1005 N. Marion St.
Tampa, FL 33602
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Sammis Law Firm

Seizures of Cash at the Airport

Was your money, cash, currency, or other property seized at the airport in Florida or another state? If you were the victim of “jetway robbery” by federal agents, then hire attorney Leslie Sammis at Sammis Law Firm.

We take cash seizure cases on a contingency fee basis which means you pay no attorney fees upfront. Instead, we accept a fixed percentage of the recovery. If we win the case, then the attorney fee and costs come out of the money awarded to you. If we recover no money, then you owe us nothing.

If your money was confiscated at any airport in the United States, then we can start the process to get the money back immediately. Find out why we recommend hiring an attorney to take the following steps:

  • contest the legality of the seizure by filing a verified claim demanding court action;
  • preserves any video surveillance evidence from the airport authorities before it can be destroyed;
  • obtain a court order to compel the airport authorities to turn over the video even if TSA or the airport authorities object.

After your money is seized, the federal agency that confiscated the cash will send you a letter with the “notice of the seizure” within 60 days. Don’t wait for that letter to take action.

Instead, hire an attorney to file your verified claim demanding the return of the money. By filing a claim on the same day as the seizure (or shortly thereafter), we can help you speed up the process.

Although you have the option to petition for relief through remission, mitigation, or by making an offer in compromise, those administrative options typically DO NOT work. People often regret that decision when their administrative petition for relief is eventually denied with a form letter.

If you wait for the notice of seizure to arrive in the mail, it will be sent by certified mail to the address listed on the receipt. Read the letter carefully. Pay particular attention to the last day to file a verified claim for court action.

If the claim is not received by the agency by this date (in their hands), then the claim will be rejected. Likewise, if you do not provide all of the required information or verify the claim properly, then the claim will be rejected.

Attorney Leslie Sammis can make sure that your verified claim is prepared properly and received by the agency within the allotted time. Then she can begin showing the authorities all of the legal reasons it must be returned.

If federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or the Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), seized your cash at the airport, we can help you fight to get all of the money back.

Instead of just letting the government keep your money, you should retain an attorney who can fight the case aggressively.

Attorneys for Airport U.S. Currency Seizures in Tampa, FL

Want to know how to get seized money back from the airport? At Sammis Law Firm, attorney Leslie Sammis is experienced fighting civil asset forfeiture actions. She fights for the speedy return of cash or other property confiscated at the airport for forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 881.

We can take your case on a contingency basis. That way, you do not have to pay us any attorney fees or costs unless we recover the money or other property.

We are often contacted by attorneys outside of Florida who want us to co-counsel with them on a forfeiture case. If you are an attorney and would like to discuss the best way to fight the seizure, then give us a call.

If federal agents took your money, immediately contact an attorney who can file an immediate demand for court action and “early judicial intervention.” By demanding court action, you force the agency to either return your money or convince the U.S. Attorney’s Office to file the forfeiture action in the U.S. District Court.

When it comes to airport cash seizures by agents with DEA, ICE, CBP, or HSI, a civil asset forfeiture attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, can help you fight to get your money back. Our forfeiture lawyers can challenge the legality of the seizure and the validity of any forfeiture action.

We also represent clients if their cash or other property is seized for forfeiture at any bus station or Amtrak train station in Florida.

Call 813-250-0500.


Our Case Results in Airport Seizure Cases

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm have represented clients in numerous airport seizure cases throughout Florida and other parts of the county. Our recent victories in currency seizure cases include:

