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Bouldin Law Firm
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What Do I Do if Money is Seized at the Airport?

I recently represented an individual who was traveling with a large sum of cash. During his pre-flight security check, they noticed the large sum of cash, but sent him on his way. Upon arrival in LAX, he was detained and the money was confiscated by TSA and the federal authorities. He was not charged with any crimes; presumably because none had been committed. He was given paperwork for the seizure evidencing the amount of money involved. The individual then contacted me regarding the seizure and intention of having the money returned. There are specific procedures which are required to reclaim any property which is seized by the government. Under USC 21, section 881, relating to the Controlled Substances Act, the government is given broad powers to seize moneys, negotiable instruments and other property which they believe is used or intended to be used to facilitate any violation of this subchapter. The seizure is subject to forfeiture if specific US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Drug Enforcement Administration appeals and timelines are not followed. While the intent of 21 USC 881 is noble, the practical application is often faulty. The possession of large amounts of cash is often used as the only basis for believing that a person is engaged in the purchase or sale of controlled substances. Fortunately for the defendant, this is not sufficient for legal forfeiture. There are times when the individual may be required to file legal action in the United States District court. Additionally, civil forfeiture proceedings may be stayed pursuant to title 18 USC 981(g). More often, assets seized are in conjunction with actual criminal charges. Those charges under section 881 relate to controlled substances. I have also represented individuals who have had homes, business assets, vehicles and money (I have not yet had a boat, but I have read that it is common in Florida). There are also forfeiture provisions relating to drugs, trafficking or employment of illegal aliens, and many other sections of the federal code as well as under state statutes. I have represented individuals with assets seized by Florence and Boone County authorities, INS, Secret Service, TSA and FBI. If you have had an asset seized by the state or federal government and have questions or are seeking counsel or legal representation, contact Michael Bouldin at [email protected] or call 859-581-6453; 859-581-MIKE. In the case identified, it took approximately four months before the seized money was returned to the owner.

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