We bring these cases to our reader’s attention not because many honest people find themselves with thousands of dollars hidden underneath their vehicle’s floorboards in a secret compartment (although it has happened to some of my honest clients), but because they do allow me to bring to the public’s attention the laws surrounding the transportation of more than $10,000 in money across the border and seizure of that money.
Customs and Border Protection, in a recent news release discusses the seizure of $80,000 as a result of a failed smuggling attempt to take the cash out of the country in a
concealed compartment and without filing a currency report disclosing the source of the money and intended use of the money. Thus, it was seized and the driver arrested for smuggling.
The news release states as follows:
CBP currency detector canines searched the vehicle and alerted to the floor. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents continued their search and located a hidden compartment in the floor of the vehicle. They removed multiple tape-wrapped bundles of money in the compartment.
If this individual is found not guilty of a crime, then he faces the potentially difficult task of proving a legitimate source and legitimate intended use of the money. In this case, we could give the man the benefit of the doubt and presume the legitimate source is the proceeds the sale of valuable pieces of art to an eccentic U.S. art collector and the intended use, perhaps he was intending to open a small restaurant in Mexico City. That’s just my guess, and yes, I have handled more bizarre but true cases.
If we assume he proves these two things, then this situation is regrettable for him and completely avoidable. But now, even if criminal charges are ultimately not filed or if he is ultimately found not guilty of a crime, he will still face civil forfeiture of the money and, if he wants it back, will have to fight for its return administratively, or in the courts.
That brings me to the next point:
If you have had currency seized from Customs, do not go it alone. Get the advice of an attorney who knows what he is doing. If you do not, you might only make the situation worse by handling it on your own or hiring a lawyer who doesn’t regularly handle these cases.
To inform yourself, please read the various articles I have written on this and related topics. But do not let it replace the advice of attorney who is familiar with the law and your particular circumstances. If you have questions, please give us a call at (734) 855-4999.