  • $40,000+ was seized by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Brevard County, FL, after a routine traffic stop, and in November of 2020, CBP agreed to return 100% of the money.
  • $14,826 returned by CBP in November of 2019 after that exact amount was seized by task force officers with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), HSI IRS Special agents, a DFW Police CID Detective, a Tarrant County Narcotics Detective, and a K9 drug dog at the airport in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, during a “passenger interdiction as part of an ongoing bulk cash smuggling initiative” after making “consensual encounters with random individuals.”
  • $16,563 seized by an agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at Tampa International Airport and $16,563 was returned within 4 months in 2020 (after CBP alleged that our client failed to file a FinCEN Form 105 before an international flight);
  • $159,950 plus interest returned by Homeland Security after a cash seizure at Tampa International Airport within 6 months in 2020 (after we alleged that some of the money had gone missing but everything deposited into the account by the agent was returned);
  • $63,490.00 seized by Homeland Security at the Orlando International Airport, but the entire amount was returned within five months (after a complaint for forfeiture was filed by the Assistant United States Attorney and dismissed in the U.S. District Court) in 2020;
  • $45,001 seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Cleveland, Ohio, who returned $45,001 in 2020;
  • $52,620 seized by DEA at the Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport but the full amount was returned six (6) months in 2019;
  • $30,000 seized in 2019 at the Tampa International Airport and all $30,000 was returned;
  • $30,000.00 seized at an airport in San Francisco but $29,375.89 was returned;
  • $13,260 seized at the Orlando International Airport and $13,260 returned within six (6) months;
  • $13,227 seized by a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) at the Tampa International Airport and only $11,892 returned (after we alleged that some of the money had been stolen and was never found by HSI).

Defenses to Civil Asset Forfeiture Actions at the Airport

Your attorney can help you assert defenses in order to convince the attorneys working for the government that it would be better to return the money or property to you without further delay.

Defenses that can be raised by the civil asset forfeiture defense attorney include:

  • an unlawful interrogation;
  • illegal detention of the subject from the inception;
  • illegally prolonged detention;
  • illegal search and seizure without a warrant;
  • lack of nexus defense;
  • an innocent owner defense;
  • an excessive fine defense:
  • statute of limitations;
  • showing a legitimate source or use;
  • insufficient evidence;
  • conflict in the evidence; or
  • unreliable K-9 evidence.

We can help you negotiate the return of your money or other property. The amount of money the government is willing to return will depend on the strength or weakness of your case.

When you hire a Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney, make sure they are able to fight the case to the end. The best settlements usually occur early in the case or right before an adversarial preliminary hearing or at trial.


Busiest Airports in Florida for Cash Seizures

With offices in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, we fight cash seizures at airports throughout Florida and the United States. We are familiar with the best ways to fight seizures of cash at the following airports:

We also represent clients for incidents at the reliever airports including all of the reliever airports in the Tampa Bay Area including:

  • Albert Whitted Airport (SPG SPG KSPG) in St. Petersburg
  • Tampa Executive Airport (was Vandenberg Airport) (VDF KVDF); and
  • Peter O. Knight Airport  (TPF TPF KTPF) in Tampa, FL.

How to Get Your Cash Back After an Airport Seizure

In each of the past three years, federal agents with CBP have seized more than $60 million in cash from international travelers. Many of these seizures of money occur at airports. These takings have become known as the “jetway robbery.”

If you are traveling within the United States, there is no legal limit to the amount of currency that you may carry at any given time. But if you carry a large amount of currency, then state or federal agents might try and seize it during a traffic stop on the roadway, at a port of entry, bus station, train station, or airport.

Seizures at the airport in Florida are particularly common during the screening process at a security checkpoint before boarding.

Instruments used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) during the screening process can detect the amount of currency in your carry-on or checked luggage. Even handheld detectors get signals from the strips in dollar bills. When the strips are stacked together, the signal is even stronger.

If you have more than $10,000.00 in cash, even for a domestic flight in or out of a Florida airport, it might result in federal agents detaining you and seizing any money in your possession.

Did you know that TSA is not allowed to seize money? When TSA discovers large amounts of bundled currency in a carry-on bag during the screening process at the security checkpoint, TSA might secretly tip off a law enforcement officer who can swoop in and begin an investigation. The law enforcement officer might cover up the fact that the tip came from TSA and instead claim the detention was “random.”

Although you are not required to make any statement, many people start talking soon after the detention begins. When the federal agency encounters a story that doesn’t make sense, they might just seize the money.

Because many people don’t immediately contest the seizure, federal agents have figured out an easy way to separate large amounts of money from suspected drug smugglers, money laundering, or bulk cash smuggling suspects.

