In 1971, Hoffman published Steal This Book, which advised readers on how to live basically for free. Many of his readers followed Hoffman's advice and stole the book, leading many bookstores to refuse to carry it. He was also the author of several other books, including Vote!, co-written with Rubin and Ed Sanders. Hoffman was arrested in 1973 on drug charges for intent to sell and distribute cocaine. He always proclaimed that undercover police agents had entrapped him into a drug deal and planted suitcases of cocaine in his office. Hoffman subsequently skipped bail and hid from authorities for several years.
Despite being "in hiding" during part of this period living in Thousand Island Park, a private resort on Wellesley Island on the St. Lawrence River under the name "Barry Freed", he helped coordinate an environmental campaign to preserve the Saint Lawrence River (Save the River organization).In 1980, he surrendered to authorities and received a one-year sentence. On September 4, 1980, he appeared on 20/20 in an interview with Barbara Walters. During his time on the run, he was also the "travel" columnist for Crawdaddy! magazine.
In 1987, Hoffman and Jonathan Silvers wrote Steal this Urine Test, which exposed the internal contradictions of the War on Drugs and suggested ways to circumvent its most intrusive measures. He stated, for instance, that Federal Express, which receives high praise from management guru Tom Peters for "empowering" workers, in fact subjected most employees to random drug tests, firing any that got a positive result, with no retest or appeal procedure — despite the fact that FedEx had chosen a drug lab (the lowest bidder) with a proven record of frequent false positive results.