Asset Forfeiture Attorney is a highly rated asset seizure and forfeiture defense law firm that serves clients in the state of California and nationwide. The attorneys at the firm have been helping clients recover seized assets and forfeited property for both criminal and civil lawsuits. The lawyers are well-versed in state and federals laws and have handled cases of recovering seized FedEx/UPS/USPS shipping packages. There may be defense strategies to challenge the package seizure and protect it from losing it forever.Never talk to the police or any investigator in the absence of an attorney! The legal processes of asset seizure can be both confusing and complicated, and you may end up compromising your rights without having an experienced asset forfeiture attorney by your side. For personalized representation, contact us today!

What is the “Seizure of Shipping Packages” and When Does it Happen?

In the context of seized shipping packages, the term “seizure” refers to the act of physical possession of a shipped item or the transfer of control or custody from the package owner to the state or federal government. A law enforcement officer or police can accomplish this if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the package is linked to a potential criminal activity.The primary motive behind seizing packages during shipment is to prevent any potential criminal or illegal activity within the country. A seizure of a shipping package may be due to any of the following reasons:

  • The package contains illegally obtained items and profits;
  • The package includes evidence of an offense;
  • The package includes items that are processed unlawfully or contraband;
  • The package contains properties used in criminal activity.

When You Are Importing Packages From a Foreign Country

When goods or packages are shipped from any overseas country to the United States, they are referred to as “being imported." The shipping packages undergo necessary checking procedures and must comply with the state and federal government import rules and regulations,which can be both confusing and complicated. Any goods or packages that are prohibited/restricted from importation from foreign sources or require a permit for import may be taken in custody by the U.S. Customs.

Not only should you know what is admissible, but you must also have the know-how of importing goods the right way. All packages for international shipping must have an attached U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Declaration, including a complete and precise description of the merchandise. If you are buying something from an online seller, you must add information such as the seller's name and address, the quantity of item shipped, the purchase price in U.S. dollars, weight, and country of origin.

Every day, a lot of shipping packages and merchandise are examined, detained, and seized from the U.S. Customs and other law enforcement officers during checks at the airports, seaports, and other border crossings. Shipping packages may be seized at the “port” if they have been illegally transported (not complying with all the rules and regulations) or their custom duties are paid incorrectly. In such cases, importers of banned or illegal goods may be arrested and imprisoned from being involved in shipping such items.

It is advisable to immediately seek legal advice if you think that your package has been seized illegally or if you have received a notice of seizure by the Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures (FP&F) office.Typically, a seizure notice is forwarded to the alleged violator and contains information about what and where the cargo was seized in addition to the legal basis for the seizure. For any other queries or concerns about the seized package, you should approach the FP&F office with the seizure number at the specific U.S. port of entry, where the package was seized.

If you believe that U.S. Customs & Border Protection has no legal right to seize your shipping items or should not have been seized, you may challenge a seizure through an administration petition with the Customs, within 30 days of receiving the seizure notice. This will eventually lead to a court trial where the Customs department has to prove the seizure was lawful. Here, the burden of proof is on you to prove that the shipping package is duty paid and comply with other rules and regulations. Based on that, U.S. Customs will eventually either grant release of the seized shipping package or reject the petition and decide not to release the packaged seized.

If you have gone through a seizure process, you must learn from the ordeal and make sure that all your future cargo shipments are compliant with all the relevant laws and regulations based on the product being shipped,ahead of importing to the United States. Adhering to the applicable laws and regulations can diminish the chance of future seizure or detention of goods by Customs.

Types of Seized Shipping Packages That Typically Get Seized

Packages that may face seizure during shipment using service provides like Fed/Ex, UPS, USPS by the law enforcement include:

Cash and Currency. Law enforcement and police officers regularly seize money and other currency sent through shipment packages. The reason for sending cash through an insured parcel can be many; however, police will mostly stick to their convenient belief that it is secretly sent for or to assist criminal activity. Law enforcement forfeits cash and currency equivalent to millions and millions of dollars every year.

Controlled Substances like Weed, Cocaine, or Prescription Drugs. It is best not to contact any authority to inquire about the shipment status if it already shows that it was seized by law enforcement. Doing so will most likely result in an investigation or arrest as it is illegal to ship drugs through any federal or private carriers. For prescription drugs, you may contact a dedicated lawyer to discuss if you can file a claim to get it back.

Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives.Although all major shipping carriers, like FedEx, UPS, USPS has specific federal and state regulations that must be adhered to for shipping firearms, such packages are considered dangerous goods and sometimes seized to ensure a proper check.

FedEx, UPS, USPS Processes in Checking And Seizing Packages

When a package needs to be shipped or transported within the United States, it should be carried out either through the U.S. Postal Service or by a private carrier, such as UPS or FedEx.While the rules and regulations for what can be shipped are somewhat the same,it comes with some exceptions, like the private carriers like FedEx and UPS can ship ammunition, but it is not allowed by USPS.

Using the United States Postal Service (USPS)

USPS is a federal government agency that offers bulk mail and volume shipping services for small to large businesses. Being a federal government agency, it must obey federal guidelines. Also, being federal government employees, U.S. postal workers require a warrant based on probable cause in order to search a package for drugs. Also, U.S. Postal Service has its own special squad of postal inspectors and processes for checking packages. The USPS workers partner with the state and local drug task forces to perform their drug parcel investigations.

As per the United States Postal Inspection Service, the first-class letters and packages are safeguarded against search and seizure under the fourth amendment to the constitution; and that is why such items are not allowed to be opened if there is no search warrant. A warrant can be issued to the investigators by stating the probable cause of suspicion. Since the USPS provides certain protections against the procedure of search and seizure, it is usually a safe and preferred choice for shipping drugs among those who send. However, the USPS can get a warrant if it finds a package suspicious.