After the seizure of money from a person at the airport, the agents will often write you a receipt for an “undisclosed amount of U.S. Currency” before depositing the cash into an “Asset Forfeiture Fund” managed by the Department of Justice.

You are then provided with an opportunity to contest the seizure of the referenced currency in the United States District Court.

How do you get seized money back after a seizure at the airport? Although you have the option to petition for remission or mitigation, those administrative options don’t work.

Instead, talk to an attorney about “filing a claim” for court action (sometimes called “early judicial intervention”). We can explain how to get seized money back from the airport.

Call us at 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.


Indicators of Drug Trafficking or Bulk Cash Smuggling

Federal agents at the airport are looking for the following indicators of drug trafficking or bulk cash smuggling which might involve:

  • traveling with a one-way ticket;
  • buying that ticket at the counter or within 72 hours of the departure;
  • flying to a state where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes such as Colorado or California;
  • using cash to buy the plane ticket;
  • using another individual to purchase the plant ticket;
  • not having any lodging arrangements;
  • artfully concealing U.S. currency in carry-on luggage;
  • providing inconsistent statements regarding the currency;
  • having no verifiable source of income;
  • possessed evidence of structuring activity;
  • having a criminal record; and/or
  • being a male between the age of 18 and 39 years old.

When cash is seized, the agents are often looking for a young man traveling to California who recently purchased a one-way airline ticket.

The agents assume that the person is coming into a state where marijuana is legal to purchase a large amount of marijuana that can be brought back to their home state where it can be sold on the black market for a large profit.


Obtaining Surveillance Video from the Tampa International Airport

The authorities at the airport, including the Tampa International Airport, never make it easy to obtain video surveillance evidence. For this reason, you need an attorney to quickly send the appropriate letters to identify and preserve the evidence.

In Florida, the Airport Authorities retain surveillance video for 30 days per the Florida Department of State retention schedule. The retention policy provides:

GS1-SL ITEM # GS1-SL – RECORDS SERIES TITLE DESCRIPTION RETENTION

302 SURVEILLANCE RECORDINGS –

This record series consists of surveillance recordings created to monitor activities occurring inside and/or outside of public buildings and/or on public property (including in public vehicles such as school buses and municipal buses, and in public roadways such as intersections monitored by red light cameras).

Since these recordings may play an integral part in prosecution or disciplinary actions, agencies are responsible for ensuring that internal management policies are in place establishing criteria for which images should be retained for further investigation. 30 days.

You can find the entire schedule on the Florida Department of State website.

If you make a request for video surveillance, the authorities at the Tampa International Airport and Central Records will claim that the video is both a component of and reveals part of Tampa International Airport’s security system or surveillance techniques and thus is confidential and exempt from public disclosure under Florida Statute Sections 119.071(2)(d), 119.071(3)(a), 281.301 and/or 331.22.

Note also, if applicable, active criminal investigative information is also exempt under Section 119.071(2).

If the video also involves the checkpoint area, it contains sensitive security information controlled by 49 CFR Parts 15 and 1520 or other pertinent state or federal statutes. As such and in accordance with those statutes, the Airport Authority will only disclose the requested video to you upon a showing of good cause before a court of competent jurisdiction.

Until you obtain such a court order, you should file the appropriate demand to preserve the video that has been retained until that time. Read more about seizures of money at the airport in Orlando, FL, and the best way to preserve the video at that airport.

If you are wondering how to get the seized money back from the airport, then contact us to find out the importance of obtaining the surveillance video from the airport authorities.


The Typical Airport Seizure of Currency Case

Many of these seizures of currency cases involve an alleged “consensual encounter” at the airport between the traveler and law enforcement officers. The officer might approach the traveler while wearing plain clothes.

The officer might report saying that the traveler is not under arrest and is free to continue with his travel. The report will allege that the traveler did one or more of the following:

  • spoke with the agent;
  • complied with the agent’s request to produce identification;
  • engaged in conversation;
  • explained where he was traveling from and to;
  • answered questions about whether the tickets were purchased with cash or purchased by another person;
  • admitted not having lodging arrangements in the destination city;
  • gave free and voluntary consent to search his luggage;
  • acknowledged having a large stack of currency wrapped with rubber bands and consisting of all $100 bill denomination or smaller denominations;
  • made other statements about where the money came from that were determined to be inconsistent.

