Each year there are millions of dollars seized from persons arriving or departing from the United States by Customs. Much of this is due to people failing to complete a currency reporting form if they are carrying over $10,000.00. Customs estimates ninety-five percent of the money seized is forfeited to the Government as people do not retain legal representation and fight for a refund.

How is a Person Targeted for DEA Airport Cash Seizure?

The DEA airport cash seizure was designed to combat the drug trade. The DEA agents will target travelers who are showing behavior patterns consistent with carrying large amounts of cash or narcotics. They claim these patterns are repeated with those they have found to be smugglers of these materials. The problem with this tactic is that it spreads a wide net, which captures a lot of innocent people.

Behaviors the DEA claims are consistent with those smuggling large sums of money or narcotics are:

  • They only buy a one-way ticket
  • They only buy a ticket for one way only on the same day they are traveling or within 72 hours of their travel
  • The travel is from or to a legal marijuana state
  • They buy their ticket with cash
  • The person purchasing the ticket has a previous criminal record
  • The traveler is male, and between the ages of 18 to 40

The purchase of a ticket for only one direction is the first red flag sent out to the DEA. The red flag goes even higher if the ticket is to Colorado or California. These travelers are targeted by the DEA due to a lot of marijuana traffickers carry with them large sums of cash when going into either Colorado or California. The money is used to buy marijuana in these states, and then drive back to their original or home state by using rental cars.

The most common target for DEA is the male traveler who has purchased a one-way ticket and is between 18 and 40 years of age. If their destination is to a marijuana state, and they have a criminal history, especially for drug-related offenses, it is almost certain that the DEA will stop and question them.

The one-way ticket clue is not a valid one as many people have a good reason to buy a ticket in only one direction. If they sold one-way tickets only to those involved in drug trafficking, wouldn’t they then be illegal to sell? The reality is, the DEA is seizing millions from people without reasonable evidence to support their actions. With few people fighting these actions, billions of dollars are gained by the government because no one stops them.

Civil asset forfeiture statutes have taken away a lot of the procedural safeguards, which most Americans enjoy in civil cases. There is also less protection given to third parties than are typically delivered in criminal cases. If you feel your constitutional rights have been ignored during a DEA airport cash seizure, you should contact Asset Forfeiture Attorney immediately to protect those rights.

Where are Most Cash Seizures Carried Out?

The bulk of cash seizures happen at major airports such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, New York, Miami, Charlotte, and Dallas. DEA and Homeland Security are the most common federal law enforcement agencies which will perform seizures on domestic airline flights.

When a person travels through an airport, they are often distracted with the various details involving their trip. If a DEA agent approaches and begins to ask questions, they may feel they are obligated to consent to a search or may provide answers to questions the DEA can find incriminating. The DEA has been given the power to perform random search operations and questioning at the airports. They occasionally may seize cash they think you are using to commit a crime.

The DEA has been given the power to seize cash if they have reason to believe the circumstances you are carrying it is questionable. They have this power in the airports and virtually any public place, even your home, if they’ve obtained a warrant.

The Border Protection Agency and US Customs are also allowed to seize cash at border crossings if they have reason to believe its use is questionable. One fact to remember when you are traveling over the borders, or in an airport is it is allowable to carry currency with you. There is no limit to the amount allowed to take in or out of the United States. You are; however,  expected to report the cash if the amount is over $10,000.00.

The State Police are also allowed to seize your cash. In these cases, the money if often turned over to the federal government for a kickback under the equitable sharing program between the agencies. The seizure will then be handled under the federal government guidelines.

Difference Between Forfeiture and Seizure of Airport Cash

If the government seizes your cash or property, they are taking possession of it. When the government forfeits cash or property, they are taking ownership of it. If this has happened to your cash or property, you want to contact an Asset Forfeiture Attorney to protect your rights.

If the government takes ownership of your cash through forfeiture, they will then deposit it into the Asset Forfeiture Fund, which is managed by the Department of Justice. Before they are allowed to keep your money, though, they must allow you the chance to file a claim. This filing of a claim is Due Process, and it is divided into two categories:

  • Judicial Forfeiture
  • Administrative Forfeiture

Routinely, the U.S. Government will take property or cash from individuals under the Asset Forfeiture laws, and many citizens do not understand their rights under this process. Judicial Forfeiture does not involve criminal convictions, yet it is a powerful tool used by law officials and Federal Agencies. The Judicial Forfeiture is the process of forfeiture, which takes place in the court system. The Government will begin by filing a civil forfeiture lawsuit in the courts.

The Administrative Forfeiture is a system handled in-house at a government office. There is no judge present as it is not a court proceeding, and there are no pleadings or other court procedures, including rules of evidence. The Administrative Forfeiture is resource-efficient, fast, and cost-effective.

Administrative forfeiture is when the property is seized, but no one comes forward to claim or contest the seizure. The cash or property can then be administratively forfeited. If the seizure would be contested, the U.S. Government would then file either criminal or civil judicial proceedings to gain ownership or title to the property.

Notice of Seizure by DEA

Due Process begins with notice in every case. Due Process informs people that they can take action as their rights are being affected. Every time the DEA at the airport seizes airport cash, they are required to send Notice of Seizure to all the parties involved. This notice will inform them of the seizure, and allow them a chance to file a claim for its return.

Involved parties would consist of any person or entity that can claim they have a legal right to the cash or the seized asset. Involved persons can include lien holders, property owners, or anyone with a legal right to the property or cash. Under 18 U.S.C 983(a)(1))A), the Government has sixty days from the date they seized your money at the airport to send you the Seizure Notice. If a local or state law official takes your cash or property, they have ninety days to notify you.