Although California is a pot-legal state, it is a felony under 18 U.S. Code 1716 to mail weed using the United States Postal Service even within the territorial limits of California.

Using Private Third-Party Carriers

The private carriers, like UPS, FedEx, and DHL, are not federal government agencies and generally do not need a search warrant if they deem the package suspicious.The supreme court states that shipping packages through a third-party private carrier eliminate any reasonable expectation of privacy. They do not generally consider the shipping package as "private" and have the right to open and inspect packages as their own discretion.

There have been instances where suspicion about the package contents have caused immediate, unwarranted search of a shipping package. For instance, when a private third-party shipping company, like FedEx, figures out the package contains suspicious content, like cash, ammunition, or drugs like weed or prescription drugs, they can take the package out of its normal shipping cycle and inform about it to the law enforcement agency. Private companies cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies in cracking down illegal trafficking of controlled substances via mail.

Generally, law enforcement officers are trained to work with police K-9 dogs to detect prohibited or restricted contents at private third-party shipping facilities to identify suspicious packages containing drugs or explosives. Some K-9 dogs even get trained to sense the smell of cash and currency over time. If the K-9 alerts the law enforcement or police officers by sensing the smell of the suspicious contents inside, the police will put it aside and inspect it manually. If further investigation points towards the high likelihood of prohibited or restricted content, it is opened and seized by law enforcement.

Legal Processes to Get Your Seized Packages Back

Once your shipping package is seized, you need to contact the law enforcement. However, never meet or speak to the police offer or investigator alone for interrogation unless you are with your attorney. Not that you have anything to hide, but whatever you say can be used as evidence against you in the court and only make things worse. Remember, the police are not supposed to be your friend or help you in any possible way. They want to file cases, seize illegally imported or exported goods, and arrest people. It is a wise move to have an experienced defense attorney by your side so that you don’t speak anything incriminating and later used against you by law enforcement.

The legal process of getting back your seized shipping packages can be a harrowing one, typically fraught with administrative delays. The best way to approach this is to seek legal help and proceed step by step in order to reclaim your seized packages.

  1. Report a Petition

With advice from a dedicated attorney, you must file a claim for the preservation of rights against a seized USPS, UPS or FedEx package seized by police. Such a claim can be filed against an appropriate law enforcement agency.

Firstly, you or anyone who is filing a claim must have an actual interest in the seized package, which means the claimant cannot make a claim on behalf of another person. Secondly, it is crucial on your part to determine if the seizure will be processed by the local, state, or federal government authorities. This determination is important as there are specific rules to follow depending on who will handle the seizure process. Sometimes, even the slightest deviation from a legal statutory can make the difference between getting your seized item back and losing it forever.

Such strict adherence to statutory requirements stresses the importance of going forward with an experienced asset forfeiture defense attorney to your side.  

  1. Investigating the Case

Your dedicated attorney will investigate different aspects of the claim to build a strong defense on your part. The investigative team of your attorney will work to identify all the relevant witnesses, required shipping documentation, and other evidence to present a solid representation of your case.

For instance, you were to receive a package containing some cash but was seized by police that works with K-9s who supposedly alert to narcotics. If the K-9 show alert signs for the package, the police, in order to seize the package, may claim that the cash package must have been stored near large amounts of drugs for a reasonably long period. While there is no clear way to challenge a K-9's sniff, the police expect you to take it at face value. Your attorney can successfully discredit K-9’s alert (sniff!) by obtaining the legal bank statements, withdrawal receipts, and other evidence. Similarly, K-9 dog alerts can be questioned by looking at other sources too.

A thorough investigation to collect all the pieces of evidence in your favor can allow your attorney to build a solid defense and take the next legal step towards getting your seized package back.

  1. Settlement with Negotiations

Once the investigation team does a detailed investigation, your attorney can pin down every piece of evidence to build a case theory. With available evidence in hand, your attorney will engage in settlement negotiations with the government. Most cases settle in this phase; others will resolve after reaching a trial procedure. Whether your case reaches a settlement or proceeds to trial may depend on the collected evidence and your decisions as a defendant.

Your attorney’s level of skill will decide how well they can cultivate evidence and build a cohesive case theory and accomplish a successful litigation strategy.

  1. Jury Trial

In both California and Federal courts, you have the right to demand a jury trial to resolve your shipping package seizure case. In such cases, the prosecution (government) has the burden of proof and is required to prove that the seized package was or could be used in committing a criminal offense, beyond a reasonable doubt (90 percent or more).

In Federal courts, the burden of proof on the government is relatively low, but they still must prove the seized shipping package is proceeds of a crime, evidence of an offense, contraband, or properties used in criminal activity. The burden in Federal court is by a “preponderance of the evidence” (51 percent or more) meaning the judges should believe that the existence of a fact is more probable than its nonexistence.

Find an Asset Forfeiture Attorney for Seized Shipping Package Cases Near Me

If you have faced seizure of shipping packages during transit by private (FedEx or UPS) or federal government carrier (USPS), you must seek assistance from a dedicated attorney like Asset Forfeiture Attorney. Our asset forfeiture attorneys are adept with the skills and knowledge required to defend your property seizure and fight back against unfair seizure cases in California and Nationwide. Whether you are the importer or the exporter of goods that have been seized, our team of attorneys is well-versed to prepare solid defenses and provide successful representation in matters related to the seizure of shipping packages. If you believe your shipping package was unlawfully seized or you want to file a lawsuit for getting seized packages back, contact us at 888-571-5590 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation without further delay. We are committed to helping our clients avoid an unjust prosecution at the federal or state level!