Before terminating the encounter, the officer will then tell the traveler that it suspects the currency was related to controlled substances and will be detained pending further investigation.

The officer might report that a canine (K9) trained to alert to the presence of controlled substances alerted in a positive manner to the currency.

The report might allege that the final count of the currency seized from traveler’s luggage by a financial institution determined that the traveler was in possession of a large amount of currency. The referenced currency is then subjected to forfeiture proceedings under 21 U.S.C. § 881.


Choosing Between an Administrative or Judicial Forfeiture

You have the opportunity to challenge the forfeiture. The federal agents hope you take no action or choose an administrative forfeiture. The better course of action is challenging the taking in a judicial forfeiture. The judicial forfeiture is triggered by filling the verified claim for court action.

The agency then sends the demand to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Assistant United States Attorney in the forfeiture unit then has only 90 days to decide whether the property should be returned or whether a complaint for forfeiture should be filed in the U.S. District Court.

Going along with administrative forfeiture proceedings is a bad idea because they are handled in-house by the same agency that took the money. These administrative forfeitures do not take place in a courtroom and no judge will ever see the case.

For administrative forfeiture, you get none of the protections contained in the rules of evidence or the rules of procedure that normally accompany a lawsuit. The agents prefer the administrative forfeiture challenges for all of these reasons.

On the other hand, judicial forfeiture proceedings requires the filing of a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court where the rules of evidence and the rules of procedure apply. More importantly, requesting a court action might trigger the State Attorney’s Office to decline to file a forfeiture action which is the quickest way to get all of the money back.


The Notice of Seizure after Money is Seized at the Airport by DEA or ICE Agents

If the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”) seized the cash, then they will issue a “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence” (Form 6051S). The custody receipt includes an “FPF” number that allows the case to be tracked by the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Office of Customs (“FP&F”) for the airport where the cash seizure occurred.
If the CBP agent had you sign a DHS Form 4607 entitled “Notice of Abandonment of Assent to Forfeiture of Prohibited or Seized Merchandise,” then they might not send you a notice at all. The DHS Form 4607 cites 19 CFR Part 162. Even if you were forced to sign the HDS Form 4607, you can still make a verified claim for the property and fight your case.
Your verified claim then invalidates your signature on the “notice of abandonment or assent to forfeiture of seized property.”

If DEA or ICE agents took your money at the airport, you are entitled to due process of law which means a fair hearing to contest the legality of the taking of your cash or other property.

If your cash or property is taken, the agents are required to issue you a receipt and then a notice of seizure. The notice of seizure must be issued to any interested person to notify them of the seizure and give them a chance to file a claim.

An interested party can include anyone who has a legal right to claim the seized asset including the owner of the property or a lienholder.

Under 18 U.S.C. 983(a)(1)(A), the government has 60 days from the date of the seizure of your cash at the airport to send you a Notice of Seizure. When the property is seized by a local or state law enforcement agency, the deadline can be extended to 90 days.

If the notice of seizure is not provided within the applicable timeline, then the government must immediately return the property. If the government actually files a Civil Forfeiture lawsuit before the 60 or 90-day deadline expires then the Administrative Forfeiture process ends and the Judicial Forfeiture process begins.


What is the Deadline to File a Claim for Immediate Judicial Intervention?

If the government sends you a notice of seizure within the 60 or 90-day deadline, then any party with an interest in the property has 35 days to file a claim. The 35-day deadline begins when the notice was mailed.

If the required claim is not RECEIVED within that 35 day period, then the government gets to keep all of the money under an administrative forfeiture action. If the proper claim is filed within the 35 day period, then the government only has ninety (90) days thereafter to do the following:

  • return the cash or property to the person making the claim;
  • filing a civil forfeiture lawsuit in the district court; or
  • obtain a criminal indictment showing that the property is subject to forfeiture.

Keep in mind that a civil forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction, instead, the government must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is subject to forfeiture.