If you are not sent a Seizure Notice and were given no extension of time, the Government has to return your money to you. This rule does not apply to contraband or other illegal property; you have no legal right to carry.

The Government does not have to send a notice if they file a suit of Civil Forfeiture  within the sixty or ninety-day limit. Once a Civil Forfeiture lawsuit is filed, this Administrative Forfeiture process will terminate, and the Judicial Forfeiture process will start.

What Happens to Money the DEA Seized at Airport?

If your cash has been seized at the airport by DEA, it is accounted for by them, and then held in escrow by the United States Treasury. They will keep possession until the final order of forfeiture. You will be notified by first-class certified mail at the address you provide the DEA at the time of the seizure regarding the forfeiture process.

It can take up to ninety days for the letter to be received, and you and your attorney have thirty days to respond to the notice.

How to File a Claim to Receive DEA Airport Seized Cash Back

If the Government has not filed a Civil Forfeiture lawsuit and sends the notice of seizure within the correct time limit, you have thirty-five days from the date on the notice to file a claim for the property or cash being returned to you. If you miss the thirty-five-day window to file, the Government can then administratively forfeit the money, and keep it.

Getting the notice can be a bit confusing, and having legal counsel assist with this process will ensure a more positive outcome for you. The most crucial step is to get a court hearing to defend your property, by filing an Administrative Claim on time. You may be required to post a cost bond at this point.

The CAFRA (Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000) did away or outlawed most of the bonds in these proceedings. Seizures involving US Customs still may require a cost bond, which would be equal to ten percent of the property’s value when you file your claim. If you are unable to pay the bond or do not have assets, you may be granted a waiver of the cost bond. When you receive your forfeiture notice, it will state on the document if a bond is required or not.

If you pay the bond, it does not work like a bail bond, and it does not get your property returned. The cost bond is just a way to pay the costs for the government seizing your property and holding it. If you and your attorney are able to prove your legal right to this property or cash, you may get the full amount of the bond returned. The return of bond money is a decision made by the judge presiding over your case. If you lose your case, only a portion of the money will be returned.

When you receive the notice to file your claim, you must read the forfeiture notice carefully. This claim has to be a sworn statement and must identify your interests in the property. You must indicate if you are the owner, co-owner, or what your exact connection is to the cash or property in question. The notice may also give you the option of filing a Petition for Remission or Mitigation.

The Petition for Remission or Mitigation is an option offered instead of paying the bond and making a claim. It is a decision by the agency that seized your cash or property that they are willing to give it back to you without a hearing and no appeal process. This option is quite rare but should be taken if offered.

If you go ahead with the filing of a claim, it must be completed within thirty-five days. The Government is given ninety days to do one of the following:

  • They can return the cash or property to you
  • They can now file a suit for Civil Forfeiture in civil court
  • They can file criminal charges, which will contain a belief that the property or cash is subject to forfeiture. If the Government chooses this option, they will have to show, without a doubt, that your property or cash is subject to forfeiture

When is Seized Cash by DEA at Airport Subject to Forfeiture?

The government will have to prove your cash or property is subject to forfeiture by one of two ways:

  • You have earned it by committing a crime
  • It will be used to commit a crime

The purpose behind the Civil Forfeiture system is to allow you the chance to force the Government into proving one or both of the above statements. They will have to prove one or both of these conditions exist with your relationship to the cash or property. An Asset Forfeiture Attorney will defend these challenges set forth by the Government’s allegations. We will question the reliability and strength of their evidence and prove you have the right to have this property returned.

Defense Against DEA Airport Cash Seizure

When you work with the Asset Forfeiture Attorney, we help prove one or more defense strategies:

  • The Search and Seizure was illegal
  • There was an unlawful interrogation used
  • You are an innocent owner of the cash or property
  • The fines imposed are excessive
  • Lack of Nexus Defense
  • The Statute of Limitations has been violated
  • The cash or property is from a legitimate source
  • The cash or property will be used legitimately
  • The K-9 evidence is unreliable
  • Character evidence is inadmissible

Other defense strategies could include you did not know or did not give your consent for any money or property to be used illegally. There are also situations where the Government takes too long to file a case or bring it to trial. If you can prove a delay was excessive or unjustified, you may win and have the return of your cash or property. Your Asset Forfeiture Attorney will review your case with you and determine the best course of action in setting up a defense.

Will the Government Return DEA Seized Airport Cash?

How much of the money the Government will return that has been seized by the DEA at the airport, depends on how weak or how strong their case is against you. It could be proven there was no cause for a search of your belongings, that the search was illegal. If this is established, the Government’s case is weak, and the judge could rule all amounts to be returned. Having experienced legal representation is critical in helping to defend your rights to your property or cash.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office generally prefers to settle cases out of court, and they typically try to settle for low dollar amounts. Your attorney has to be prepared to go to court and fight for your rights and stay with the claim to the end. Asset Forfeiture Attorney is ready for this fight and knows how hard to push a case to get the resolution you deserve.

How Long Can a Case Take After DEA Seizure of Cash?

It can take several years or a few months with a forfeiture case. These cases are complex and will require having an attorney working with you that understands the laws and court system surrounding these complicated laws.

Find Help Near Me for DEA Airport Cash Seizure

If you have been a victim of DEA airport cash seizure, you will need experienced legal representation to protect your rights and your money. Call Asset Forfeiture Attorney at 888-571-5590 as soon as possible to ensure all legal avenues in your case are covered. We are here to help you recover seized assets or forfeited property in either a civil or criminal case.