Philadelphia International Airport Money Cash Seizure Lawyers

Philadelphia International Airport Money Seizure Lawyers: Your Guide to Getting Your Cash Back

Traveling with large amounts of cash can be risky these days. Even if the money is legitimately yours, it can be seized by federal agents at airports and other ports of entry if you don’t properly declare it. Getting your cash back often requires legal help. This article will provide an overview of cash seizure laws, your rights, and how a lawyer can assist in recovering seized money.

The Law on Airport Cash Seizures

There’s a federal law that requires travelers to declare any cash over $10,000 when flying internationally or entering/leaving the U.S. This law is meant to combat money laundering, drug trafficking, and other criminal activities. If you fail to declare cash over the $10,000 limit, it can be seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents.Even if you properly declare the cash, CBP still has the authority to seize it if they suspect it’s tied to illegal activity. They don’t need to charge or convict you of a crime to take the money. This controversial practice is known as “civil asset forfeiture.”According to a 2020 report by the Institute for Justice, CBP and other agencies seized over $2 billion from travelers at U.S. airports between 2000-2016


. Nearly 70% of those subjected to seizures were never arrested or charged with a crime.So even if you’re carrying legitimately-obtained cash, you’re at risk of losing it to civil forfeiture at the airport. Having an experienced lawyer can help get it back.

Typical Scenarios of Airport Cash Seizures

There are a few common scenarios that can lead to cash seizures by CBP at airports:

  • Failed to declare cash over $10,000: If you’re traveling internationally or entering/leaving the U.S. with over $10K, it must be declared. Failure to do so is a violation of federal law and can result in seizure.
  • Suspicion of illegal activity: Even if you properly declare large amounts of cash, CBP might seize it if they think it’s tied to crimes like drug trafficking. However, no charges are required for seizure.
  • False declaration: If you declare you’re carrying less cash than you really have, CBP can seize the full amount. Always declare the true, exact amount.
  • Structuring: If you intentionally break up cash deposits or travel with just under $10K to avoid declaring it, that’s considered illegal structuring. The cash can still be seized.
  • Missed flight: Believe it or not, missing a flight can lead to cash seizure if CBP thinks you intentionally skipped the flight to avoid declaring money.

As you can see, even law-abiding citizens can get caught up in civil forfeiture laws. Having an experienced lawyer’s help is key to getting your money back.

Getting a Lawyer for Cash Seizures at Airports

If your cash is seized by federal agents at the airport, hiring a lawyer who specializes in these cases is strongly recommended. While you can try to get it back yourself, having legal representation greatly improves your chances. Here’s how a lawyer can help:

  • Negotiate with CBP/DHS: An attorney can negotiate directly with CBP and the Department of Homeland Security on your behalf to have the cash returned. They know the system.
  • Challenge the seizure: A lawyer can file a claim challenging the seizure and force the government to legally prove there was justification. Many seizures are overturned when challenged.
  • Handle court claims: If you have to go to court over the seized cash, a lawyer handles filing claims, gathering evidence, deposing witnesses, and making the best case before a judge.
  • Knowledge of laws/defenses: Attorneys who specialize in cash seizure cases know all the nuances of the relevant laws and potential defenses that can get your money back.

Having legal representation levels the playing field against the government and their resource advantage. It’s extremely difficult for everyday citizens to successfully reclaim seized cash without a lawyer’s expertise.

Costs and Fees for Cash Seizure Lawyers

The cost to hire a lawyer to assist with getting seized cash returned depends on a few factors:

  • Experience level: More experienced lawyers in this niche charge higher rates but offer better chances of success. Less experienced attorneys cost less.
  • Flat fee vs. hourly: Some lawyers charge a flat fee for the entire case while others bill by the hour. Flat fees provide cost predictability.
  • Location: Hiring a lawyer where the airport is located ensures they know local laws/procedures, but might cost more. Can be cheaper to use an out-of-state lawyer.
  • Size of cash seizure: For larger seized amounts, lawyers typically charge a contingency fee percentage (e.g. 30%) only if successful in getting the cash back.

For smaller cash seizures under $10,000, expect to pay at least $2,000 – $3,000+ in legal fees when all is said and done. Larger seizure cases incur higher fees but are often done on contingency. Compare options to find the best value.

Finding the Right Cash Seizure Lawyer

Not all lawyers have experience dealing specifically with airport cash seizures. It’s important to find one who specializes in these cases to maximize your chances. Here are some tips:

  • Search cash seizure lawyer directories: Directories like NORML’s Asset Forfeiture Lawyers Directory let you find attorneys by location who handle cash seizure cases.
  • Look for civil asset forfeiture experience: Search for lawyers who specifically mention expertise in civil asset forfeiture laws, not just criminal law. This is the key practice area.
  • Find a local lawyer: Hiring a lawyer located near the airport where your cash was seized can provide advantages, but isn’t absolutely necessary.
  • Ask about case experience: Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective lawyer how many past cash seizure cases they’ve handled and what their success rate is. Experience matters.
  • Compare fee structures: Make sure to inquire about each lawyers’ fee arrangements so you can find one aligned with your budget and preferences.

