Miami International Airport Money Cash Seizure Lawyers

Getting Your Money Back After a Cash Seizure at Miami International Airport

Having your cash seized by police or federal agents at Miami International Airport can be an incredibly stressful and frustrating experience. One minute you’re minding your own business, going through security or about to board a flight, and the next minute officers are questioning you and taking your money. It can feel totally unfair and like a violation of your rights.

But there are things you can do to get your money back! Don’t just let the police or feds keep it without a fight. This article will walk you through the basics of what to do if your cash is seized at MIA, your legal rights, defenses and strategies that work, and how to find a good lawyer to assist you.

The Most Common Types of Airport Cash Seizures

There are a few main laws that police and federal agents use to justify seizing money from travelers at MIA and other airports:

  • Failing to declare currency over $10,000 when leaving or entering the U.S. – This law requires you to complete a form if you are traveling internationally with more than $10,000. Failing to do so can result in seizure and forfeiture proceedings against your money.
  • Suspicion of involvement in illegal drug activity – Agents may seize cash if they believe it is connected to drug crimes, even without proof.
  • Suspected “structuring” to avoid reporting requirements – Making multiple sub-$10,000 cash transactions over time to avoid reporting requirements is illegal structuring and can also lead to seizure.

Often agents seize cash based on vague suspicions without hard evidence of a crime. That makes getting your money back challenging but not impossible.

Who Is Seizing the Money?

There are a few different law enforcement agencies that commonly seize cash at Miami International Airport:

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – CBP agents are focused on border control and customs enforcement.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – The DEA targets drug crimes and trafficking.
  • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – An arm of DHS that investigates many types of cross-border crimes.
  • Local police – The Miami-Dade Police Department also sometimes assists in cash seizures.

Knowing which agency took your money is helpful when navigating the process to get it back.

Act Quickly to Start the Return Process

If your cash was seized, you need to act fast. There are important deadlines you must meet if you want to have a shot at getting your money back.

Within a few weeks, you will receive an official notice of the seizure from the agency. This will explain the process to challenge the seizure. It’s crucial you take action right away. You only have 30 days from receiving the notice to file a claim demanding the cash be returned.

This sets off a legal process where the seizing agency must either return your money or file a court case justifying the seizure. If they fail to file a case within 90 days, the money must be returned.

You should also request an itemized list describing how much money was seized. Agents do not always provide this initially. It’s important to lock in the amount taken as soon as possible.

Get an Experienced Lawyer On Your Side

Trying to navigate this complex process alone is extremely difficult. The system is rigged against ordinary people. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced asset forfeiture lawyer assist you.

A knowledgeable lawyer can protect your rights, hold police accountable, and give you the best chance of getting your money back. They know all the arcane rules and deadlines. Plus, officials tend to take notice when a lawyer gets involved.

A good lawyer will immediately file a claim demanding the cash be returned after a seizure. This gets the ball rolling right away. Be wary of lawyers who want to wait or only help after the forfeiture case goes to court. That’s often too late.

Possible Defenses to Cash Seizure

If police don’t return your money voluntarily, the case will go to court. Your lawyer will fight the forfeiture action by arguing one or more legal defenses, such as:

  • No evidence of a crime – The burden is on police to show proof you engaged in illegal activity. Speculation or hunches aren’t enough.
  • Illegal search – If agents seized the cash in violation of your 4th Amendment rights, it may be excluded.
  • “Innocent owner” claim – If the money isn’t connected to any crime, you’re entitled to have it back.
  • Reporting error was a mistake – If you mistakenly failed to report currency over $10,000, the seizure may be improper.

An experienced lawyer will aggressively argue these defenses on your behalf during the forfeiture proceedings.

Negotiating with Prosecutors

Many cash seizure cases don’t make it all the way through forfeiture litigation. An experienced lawyer will negotiate aggressively with prosecutors to get your money back without a trial.

Often prosecutors will agree to return some or all of the seized cash in exchange for dropping the case. This is a common outcome. Your lawyer’s relationships and negotiating skills are key.

If negotiation fails, you still have the option of taking the case to trial and presenting your defenses to a judge.

How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?

For cash seizure cases, many lawyers will work on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t pay anything up front. The lawyer only gets paid if they succeed in getting your money back.

If a settlement or court victory occurs, the lawyer takes a percentage (often 33%) of the cash recovered as their fee. Nothing comes out of your pocket up front.

Make sure to ask about the fee structure when interviewing lawyers to find the right fit for your case.

Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Case

Not all lawyers have expertise with cash seizures at airports. You want to find someone who regularly handles these cases specifically. Things to look for include:

  • Knowledge of asset forfeiture laws and procedures
  • Experience negotiating with law enforcement agencies
  • Good relationships with local prosecutors
  • Proven track record getting money back
  • Ability to work quickly filing claims right after seizure
  • Flexibility working on contingency fee

Don’t go with just any lawyer. Interview a few specialists to find the best fit for you and your case.

Getting Your Cash Back is Possible

While the deck seems stacked against you at first, with the right lawyer, knowledge, and strategy, you can succeed in getting your money back after a seizure at Miami International Airport. Don’t give up hope. Many others have navigated this process successfully. You can too with diligence and perseverance.

For more help and advice, check out these additional resources:

With persistence and the right legal strategy, you can get your seized money returned. Don’t let law enforcement get away with taking your hard-earned cash without a fight.