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  • Writer's pictureRamon Rodriguez

Help! My money was seized at the Airport.

Updated: Jun 18

police talking to a man at the airport

Traveling through airports can be a stressful experience, especially with the increased presence of law enforcement agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). One of the lesser-known but significant concerns for travelers is the risk of cash seizures. But we refuse to simply let the Government take your property. That is why is important for you to understand the process and to get an attorney who knows it as well.

How Your Property Gets Seized at the Airport

Law enforcement agencies at airports have the authority to seize cash and other assets under civil forfeiture laws. This allows them to confiscate property suspected of being linked to criminal activity, even if the owner is not charged with a crime. The most common reason for these seizures is a failure to report carrying more than $10,000 when traveling internationally. Between 2000 and 2016, DHS agencies conducted over 30,000 currency seizures at airports, totaling more than $2 billion. 

If you are getting questioned about your property at the Airport do not answer the Government’s Agent’s questions. ASK FOR AN ATTORNEY. 

Scenarios Leading to Seizures:

  1. Failure to Report: If you carry more than $10,000 and fail to declare it using FinCEN Form 105, your cash can be seized.

  2. Suspicious Behavior: Law enforcement may seize money if they suspect it is linked to criminal activities like drug trafficking or money laundering.

  3. Random Checks: Agents often conduct random checks, and if large sums of money are found, they might be seized on suspicion alone.

  4. Failure to Report Accurately: Even if you do report that you have more than $10,000 if your Form 105 is inaccurate, they can still seize the money. A common scenario is when traveling with US And Foreign currency. Let’s say you have $8,000 in US dollars and $100,000 in Mexican Pesos (typically converts to around $5,600 in US dollars). Customs will claim that you have over $10,000. You failed to report the money or accurately report the money and they will seize all of your money.

Steps to Reclaim Your Seized Property

  1. Enlist an Attorney: The first and most crucial step is to hire an experienced attorney specializing in asset forfeiture cases.

  2. Notice of Forfeiture: You will receive a notice of forfeiture, which you should not ignore. This notice will outline the steps you need to take to reclaim your property.

  3. Administrative Claim: File an administrative claim within the specified timeframe (usually 35 days). This claim should be detailed and sworn under penalty of perjury. If the Government believes you lied on your claim you can face up to 5 years in prison for lying to a Government official. 

  4. Court Proceedings: If the case is not resolved in the Administrative proceeding, then it will be referred to the United States Attorney’s Office and a law suit will be filed in Federal court. You can then battle the Government in court and even take the case to trial. 

Defenses Against Seizure

Several defenses can be employed to challenge the seizure of your property:

  1. Unlawful Search and Seizure: If the search was conducted without a proper warrant or court order, the seizure might be deemed unlawful.

  2. Lack of Criminal Activity: Proving that the seized money was not linked to any criminal activity.

  3. Unreasonable Delay: If there is an unreasonable delay in the government initiating forfeiture proceedings, this can be used to argue for the return of your property.

  4. Disproportionality: Arguing that the amount seized is disproportionate to the alleged offense.

  5. Statutory Defenses: Utilizing specific defenses available under forfeiture statutes.

  6. Innocent Mistake: If the error was truly an earnest mistake, an attorney can provide evidence regarding the source of the funds and the reason for the error to a Customs officer reviewing the seizure. 

Why You Should Hire an Attorney

Navigating the complex legal landscape of asset forfeiture without professional help can be daunting and often unsuccessful. An experienced attorney can:

  • Ensure Proper Filing: They will ensure all documents and claims are filed correctly and within deadlines.

  • Challenge Unlawful Seizures: Attorneys can effectively challenge the legality of the seizure.

  • Protect you from Prosecution: Many of the forms require you to make statements and if the Government believes that they are false then they can attempt to prosecute you. 

  • Negotiate with Authorities: They have the expertise to negotiate with government agencies for the return of your property.

  • Represent You in Court: If your case goes to court, having a knowledgeable attorney increases your chances of a favorable outcome.


The Government seizes money from innocent people on a regular basis at the airport. Understanding your rights and the legal processes involved is crucial. If your hard-earned money or property is seized at the airport contact Texans Against Asset Forfeiture today to get-it-back! (hyperlink the contact Texans Against Asset Forfeiture and link it to our contact page) We know how to fight these cases and hate to see our fellow Texans’ property get taken away!

Contact Texans Against Asset Forfeiture today to get it back!

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