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Cash is Seized at an Airport

By Spodek Law Group | July 17, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 11, 2023)

Last Updated on: 11th October 2023, 06:36 pm

Cash Seized at the Airport – What You Need to Know

Traveling with large amounts of cash can be risky. Airport security or customs agents often seize money they think is suspicious, even if you’ve done nothing illegal. Getting it back is hard without a good lawyer’s help. This article explains what to do if your cash is taken at the airport.

Why Cash Draws Scrutiny at Airports

Carrying stacks of bills inevitably raises questions. Agents look for signs you’re up to no good:

  • Amounts just under $10,000. This suggests you’re skirting the law about declaring bigger sums when leaving or entering the U.S.
  • Putting cash in checked bags instead of carry-on. Makes it seem like you’re hiding something.
  • Travel history with quick turnarounds or short stays in certain cities. Can match patterns for drug or money laundering crimes.
  • Acting anxious when asked about your luggage or reasons for traveling. Inconsistent answers are red flags.

The reality is airport security can seize your money for any reason. Their power comes from civil asset forfeiture laws. These let police take cash and property just suspected of being tied to illegal activity.Agents don’t need to prove you actually broke any laws. The suspicion itself is enough.

What Happens When Cash Is Seized

If security finds over $10,000 undeclared, you may be accused of a crime. But smaller amounts can also be taken through forfeiture. Here’s the process:

  • Agents count the cash, write you a receipt, and confiscate the money.
  • They deposit it in an asset forfeiture fund managed by the Department of Justice.
  • You receive a “Notice of Seizure” explaining how to contest getting your cash back.
  • The government then files a forfeiture case against the money itself, not you.
  • It’s 100% your burden to dispute the forfeiture in court and prove your innocence.

This is backwards from how criminal law normally works. With help from an experienced lawyer, you can fight to recover seized cash.

Getting Your Money Back After Forfeiture

Trying to navigate forfeiture laws alone is extremely tough. An attorney levels the playing field. They can:

  • File a federal court claim contesting the seizure. Must act fast before deadlines.
  • Negotiate with prosecutors for full or partial return of the funds. Many cases settle.
  • Gather evidence like travel records and bank statements proving legitimate cash source.
  • Argue the forfeiture violates Constitutional rights or exceeds limits.

Your lawyer will send petitions, seek court orders to get airport surveillance footage, and take other steps to build the strongest case.Reclaiming wrongly seized money is hard without legal firepower. Find a lawyer who regularly handles airport cash forfeiture cases.

FAQs: Cash Seizures at Airports

Why do airport agents seize cash?

  • To disrupt drug trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes. Any amount is fair game if seems shady.

Don’t they need evidence of a crime?

  • No, civil forfeiture allows seizure based on mere suspicion. No criminal charges are required.

What if I follow the $10,000 reporting rule?

  • You can still have cash taken if something seems suspicious, even if legally obtained.

How much can they seize?

  • There’s no limit. Percentages as high as 80-90% get forfeited in some cases.

What are my options for getting it back?

  • Petition the agency, provide evidence to prosecutors, or file a claim in federal court.

Is carrying cash illegal?

  • No, but amounts over $10,000 must be reported when entering or leaving the country.

Can I avoid problems by keeping it under $10K?

  • No, agents can seize any amount they think is tied to illegal acts.

Should I just let them keep my money if taken?

  • No! With an attorney’s help, many people recover some or all seized cash.

What should I do if money is seized?

  1. Remain calm and be polite with agents. Never get confrontational.
  2. Ask for the airport surveillance footage to be preserved as evidence.
  3. Contact an experienced cash seizure attorney immediately. Time is critical.
  4. Follow the attorney’s advice to file claims and build your case strategically.
  5. Keep records proving the money’s legitimate origins.

When Cash Seizures May Be Illegal

Forfeitures of seized cash have been challenged in court as unconstitutional in some circumstances:

No Notice Given Authorities must send you a Notice of Seizure with details on contesting it. If not, the forfeiture may be void.

Excessive Fine The 8th Amendment prohibits fines disproportionate to the offense. If the seized amount seems outrageous for a minor reporting violation, you may have strong grounds to recover it.

No Warrant Cash discovered during airport searches lacking probable cause or a warrant may be inadmissible.

False Statements If agents lied about your behavior or statements to justify the seizure, a lawyer can fight to prove misconduct.

Racial Bias Statistics show cash forfeiture unfairly targets minorities. Race discrimination arguments may apply.

Act Quickly!

Losing cash to seizure can be devastating. But legal options exist to recover your hard-earned money.Don’t delay – call an experienced attorney right away if you have a cash seizure situation. With prompt action, many people get some or all of their confiscated funds returned.

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