Customs Seizures

US Customs / Border Seizures

US Customs and Border Protection or the CBP can take and/or seize your property, including but not limited to car, truck, vehicle, if Customs and Border Protection has probable cause to believe that your vehicle was carrying illegal aliens or contraband, such as drugs or cash. In many cases, the person stopped may not even own the property, the car or vehicle but they were stopped and “detained” even if not arrested for the crime they are suspected of committing. Under federal law 19 USC 1595(a) part of the penalty of being contraband across the border is the forfeiture of the property.

What Happens After Property Is Seized?

Customs typically begins a forfeiture process. Pursuant to 18 USC 983 Customs is required to send the property owner a 4-page letter in about 30 days entitled “Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants CAFRA FORM.” In that letter it will underline that there are two important documents – and “Election of Proceedings” form and a “Seized Asset Claim” form and that you must choose between the four choices in Election of Proceedings or file a claim.

The process is arguably intentional to be very confusing, and although you are told you do not need a lawyer, you will be reminded you could do jail time if you tell any kind of a lie on the form you choose to send back within 30 days. Although many people are smart and understand the law, this is very confusing and many clients would rather pay a nominal fee to a forfeiture law firm that knows how and what forms to file to get their client’s car or vehicle returned with the least amount of towing and storage charges.


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