Taking the time to carefully choose the right attorney for your airport cash seizure case can make all the difference in getting your money returned. Don’t leave it to chance.

What to Do If Your Cash is Seized at the Airport

If federal agents confiscate your cash at the airport, stay calm but take immediate action. Here are important steps to take:

  • Politely ask why it was seized: Don’t resist but do ask the CBP agent for an explanation of why they are taking your cash. Get their reasoning.
  • Note the agent’s badge number: Record the badge number and name of the CBP agent who seized your money. This can help later on.
  • Ask for the seizure paperwork: You need to get a copy of the paperwork regarding the cash seizure before leaving the airport.
  • Decline to sign anything: Be cautious about signing any documents admitting guilt or forfeiting rights to the money. Talk to a lawyer first.
  • Gather evidence: Keep records proving the cash is rightfully yours, like bank statements, receipts, business paperwork, etc. This can help get it returned.
  • Contact a lawyer ASAP: Time is critical. Call a cash seizure lawyer as soon as possible after the incident for advice and representation.

Following these steps immediately after a cash seizure can make it much easier to challenge the seizure and get your money back. Don’t delay.

Overcoming Cash Seizure Defenses from the Government

When trying to get seized cash returned, the government won’t make it easy. Here are some of the arguments CBP and federal prosecutors use to defend seizures – and how lawyers fight back:Government Defense: You didn’t properly declare the cashYour Response: Mistakes happen. If it was an honest oversight, that alone shouldn’t justify seizure.Government Defense: The cash is tied to illegal activityYour Response: They can’t prove that if you have legitimate receipts, bank records, etc. documenting where the cash came from.Government Defense: You were intentionally evasiveYour Response: Unless they have hard evidence of real intent to conceal money, evasiveness is hard to prove.Government Defense: The cash is suspiciousYour Response: Suspicion alone is not enough – the 4th Amendment requires actual probable cause that a crime occurred.Government Defense: You missed your flightYour Response: Missing a flight, by itself, does not mean someone is trying to smuggle cash. Legitimate reasons exist.A skilled cash seizure attorney knows how to craft the right arguments and meet each element of these government defenses. Don’t let unlawful seizures go unchallenged.

Getting Seized Cash Back at Major Airports

Certain airports are more prone to cash seizures than others. If your money was confiscated at one of the airports below, it’s especially important to hire an experienced local lawyer:

  • Philadelphia International Airport – Philadelphia cash seizure lawyers can help if your money was taken at PHL. Know your rights.
  • JFK International Airport (New York City) – Many cash seizures happen at JFK. New York lawyers can assist in getting it back.
  • O’Hare International Airport (Chicago) – Seizures frequently occur at ORD. Chicago lawyers specialize in these cases.
  • Los Angeles International Airport – LAX is a hot spot for cash seizures. California lawyers can help recover funds.
  • Miami International Airport – MIA agents seize millions in cash annually. Miami lawyers are seasoned at getting it returned.

Don’t let them keep your hard-earned money without a fight. Hire an airport cash seizure lawyer near any major hub where your cash was taken.

Costs and Expenses in Challenging Cash Seizures

Getting seized money back isn’t free, even with a lawyer handling the case. Here are typical costs to expect:

  • Attorney fees – The bulk of the cost will be what you pay your lawyer. Typical fees range from $2,000 to over $10,000.
  • Filing fees – If you have to go to court, there are filing fees, generally $100 to $500.
  • Travel costs – You may need to travel to court hearings, adding flight/hotel costs.
  • Lost interest – The seizure results in lost interest and investment returns on the seized cash.
  • Emotional toll – The stress and anxiety of having cash confiscated can take a mental and emotional toll.

While not cheap, the costs are worth it to avoid losing your cash permanently to unjust seizure. Paying upfront legal fees now can save you the full amount later.

Likelihood of Getting Seized Cash Back

If you take prompt legal action, what are the chances of successfully recovering your seized airport cash?

  • Within 30 days – Up to 90%+ chance of full recovery
  • Within 3 months – 60-80% chance of full or partial recovery
  • Within 6 months – 50% or less chance of partial recovery
  • After 6 months – Very low chances of any cash recovery

This demonstrates the importance of contacting a lawyer immediately after a cash seizure. Don’t delay. With fast action, the odds are very much in your favor.

Final Thoughts

Losing cash to seizure at the airport feels unjust. But with the right lawyer, you can fight back and get your money returned. Know the laws, understand your rights, follow the steps above, and don’t wait to call an attorney. You worked hard for that cash – don’t let the government take it from you permanently without pursuing every legal remedy possible. With persistence and a good lawyer on your side, the chances of getting your money back are high. Don’t give up.