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Navigating Cash Seizures by Law Enforcement at Ports & Airports
You’re at an airport or crossing the border, minding your own business. Suddenly law enforcement officers stop you, begin interrogating you about where you’re going and where the cash in your bag came from. Before you know it, they’ve seized your money claiming it’s tied to criminal activity.
Cash seizures by police at transportation hubs and border crossings happen more than you’d think under expansive civil forfeiture laws. And trying to get your money back without experienced legal help often proves futile.
In this article, I’ll examine issues surrounding cash confiscations at ports and airports, including:
- The laws allowing seizures
- Scenarios that often lead to money taken
- The uphill battle getting it returned
- How savvy criminal defense lawyers fight on your behalf
My goal is to explain your rights and protections if this happens, and how seasoned attorneys can defend you. Let’s review what you need to know.
Laws Letting Police Seize Cash
Several federal and state laws grant officials broad authority to seize cash and property without filing criminal charges:
Federal civil asset forfeiture – Allows confiscation of funds believed involved in a crime even without arresting the owner. The standard of proof is very low.
NY civil forfeiture – NY agencies can retain seized assets they argue are tied to criminal conduct, however tenuous.
Asset sharing programs – State and federal agencies collaborate to maximize forfeitures and share the profits. This creates perverse incentives for overzealous seizures.
NY Bank Secrecy Act – Requires disclosure of amounts over $10k brought into the US. Violations can lead to seizure of the entire amount.
With such lax laws, officials have wide leeway to confiscate money and deprive owners of their property.
Common Scenarios Leading to Seizures
While law enforcement claims cash seizures target drug dealers and money launderers, many innocent travelers get caught up too. Some common scenarios include:
Carrying over $10k undeclared – Failure to disclose currency over $10k when entering the US is violation of federal banking laws and grounds for seizure.
Unable to convince officers the money is legitimate – Vague or inconsistent answers when questioned can raise suspicions of criminal activity leading to confiscation.
Large amounts of cash without “valid” purpose – Carrying thousands of dollars in cash rather than wire transfers, cashier’s checks, etc. can invite suspicion.
Travel history or patterns appear suspicious – Frequent trips to certain destinations, one way tickets, nervous behavior can all prompt questioning and seizures.
The Uphill Battle Getting Money Back
Unlike criminal court where charges must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, getting confiscated cash returned is a steep uphill fight under civil law:
- The burden is on you to prove the money is “clean” – not on them to prove it’s “dirty.”
- The standard of proof favors law enforcement – just “preponderance of evidence” vs. “beyond reasonable doubt.”
- Challenging the seizure requires costly litigation against experienced government lawyers.
- Delays, legal obstacles, and roadblocks impede every step of the process. Most seizures are never contested.
- Even if successful, owners may only get a portion returned, minus lawyers’ fees.
The system is deliberately rigged against property owners recovering confiscated assets. Government counts on people lacking the resources to fight back.
How Knowledgeable Lawyers Defend You
With so much stacked against you, retaining experienced legal counsel is essential to getting your money returned. Here are proven strategies skilled asset forfeiture lawyers employ:
- Request immediate return based on improper procedures by police during the seizure
- Petition for hardship release if the cash is needed for basic living expenses
- Aggressively investigate for constitutional or civil rights violations by officials
- Attack weak links in evidence attempting to connect cash to criminal acts
- Argue legitimate sources if the funds such as payroll, insurance proceeds, inheritance, etc.
- Dispute inflated cash amounts declared by law enforcement
- File Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain police records
- Take legal action seeking monetary damages for wrongful seizures
Skilled lawyers also negotiate with prosecutors to maximize return of funds and prevent criminal charges.
Don’t let law enforcement confiscate your hard-earned money without a fight. The right attorney levels the playing field and makes police prove their actions were just. Seize back control with experienced counsel in your corner.
Protect Your Rights
If you’ve had cash taken at an airport, border crossing or port, contact me for a free consultation. I have a proven track record recovering seized assets. Don’t wait, the window to act is limited. Call 212-300-5196 or visit https://nyccriminalattorneys.com now.