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Cash Seizures at U.S. Airports: Know Your Rights

You are allowed to travel internationally with money, but when the amount exceeds $10,000 – you have to report to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If you fail to report it, it’s possible the government authorities can take away that money from you. Each year, the U.S. Government seizes millions of dollars from people arriving or leaving airports across the USA. If your cash is seized by the law enforcement agency at the airport, one of our cash seizure and asset forfeiture attorneys can help you.

Understand Cash Seizure Laws and Process

International travelers coming to the USA, and from the USA, are often unaware and do not understand the cash seizure laws. Cash seizures for not reporting cash to the USA is VERY common. Many international travelers have more than $10,000 on a flight. The law governing the confiscation falls under the 31 U.S.S. 5316(a)(1) which says that carrying more than $10,000 into the USA without properly reporting it to the CBP officers is a violation. When your cash is seized after a violation, the agent must give you a Custody Receipt (Form 6051s).

The law which governs the seizure of cash is known as the Bank Secrecy Act. The DEA, TSA, or CBP, can seize cash by simply calling it “suspicious.” They have a lot of latitude. When your cash is seized after a violation, the agent is required to give you a receipt. If you are not given one, you must act fast. Some CBP agents have been known to pocket cash with no receipt.

These laws provide an easy way for the government to discover and take away money which comes from unlawful sources, or is used for illegitimate things. The government assumes that the reason for bringing large sums of cash into, or out of the USA, is for drugs, narcotics dealings, tax fraud, money laundering, or some other ILLEGITIMATE AND ILLEGAL purpose. It is because of this, that cash seizures by the DEA are done. The DEA agents monitor travelers who display questionable behavior, consistent with cash or drugs being carried. They assume that these trends are consistent with what smugglers do. The problem is, many innocent people get caught by this.

Legal Requirements for Carrying Cash

It is legal to carry cash aboard an airplane while traveling – but it is a serious violation if you fail to disclose the cash that is being carried out, or in, of the country. The CBP specifically looks for things like jewelry, bearer bonds, money, cash, etc, anything which has intrinsic value and is over $10,000. The government isn’t required to file any lawsuit in order to prove it has the right to retain money. A person who wants money back has to prove the government had no reasonable cause to seize it. This is the law of civil forfeiture, which extends to federal and state cases. Civil forfeitures have been the focus of many articles, detailing abuse by the government and other federal agencies. The laws of forfeiture can even be tied to seizures at airports.

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