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Last Updated on: 10th September 2023, 02:52 pm
Cash Money Seizure Lawyer – How to Handle DEA, Airport and Customs Border Cash Seizure
Having your cash seized by law enforcement can be an incredibly stressful and frightening experience. You worked hard for that money and rely on it to cover important expenses. Now it has been taken from you, often without any criminal charges being filed. Where do you go from here?
The first step is to not panic. Although the situation seems dire, there are experienced attorneys who specialize in cash seizure cases and can help you get your money back. In this article, we will walk through the key things you need to know about the cash seizure process and how an attorney can assist you.
Reasons for Cash Seizures
Law enforcement such as the DEA, TSA, or Customs and Border Protection agents may seize your cash for a few common reasons:
- Suspicion of involvement in illegal drug activity
- Failure to properly declare cash when traveling internationally
- Suspicion the money will be used for terrorist activity
Often the agents seizing the cash do not even file criminal charges. The burden of proof for forfeiture is much lower than it is for a criminal conviction. This means it is crucial to have legal representation to get the seizure overturned and have your money returned.
Getting a Lawyer Involved Immediately
The worst thing you can do is wait to get an attorney involved. The law gives very short windows to act in cash seizure cases. You generally have just 30 days from the seizure date to file a claim on the cash. The attorney needs to review the details of your case and file paperwork in a timely manner.
Don’t delay! Call a cash seizure lawyer as soon as possible after the incident occurs. This will give you the greatest chance of successfully fighting the forfeiture of your funds.
Negotiating with Law Enforcement
A knowledgeable lawyer will open up negotiations with the seizing agency, whether that is the DEA, TSA, CBP, or others. Often a settlement can be reached to get all or most of your seized money returned without the need for lengthy court proceedings.
An experienced attorney knows what types of documentation and evidence law enforcement wants to see in order to possibly dismiss the seizure. This may include proof of the source of funds, records of any related business transactions, or evidence you were not engaged in illegal activity.
Taking the Case to Court
If a settlement cannot be reached through negotiation, the next step is taking legal action. Since the standard of proof is lower than a criminal case, even weak seizure accusations can sometimes hold up in court. Having an aggressive lawyer fighting for you is key.
There are several legal precedents and laws that may apply to getting your seized assets returned. An attorney experienced in cash seizure defense will know these well and construct the strongest case possible:
- 4th Amendment violations – if there was not sufficient probable cause for seizure
- 14th Amendment due process rights
- Challenging any procedural errors by law enforcement
- Innocent owner defense – proving no knowledge of illegal use of funds
Presenting the right defense requires an intricate understanding of seizure laws and how to counter law enforcement’s arguments. A dedicated lawyer is an invaluable ally in this fight.
Getting Help From Experts
Given the complex nature of asset forfeiture laws, working with legal experts in this field is highly recommended if your cash is seized. While the seizure process can seem overwhelming, know that the cards are not stacked completely against you.
With an experienced attorney negotiating aggressively on your behalf, many people in cash seizure cases are able to recover most or all of their money. Don’t go it alone against law enforcement. Get a lawyer working for you as soon as possible.
- Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program
- ACLU Asset Forfeiture Abuse Resources
- Institute for Justice State Forfeiture Laws
Having cash seized can be a scary and frustrating situation. But with an experienced attorney helping protect your rights and negotiate for return of your funds, many people are able to recover their money. Don’t delay – contact a dedicated cash seizure lawyer right away if you find yourself in this situation.
Cash Money Seizure Lawyer – How to Handle DEA, Airport and Customs Border Cash Seizure
Having your cash seized by federal authorities at an airport, border crossing, or during a traffic stop can be an incredibly stressful and frightening experience. Unfortunately, it is also quite common under civil asset forfeiture laws that allow law enforcement to seize property, including cash, that they suspect is tied to criminal activity. Even if you have done nothing wrong, navigating the complex legal system to get your money back is difficult without experienced legal help.
