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Last Updated on: 2nd August 2023, 03:49 pm
You’re running late for your flight and dashing through airport security, when suddenly TSA pulls you aside. They have questions about the $10,000 in cash found in your carry-on bag. Before you know it, you’re in an interrogation room with federal agents accusing you of money laundering or drug trafficking. While you may have perfectly legitimate reasons for traveling with that much cash, the authorities often seize money they deem “suspicious” during airport security screenings.
I spoke with Todd Spodek, a top New York criminal defense attorney, to understand what rights travelers have when facing cash seizures like this. He explained that while law enforcement has the right to intercept large currency amounts, agents still must follow strict rules. If your money gets seized amid murky circumstances, an experienced lawyer can fight to get it returned.
Many cash seizures fall under federal and state civil asset forfeiture rules. These allow police to confiscate money or property suspected of being connected to criminal activity. According to Spodek, agents don’t need to prove any actual law-breaking occurred. The suspicion alone gives them authority to take possession of the cash.
Prosecutors then file a forfeiture action against the physical currency itself, not the traveler. Even if no criminal charges get filed, they can still attempt to permanently keep the seized assets. It falls on the traveler to dispute the forfeiture in court with evidence of their innocence. This flips the normal burden of proof in troubling ways.
So why does cash draw so much attention from airport security in the first place? Well, U.S. regulations require travelers to declare any amount over $10,000 when entering or leaving the country. Failure to disclose currency above that threshold can lead to intense scrutiny from Customs officials.
Spodek told me officers specifically watch for people carrying just under $10,000 to avoid reporting requirements. Luggage searches that turn up $9,500 raises red flags, even if the traveler claims ignorance of the rules. If agents suspect you deliberately broke disclosure laws, the cash seizure may be just the beginning of your troubles.
Beyond civil asset forfeiture, failing to declare legal tender when traveling internationally can also lead to criminal charges, according to Spodek. Two statutes carry potential penalties:
– 31 U.S.C. § 5322 – Charges citizens and residents who knowingly conceal more than $10,000 when exiting the U.S. This is a felony with up to 5 years in prison.
– 31 U.S.C. § 5316 – Charges anyone entering the U.S. who fails to report currency over $10,000. It is a misdemeanor with up to 1 year incarceration.
These charges threaten travelors with prison time on top of losing the seized money. Anyone accused of intentionally violating currency reporting laws needs legal defense help fast, Spodek emphasized.
According to Spodek, signs that cash is likely to be seized when traveling include:
– Carrying any amount just under $10,000
– Having cash in a suitcase instead of your carry-on
– Travel history showing frequent short trips to certain destinations
– Evasiveness or contradictory statements when questioned
– Lack of proof legitimately explaining the money’s origins
Demonstrating the innocent reasons for having so much cash – like proof of a real estate transaction, casino winnings, etc. – is crucial for getting it returned and avoiding charges.
Spodek Law Group fights aggressive cash seizure actions by law enforcement when the facts suggest injustice or overreach. Successful strategies include:
Contesting the attempted forfeiture in court puts prosecutors to their proof you engaged in criminal activity. Making them establish actual probable cause the money came from illegal acts is difficult without evidence.
Law enforcement must follow strict notice requirements after seizing property. If agents failed to properly document seizures or notify travelers of their rights, those deficiencies can invalidate the forfeiture.
Showing where the cash truly came from – like an inheritance, home sale profits or business dealings – powerfully refutes suspicions. Documentation affirming your story makes prosecutors drop cases.
Even strong forfeiture cases can sometimes get resolved through settlements returning a portion of the seized cash. Experienced attorneys negotiate from strength to make the traveler whole.
Losing money through unjustified seizures causes real hardship. Thankfully, the criminal defense lawyers at Spodek Law Group have great success reversing bad seizures and forfeitures. Their expert representation has resulted in countless travelers getting their currency returned and charges dropped. Don’t let them strongarm your hard-earned cash – fight back!
To set up a free case evaluation, call them today at 212-300-5196 or contact them online. Let a skilled attorney review what happened and outline your options. With the right legal strategy, you can successfully get back confiscated money even when the odds seem stacked against you.
Having cash confiscated by federal agents at airports or border crossings is traumatic and can derail lives. Under civil asset forfeiture laws, government can seize and absorb money based on mere suspicion of involvement in crime. Getting these funds returned is notoriously difficult without legal help. Here is what you need to know if money is seized from you at an airport and how finding the right attorney can make all the difference.
Federal agencies like the DEA and FBI have broad authority under 21 USC § 881 to seize cash at borders if believed connected to criminal activity like drug trafficking or money laundering. No criminal charges are required – just mere suspicion.
The burden then falls upon property owners to prove through costly court procedures that their money was legally obtained. Without this, seized assets are forfeited (permanently lost) to the government.
Large amounts of cash inevitably draw scrutiny when passing through airports. Seizure situations include:
– Discovery of money in luggage during TSA checks or customs inspections. Drug dog “alerts” are common triggers.
– Being questioned after making unusual travel arrangements like last-minute, one-way trips involving short stays.
– Acting nervous when asked about luggage contents or the purpose of your travels. Inconsistent statements raise red flags.
– Carrying amounts of cash over $10,000 without properly declaring it. Structuring deposits to avoid reporting is also suspicious.
– Records linking you to suspicious persons, questionable bank transactions, or prior law violations.
Experienced counsel can challenge seizures by asserting:
– No probable cause – Argue agents lacked sufficient basis for suspicion to justify confiscation. For example, unreliable drug dog alerts or flimsy travel activities.
– Invalid search and seizure – Claim money discovery involved violation of 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.
– Miranda violations – Allege failure to read Miranda rights or coercive questioning. Render statements inadmissible.
– Illegal profiling – Contend selection for questioning and search was based on race or ethnicity.
When rights are breached, courts exclude tainted evidence and dismiss forfeiture actions.
An attorney will employ every avenue to recover confiscated money. Strategies include:
– Submitting petitions for administrative return of funds. Success rates are only about 20%, but this option is easier and cheaper than litigation. Require prompt filing.
– Seeking equitable judicial relief arguing forfeiture constitutes “excessive fine”. Favorable for first offenses when money is needed for living expenses or medical care.
– Leveraging petitioner’s clean record and circumstances to negotiate settlement allowing return of a portion of money.
– Taking cases to judicial forfeiture trials before federal judges utilizing constitutional and factual defenses. High legal costs yet provides the best chance of full recovery when rights were clearly violated.
Reclaiming confiscated money requires counsel intimately familiar with civil forfeiture laws and proficient negotiating return of assets. In retaining an attorney, prioritize:
– Extensive experience successfully recovering seized money specifically at airports, borders, etc.
– Strong track record getting forfeiture cases dismissed pre-trial.
– Relations with federal agents to facilitate settlements allowing return of seized assets.
– Comfort operating in federal court should litigation become necessary.
– Willingness to fight for the full return of confiscations obtained through unconstitutional actions.
– Success rate recovering above national average of 20% return through administrative petitions.
– Ability to cap legal fees upfront and offer flexible payment plans. Forfeiture defense is expensive.
Losing cash to forfeiture can devastate families and businesses. But justice remains attainable with an attorney fiercely defending your rights. Counsel intimately versed in forfeiture laws can secure the maximum recovery under the circumstances. Don’t delay in engaging strong legal advocacy to get your confiscated money back.
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