Problems with Filing a Petition for Remission or Mitigation

The main problem with trying to file a petition for remission or mitigation is that the case will then be decided by a Senior Attorney (including Carmen R. Pomares) with the Asset Forfeiture Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice.

If you file a petition for remission or mitigation regarding the seizure of money or other property, the DEA might simply deny the petition because it fails to meet the requirements for remission or mitigation. 28 C.F.R. Part 9 (2017).

Federal regulations explicitly prohibit remission of forfeiture unless the petitioner establishes the following:

  1. A valid, good faith, and legally cognizable interest in the seized property as an owner or lienholder; and
  2. Qualification as an “innocent owner” within the meaning of the applicable civil forfeiture statute.

You should understand that the remission or mitigation of a forfeiture is neither a right nor a privilege, but an act of grace. In re the Matter of Sixty Seven Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Dollars ($67,467.00) v. United States, 901 F.2d 1540, 1543 (11th Cir. 1990); Laconia Savings Bank v. United States of America, 116 F. Supp. 2d 248 (2000).

A Petition for Remission and Mitigation “does not serve to contest the forfeiture, but rather is a request for executive pardon of the property based upon the petitioner’s innocence or, for a wrongdoer, on a plea of leniency.” United States v. Vega, 72 F.3d 507, 514 (7th Cir. 1995).

A decision with respect to remission or mitigation of a forfeiture is made solely at the discretion of the Attorney General. See 21 U.S.C. § 881 (d) (2017); 19 U.S.C. § 1618 (2017).

The Attorney General and the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have delegated the authority to determine the merits of such petitions to the Asset Forfeiture Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice. 28 C.F.R. §§0.100 (b), 0.104; 28 C.F.R. §9.1 (b).

The Senior Attorney with the Asset Forfeiture Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice acts as the Ruling Official and considers whether the evidence is sufficient for forfeiture.

The attorney with the DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Section starts with a presumption that a valid forfeiture occurred. 28 C.P.R. § 9.5 (a) (4).


The Petition for Remission or Mitigation Terminates Any Change for Judicial Review

The decision of Carmen R. Pomares or another Senior Attorney with the DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Section on a petition for remission or mitigation is not thereafter subject to judicial review on its merits.

In United States v. One 1987 Jeep Wrangler Automobile, 972 F.2d 472,479 (2d Cir. 1992), the court found that the “overwhelming weight of authority supports the position that a federal court lacks jurisdiction to review the merits of administrative forfeiture decisions once the administrative process has begun.” United States v. Hewett, (S.D.N.Y. 2003) 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9812; Walker v. DEA, (S.D.N.Y. 2003) 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14958.

In other words, once the administrative process has begun, a federal district court generally does not have subject matter jurisdiction to review the merits of an administrative forfeiture decision. Dawson v. The Drug Enforcement Administration, 927 F. Supp. 748 (1996).


Reasons the Petition for Remission is Denied

The petitioner has the burden of establishing the basis for granting a petition for remission or mitigation of forfeited property. See Regulations Governing the Remission or Mitigation of Civil and Criminal Forfeiture, 28 C.P.R. § 9.5 (a) (3). See 19 U.S.C. § 1618 (The Attorney General may return the property if he finds mitigating circumstances to justify the remission.).

At the time of seizure, there was sufficient probable cause to believe the currency represents proceeds from the illicit sale of controlled substances and/or was used or intended to be used to facilitate illicit controlled substance transactions in violation of21 U.S.C. § 881 (a) (6).

The petition is often found to be devoid of any type of documentation to establish that the referenced currency was derived from legitimate sources. Pursuant to 28 C.F.R. §§ 9.3 (c)(iv) and 9.5 (a)(3), a petitioner bears the burden of establishing the basis for granting the petition. Failure to provide the required information may be cause for the denial of the petition.

For these reasons, the attorney with the DEA will often find that the Petitioner has not provided sufficient documentation to support a legitimate source for the referenced currency.

Examples of documentation that would show sufficient documentation to support a legitimate source for the reference currency would include employment, tax, bank, or other documentation that would establish the petitioner had legitimate sources of income.