This article provides an overview of cash seizure laws and the typical seizure process. It also offers guidance on steps you can take if your cash is seized and how an attorney experienced in federal asset forfeiture can assist in getting your money returned.
Common Situations Where Cash Seizures Occur
Some of the most common situations where cash seizures take place include:
- Airport security or customs agents seizing cash from travelers attempting to leave or enter the U.S. with over $10,000 that has not been properly declared on a Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (FinCEN Form 105).
- Border patrol agents seizing cash from vehicles crossing into or out of the U.S.
- State patrol or local law enforcement seizing cash during a traffic stop under state civil forfeiture laws.
- DEA or FBI agents seizing cash during a raid or arrest of a home, business, storage unit, etc.
In many cases, any amount of cash can be seized if law enforcement believes it is connected to illegal drug activity or money laundering. But carrying amounts over $10,000 raises major red flags, even if the cash is legitimately obtained.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Allow Seizure Without Criminal Charges
Many cash seizures occur through a process known as civil asset forfeiture. This allows law enforcement to seize property, including cash, based on suspicion of involvement in criminal activity without having to file criminal charges against the owner.
Assets can be seized under federal laws such as:
- Controlled Substances Act
- Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA)
- USA PATRIOT Act
Or state civil forfeiture laws, which vary widely but typically mirror federal law. Florida, for example, has some of the most aggressive state forfeiture laws in the country.
To seize cash or property under civil forfeiture, law enforcement only needs probable cause to believe it is tied to criminal activity. This is a much lower standard than the beyond a reasonable doubt threshold required for a criminal conviction.
The Cash Seizure Process
When cash is seized, the agency taking it (DEA, FBI, Customs and Border Protection, state/local police, etc.) will issue a Notice of Seizure to the owner. This outlines:
- The statutory basis for the seizure
- An inventory of the cash or property seized
- Instructions for contesting the seizure
After the seizure, you have two options:
- Petition for Remission – Ask the seizing agency to return your property. The agency has complete discretion, however, on whether to grant the petition.
- Contest the Forfeiture – File a claim in federal court to contest the seizure and try to get your property back through the judicial process.
Most cash seizure cases end up going through the court system if the owner wants their money back. Relying on a petition for remission is rarely successful.
Why You Need an Attorney to Fight Cash Seizure
Trying to get seized cash returned without experienced legal representation is extremely difficult. Federal forfeiture laws and processes are complex. An attorney can help by:
- Filing a timely federal court claim to contest the seizure
- Communicating with federal prosecutors and negotiating return of funds
- Building a defense against forfeiture by showing legitimate source of cash
- Navigating court processes and legal strategies to defeat forfeiture
- Helping minimize the amount seized if full return is not possible
In addition, an attorney can request evidence from the seizing agency, such as:
- Airport security footage
- Police dashcam video
- Audio recordings
- Information on how currency was packaged/stored
- Canine alert reports
- Information on whether cash was co-mingled with other evidence
This evidence can reveal improper procedures, lack of probable cause, or other deficiencies that may invalidate the seizure. But obtaining it requires formal discovery requests that only an attorney can issue.
Steps to Take If Cash is Seized from You
If federal or state law enforcement seizes your cash, it is critical to take the following steps right away:
- Remain silent – Do not admit to or deny anything about the source of the cash when questioned.
- Ask for an attorney – Invoke your right to have an attorney present for questioning.
- Obtain legal counsel – Contact an experienced cash seizure attorney immediately to contest the forfeiture.
- Photograph the cash – Take photos of the currency and request officials do the same to show condition and denominations.
- Obtain all documentation – Get copies of seizure forms, receipts, and any other forfeiture paperwork.
- Act quickly – You usually have just 30 days to file a claim contesting the seizure in federal court.
Following these steps from the outset gives you the best chance of successfully fighting the seizure and getting your cash returned.