If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please inform yourself on the process by reading this article and then contact our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit.
What documents should I have gotten and what will I get?
At the time of a currency seizure, Customs probably gave you a “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence” form (6051S), which will have some different numbers at the top, including an FPF No. so that your case can be tracked at Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures office (“FP&F”) of Customs. This form should show what exactly was seized, the name of the seizing officer, and Customs’ contact information — usually for the local FP&F branch of Customs. FP&F should then send by certified mail a formal written notice of seizure (“CAFRA Seizure Notice” or “CAFRA Notice”). You should get it within a few days as long as Customs has your correct address, which they may have asked for during your initial detention at the border or port. You will have 30 days from the date on the letter (not the date the letter is received) to respond.
We do not recommend contacting Customs by yourself until you have at least spoken to an attorney. Any statements you make to Customs, whether while you are being detained or by telephone, can be used against you. You may be panicked and say something that is misinterpreted by Customs as an admission of wrongdoing, or might make them suspect you are involved in something illegal. That will make it harder to get your money back. Therefore, we recommend contacting an attorney with experience in customs seizures immediately after receiving the CAFRA Notice. In any event, if you have not received this notice within 7 days of the seizure you should contact an attorney so they can request a copy of the notice of seizure for you, make sure that a timely response is made, or an extension of time to respond is requested and granted. This will help you make sure you preserve all your rights and options and improves your chances of successfully getting all or most of your money back.
CAFRA Notice of Seizure & Election of Proceedings
CAFRA stands for “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act” and is, in our practice, the law that most of my client’s currency seizures fall under. After you’ve been detained and released, the CAFRA Notice you receive will have a basic explanation of the facts surrounding the seizure, including: the date and place of seizure, surrounding circumstances, and the facts Customs’ alleges are the basis for the seizure. The CAFRA Notice is a formal document, and should be treated and responded to as such. How and when you respond to the CAFRA Seizure Notice will determine the outcome of your currency seizure case!
What are my options for getting my seized currency back from customs?
The CAFRA Notice will also cite the applicable laws, including failure to report, bulk cash smuggling, or a currency structuring violation to evade the reporting requirement, among others. It will also list your options to respond to the CAFRA Notice, which include:
- Filing a Petition for Remission or Mitigation (including the right to file a Supplemental Petition after decision on the first Petition)
- Pay the Full, Appraised Domestic Value of Seized Property
- File an Offer in Compromise
- Abandon the Property
- Institute Judicial Proceedings
- Do Nothing
The details of these options are explained in the CAFRA Notice, and Customs will include and ask you to complete and return what is called an “Election of Proceedings” form. This form will require you to select one of the above options. The advice we give to our currency seizure clients varies with the circumstances of each seizure case. Do not decide how to respond to a CAFRA Notice without first consulting an attorney. There may be times when a Judicial Proceedings make more sense than filing a Petition, and a qualified attorney can help you weigh those options and make that decision. Any mistake or error in judgment you make can cost you dearly. The majority of the time, however, I do recommend my client’s to file a Petition for Remission or Mitigation as the best option. The Petition, when filed by our office, is a legal memorandum that contains detailed factual narrative with our client’s side of the story, what led to the seizure, a review of the relevant law, regulations and Custom’s own guidelines concerning the seizure. When the facts allow for it, my Petition will always include a strong argument for return of the money in full, or even when there is a valid basis for the currency seizure, a strong argument for the money to be returned upon payment of a fine in the smallest amount of money possible, rather than forfeiture of all your money.
How can I find out more or hire a law firm to help with my customs currency seizure?
If you have had cash seized by customs and are contemplating what to do next, please make use of the other information available on this website or call our office at (734) 855-4999 to speak to a customs lawyer, or e-mail us through our contact page. We are able to assist with cash seized by customs around the country, including Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and many other places, and not just locally in Detroit. Please read these other articles:
- Seizure of currency and monetary instruments by U.S. Customs
- Seizure for bulk cash smuggling into or out of the U.S.
- Structuring currency imports and exports
- Is it $10,000 per person? Under what circumstances is filing a report with Customs for transporting more than $10,000 required?
- Criminal & civil penalties for failing to report monetary instrument transportation
- Is only cash currency subject to seizure by Customs?
- Responding to a Customs currency seizure
- How do I get my seized money back?
- Getting money seized by U.S. Customs back while staying overseas
- How long does it take Customs to decide a petition for a currency/monetary instrument seizure?