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The Reality of Border Seizure

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If you’re traveling in or out of the U.S. and you have more than $10,000 cash on-hand, it can be seized not only by customs, but also border control. This applies whether you’re flying in or out of the U.S., and while many people are aware of the rules dictating airport travel, they don’t realize they are subject to the same laws when crossing the U.S. border.

Recent Case Brings Attention to Border Seizure

At the start of January, the issue of money seizure by border control agents became a headline when two women were arrested for attempting to smuggle cash into the U.S. via Arizona. The cash seizure totaled more than $400,000. While this is an extreme case, there are thousands of other cases of money being seized at the U.S. borders that occur daily, on a smaller scale.

When Am I Required to File a Report?

The best way to avoid seizure of your cash is to file a report for the money before you begin traveling. This doesn’t just apply to U.S. currency, it’s also applicable to foreign currency. It’s important to note the filing requirement doesn’t go up based on the  number of people you’re traveling with—the law dictates that regardless of how many people may be traveling together, the limitation remains set at $10,000.

Unfortunately, even though a person may be found innocent of criminal wrongdoing after having their cash seized, they still typically have to go through courts to receive their money back, which is why customs attorneys work to educate people on the importance of filing reports. When unreported money is seized, you may be charged with a crime, a civil violation, or a combination of both.

What to Do After a Seizure

Regardless of why you didn’t file a report, if your money is seized at the border, or at the airport by customs, there is recourse. Customs or border control officers will typically give you a “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence” form. This form is required to show exactly what was seized, and the name of the people who seized your property, among other information.

It should also contain a number that will allow you to track your case. The letter is usually mailed, and will arrive at your home within a few days, making it imperative you provide a current address when your property is seized.

The best course of action is to immediately contact a customs attorney like Abady Law Firm of The reason? Anything you say to customs agents can be used as an admission of guilt, or used against you later.

Act Quickly 

If the Custody Receipt isn’t received within a week, you should contact an attorney who can then request the form. Timeliness is extremely important, because you only have 30 days from the time the letter was sent to file a response.

You’ll also receive notice of what laws dictate the seizure of your money, and you’re offered options as to how you’ll respond, which is where a customs lawyer can advise you on the best course of action.

If you’ve had not only money but merchandise seized, immediately contact — 800.549.5099 — and speak with a customs attorney who can offer you counsel on dealing with both the criminal and administrative issues of your situation.

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