Whether Extenuating Circumstances Warrant Mitigation of the Forfeiture

Even when the petition does not meet the minimum conditions for remission, as a matter of discretion, the attorney for the DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Section will re-examined the petition to determine whether extenuating circumstances exist that warrant mitigation of the forfeiture. 28 C.F.R. § 9.5 (b).

In many of these cases, the attorney for the Asset Forfeiture Section of the DEA will conclude that the petitioner has failed to adequately demonstrate that any mitigating factors exist to justify any relief from the forfeiture.


Eighth Amendment Prohibitions Against Excessive Punishments

The attorney for the DEA will also review the facts of this case to determine if the forfeiture would be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive punishments, as discussed in Austin v. United States, 113 S. Ct. 2801 (1993).

The DEA attorney will determine that the administrative forfeiture was entirely proportional to the offense, considering the substantial connection between the forfeited property and the offense.

In addition, the correct forum in which to challenge the constitutionality of the forfeiture is Federal District Court. Since the Petitioner failed to contest this forfeiture judicially, this option is no longer open. United States v. Giraldo, 45 F.3d 509 (1st Cir. 1995); Caraballo v. Drug Enforcement Administration, 62 Fed. Appx. 362, 363 (2003).


Reconsideration of the DEA’s Decision to Deny Remission or Mitigation

The Petitioner may request reconsideration of any decision. 28 C.F.R. § 9.3 (j). Only one request for reconsideration shall be considered. Any request for reconsideration must be based on information or evidence not previously considered.

This new information or evidence must be material to the basis for this denial or must present a basis clearly demonstrating that the denial is erroneous. Requests must be postmarked or received by this office within 10 days of your receipt of the letter informing you of the decision.

Further correspondence with this office must include the DEA Case and Asset ID numbers referenced above and be addressed to: Carmen R. Pomares or the Forfeiture Counsel assigned to the case with the Asset Forfeiture Section, Drug Enforcement Administration, HQs Response, 8701 Morrissette Drive, Springfield, Virginia 22152.


Seizure of Unreported Currency at the Airport

If your money was seized by officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) then you are not alone. On a typical day in 2017, CBP officers around the country seized $265,205 in undeclared or illicit currency. Many of these cases involved the seizure of unreported currency at airports.

Travelers may carry as much currency as they wish into and out of the United States and it is not taxed at the port of entry. However, federal law requires that travelers who are carrying more than $10,000 in currency or monetary instruments must report it to a CBP officer and complete a U.S. Treasury Department financial form.

To find unreported exportations of bulk U.S. currency, CBP performs outbound inspections to find the proceeds from alleged illicit activity or currency that funds transnational criminal organizations.

If your money was seized by federal agents for the failure to report currency, by agents with Homeland Security Investigations, then contact an experienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm.


What Happens to the Money Seized at the Tampa International Airport

Under provisions of the U.S. Department of Treasury Guide to Equitable Sharing for Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, state forfeiture funds shared with local law enforcement agencies must be expended for law enforcement purposes.

Likewise, the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (FCFA) authorizes law enforcement agencies to use the proceeds collected under the FCFA for authorized law enforcement purposes as well.


Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement for Airport Seizures

Is a warrant needed before the authorities can seize money at the airport for civil asset forfeiture? Yes, unless an exception found in 18 U.S. Code § 981(b)(2) applies.

18 U.S. Code § 981(b)(2) provides:

Seizures pursuant to this section shall be made pursuant to a warrant obtained in the same manner as provided for a search warrant under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, except that a seizure may be made without a warrant if—
(A) a complaint for forfeiture has been filed in the United States district court and the court issued an arrest warrant in rem pursuant to the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims;
(B) there is probable cause to believe that the property is subject to forfeiture and—
(i) the seizure is made pursuant to a lawful arrest or search; or
(ii) another exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement would apply; or
(C) the property was lawfully seized by a State or local law enforcement agency and transferred to a Federal agency.


Is a warrant needed to search a suitcase at the airport?

Law enforcement officers will often allege that a positive K9 alert or consent provides a lawful basis for a search of luggage at the airport. The standard conditions of most airlines have a condition of carriage that requires the traveler to consent to an inspection of luggage.

