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Salt Lake City International Airport Money Cash Seizure Lawyers

Getting Your Seized Cash Back: A Guide for Travelers at Salt Lake City International Airport

Having cash seized by federal agents at Salt Lake City International Airport 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 the cash seizure process at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) and how an attorney can assist you.

Common Reasons for Cash Seizures at SLC Airport

Some of the most common reasons federal agents seize cash from travelers at SLC airport 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).
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents seizing cash they believe may be tied to drug trafficking or money laundering.
  • Local law enforcement assisting federal agencies with cash seizures under federal adoption programs that let them keep up to 80% of seized assets.

When cash is seized, the agency taking it (DEA, FBI, Customs and Border Protection, 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

Your Options After a Cash Seizure at SLC Airport

After the seizure, you have two main options:

  1. Petition for Remission – Ask the seizing agency to return your property. The agency has complete discretion, however, on whether to grant the petition.
  2. Contest the Seizure – File a claim in federal court to contest the seizure and try to get your money back. This is the only way to force the agency to justify the 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:

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  • Airport security footage
  • Police dashcam video
  • Audio recordings
  • Information on how currency was packaged
  • Drug dog alerts
  • Names of officers involved

Utah Laws on Cash Seizures

In Utah, civil asset forfeiture is governed by the Utah Code Ann. § 24-1-1 et seq. Key provisions include:

  • Law enforcement can seize property, including cash, without a criminal conviction if they have probable cause it was involved in a crime [Utah Code § 24-1-1].
  • To contest a seizure, an owner must file a claim with the prosecuting agency within 30 days [Utah Code § 24-1-7].
  • If no claims are filed, the agency can administratively forfeit the property without going to court [Utah Code § 24-1-9].
  • Utah law enforcement keeps 100% of forfeited assets, creating a profit incentive for seizures [IJ Report].

Utah received a “D-” grade for its civil forfeiture laws in a November 2020 report by the Institute for Justice for failing to provide adequate protections for property owners.

Federal Laws on Cash Seizures

On the federal level, the primary laws allowing cash seizures are:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 981 – Permits civil forfeiture of property involved in money laundering.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 983 – Sets forth procedures for civil asset forfeiture proceedings.
  • 21 U.S.C. § 881 – Allows seizure of property related to drug crimes.
  • 31 U.S.C. § 5317 – Provides for forfeiture of monetary instruments not properly reported when transported.

To contest a federal seizure, an owner must file a verified claim within 30 days of receiving notice, or 35 days from the date of seizure if no notice is provided.

Recent Controversies Over SLC Airport Cash Seizures

Cash seizures by federal agents at Salt Lake City International Airport have proven controversial and drawn media scrutiny in recent years:

  • A 2004 lawsuit alleged Salt Lake City police and federal agents wrongly seized over $100,000 in cash from a man based on vague allegations it was drug money [Deseret News].
  • A 2008 investigation found the DEA regularly seized cash from travelers at SLC airport but rarely filed criminal charges [Salt Lake Tribune].
  • Between 2000-2016, DHS agencies seized over $178 million in cash from travelers in Utah airports, with 91% of forfeitures happening administratively without judicial review [IJ Report].

These incidents highlight the potential for abuse of civil forfeiture laws to seize cash without evidence of underlying criminal wrongdoing.

Finding an Attorney to Fight Cash Seizures at SLC Airport

If you had cash seized from you at Salt Lake City International Airport, it is critical to act quickly and contact an attorney experienced in federal forfeiture law. Look for an attorney who:

  • Focuses specifically on federal asset forfeiture defense
  • Has a track record of getting seized cash returned for clients
  • Can negotiate aggressively with federal prosecutors
  • Is knowledgeable of forfeiture laws and deadlines
  • Understands the procedures at SLC Airport

A qualified attorney can advise you of your rights, review any evidence, file court claims, and handle negotiations with the seizing agency. In many cases, they can get all or most of the seized cash returned without lengthy legal proceedings.

Don’t let the government take your hard-earned money without a fight. The deck may seem stacked against you, but an experienced attorney can help level the playing field. Contact a lawyer immediately if your cash is seized at SLC or any airport.

The Bottom Line on Cash Seizures at Airports

Having cash seized at an airport is scary, but the situation is not hopeless. The following tips can improve your chances of getting your money back:

  • Remain calm and be polite to agents at all times.
  • Do not answer questions or provide information without an attorney present.
  • Get names/contact of agents involved and details on amount seized.
  • Hire an experienced attorney immediately to contest the seizure.
  • An attorney can negotiate return of cash quickly in many cases.
  • Act fast, as you only have 30 days to contest a federal seizure.

While the laws may seem stacked against property owners, an experienced attorney can protect your rights and fight to get your seized cash returned. Don’t delay in seeking legal help.

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