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Seizures at the Fort Lauderdale Airport

What happens if you travel to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and DEA or other federal law enforcement officers seize your U.S. currency (cash or money)? An attorney at Sammis Law Firm can help you fight to get the money back quickly.

When U.S. currency is seized for civil asset forfeiture, it rarely results in an arrest or prosecution. Instead, the seizure is a civil matter based on a suspicion that the money is used for the drug trade or in a money-laundering scheme.

Act quickly to find an attorney experienced in immediately filing a claim for court action or early judicial intervention.

When money is seized at the airport, the person seizing the money is usually a law enforcement officer with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office or a federal agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Sometimes a detective at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office will seize the cash but then the action will be adopted by the DEA or CBP for forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 881.

Attorneys for Seizures at the Fort Lauderdale Airport (FFL)

If agents with DEA, HSI, CBP, or the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) Narcotics Interdiction Task Force, seized your money at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FFL), then contact the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm.

Our attorneys fight seizures involving an allegation that the money was being used for the drug trade as drug proceeds or money suspected to be used to facilitate a drug transaction. The allegations of bulk cash smuggling might also allege that the cash was intended for money laundering.

Find out why we get a court order for the surveillance video from the airport to show the detention was illegal from the inception, the detention was prolonged, the seizure was illegal, or that the traveler was coerced into making a statement. The airports have very short retention policies for those videos, so you must act quickly.

Although you are not required to make a statement, many people start talking when they are detained by law enforcement officers or federal agents. The authorities will ask about where the money came from and the reason for the trip.

Call the federal asset forfeiture attorneys at Sammis Law Firm if your money was seized at any airport in Florida.

Call 813-250-0500.

Forfeiture Actions under Title 18 U.S.C. § 983

Any of the following agencies might be involved in the seizure of large sums of money at the airport:

  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

Additionally, customs agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations manage the U.S. borders at the official ports of entry, including at Florida’s international airports.

After the seizure by an agent with DEA, CBP, or HSI, an attorney can help you file a claim for court action (sometimes called “early judicial intervention).

Under Title 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(3)(A), that claim then triggers a 90 day deadline during which an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) has to either file a complaint for forfeiture or return the money.

If the AUSA doesn’t return the money or file the complaint for forfeiture, then your attorney can file a complaint in the federal court to force the return of the money.

The claim for early judicial intervention can be filed immediately after the seizure (even the next day). You do NOT have to wait 60 days for the notice to arrive in the mail. In other words, your attorney can help you file the claim quickly which then triggers the 90-day deadline for court action.

The claim for court action filed by your attorneys is the ONLY way to challenge the forfeiture and shows that the claimant owns the money seized. The DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Section of the Office of Operations Management will then be forced to refer the case to the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.

Don’t use any type of remission or mitigation administrative procedure because they rarely work. The problem with the administrative procedures for remission or mitigation is that you are essentially asking the agency to issue a “pardon” to release the property but no contesting the validity of the seizure.

Using the administrative procedures might also cause you to waive your right to demand court action (early judicial intervention).

Forfeiture Hold Property Receipt from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office

For smaller amounts of money, a detective with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office might seize the cash and issue a receipt “property receipt” for a “forfeiture hold.”

The receipt might list “U.S. Currency” and reference a “hand count” for a specified amount or simply say “undetermined amount.” The money might then be put in a “clear self-seal” bag and taken to the bank.

The receipt contains an acknowledgment section that provides:

I hereby acknowledge the above list represents all the property taken from my possession and that if my property is taken and listed a Prisoner Property or Safekeeping, then I must contact the Broward Sheriff’s Office Evidence Unit within sixty (60) days or my items will be considered abandoned and disposed of Pursuant to Florida Statute Chapter 705. Evidence Unit can be contacted at 954-765-4351.

An attorney at Sammis Law Firm can help you challenge money taken at the airport by detectives with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office or federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

If law enforcement officers seized your property in a civil asset forfeiture proceeding in Broward County, then call us to find out how to get the property back.

This article was last updated on Thursday, April 30, 2020.

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