For example, one of the standard conditions of America Airline’s conditions off carriage previously provided:

“[t]o fly on American, you must…[a]llow your baggage to be inspected by Customs, the TSA or other government officials” and “[a]llow you and your bags to be searched for explosives, dangerous weapons or banned substances.”


Additional Resources

DEA Asset Forfeiture Section – The Asset Forfeiture Section provides legal advice on a variety of issues related to criminal, civil, and administrative asset forfeiture. Attorneys in the asset forfeiture section of the Office of Chief Counsel in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) review pre-seizure probable cause determinations for legal sufficiency and to ensure that due process is provided to all parties with a legal interest in the seized property. Attorneys provide legal advice and support to DEA management and field offices worldwide. These attorneys also rule on petitions for remission or mitigation of forfeiture. Attorneys in the asset forfeiture section represent DEA agents in confidential informant lawsuits, reviewing relevant sections of DEA and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy, and draft legal memoranda analyzing issues inherent in asset forfeiture matters. The attorney also responds to daily inquiries regarding proper processing and disposition of seized and forfeited assets, prepares litigation reports supporting probable cause determinations for judicial forfeiture cases, and drafts declarations to support litigation positions. The attorney works with DEA and other law enforcement personnel to support the U.S. Attorney’s Offices with judicial forfeiture cases, assists DEA personnel working with other Federal agencies, communicates with private attorneys, strengthens drug-related investigations and pre-seizure planning, serves as a liaison between DEA Agents and federal prosecutors, and provides legal instruction to domestic and international asset forfeiture personnel.

Field Office of the CBP in Tampa, FL – Visit the website of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to find the contact information for the Field Office in Tampa, FL, at 1624 East Seventh Avenue, Suite 300, in Tampa, FL 33605. The phone number is (813) 712-6100. The field office is opened from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday. The press office is managed by Michael Silva.

Forfeiture Funds for Tampa International Airport Police Department – At a recent board meeting of the Tampa International Airport Aviation Authority held on February 6, 2020, at 9:00 a.m., in Boardroom Level 3 at Tampa International Airport, the board authorized the expenditure of state forfeiture funds. Under Authority Standard Procedure 5440.14, expenditures from State forfeiture funds can be made only after approval from Legal Affairs and the Authority Board. At a board meeting, it was discussed that Legal Affairs reviewed the request and agreed with the expenditures. In 2017, the board authorized the expenditure of State forfeiture funds to be used by the Tampa International Airport Police Department (TIAPD) in an amount not-to-exceed $5,000 for the purchase of critical incident management training. The item was included in the State Forfeiture Funds Budget. In 2020, the board authorized the expenditure of Federal forfeiture funds to be used by the Tampa International Airport Police Department for a maximum purchase authorization of $19,460.80 for the purchase of police carrier vests.

Jetway Robbery? Homeland Security and Cash Seizures at Airport – Visit the website of the Institute for Justice (IJ) to find an article explaining why Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents seizure money, cash, and U.S. Currency from unsuspecting travelers on both domestic and international flights. The study uses data from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture database, the “Seized Assets and Case Tracking System” (SEACATS) from 2000 through 2016.


Finding an Attorney for Airport Currency Seizure in Florida

If you were the victim of “Jetway Robbery” after your currency was seized at the airport or a port of entry, then contact an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney at Sammis Law Firm with offices in downtown Tampa, FL.

The agencies involved in the seizure of currency for forfeiture include:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
  • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI);
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); or
  • local law enforcement agencies.

We can help you understand how to fight the seizure of your currency at an Amtrak train station, port of entry, bus station, through the mail, or at an airport.  Whether your cash was taken before a domestic or international flight we can help.

We also represent clients who are arrested at the airport for carrying a concealed weapon or other contraband. Read more about attorneys fighting a DEA seizure and forfeiture case.

Call 813-250-0500.


This article was last updated on Friday, September 3, 2021.

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Sammis Law Firm 1005 N. Marion St. Tampa, FL 33602 » Get Directions

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