if not impossible—and will no doubt result in a serious challenge for vagueness.  The mens rea appears to be negligence: whether the buyer "should have known" that the product was a knockoff.  Proving this beyond a reasonable doubt will be tough.  Every prosecuted buyer will claim that he or she was simply getting a good deal.  If the bill is passed, I predict most charges will be resolved at arraignment with ACDs.  I also see a lot of unhappy tourists.

If the City is serious about the problem, a better approach would be to target the sellers for sales tax and trademark violations rather than citing tourists for buying fake handbag.  (LC)

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