Seizure of Unlawfully Imported Merchandise

While importing merchandise, a seizing inspector might determine that the visas included in the entry packet were counterfeit. Other problems might include merchandise marked “Made in the U.S.A.” although the entry documents indicated they were made overseas.

The Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) often holds the property. If U.S. Customs finds a violation, it might place the merchandise on hold for “intensive examination” before seizing the property under 19 U.S.C. 1595a(c)(3).

The merchandise subject to seizure might include:

  • goods that aid or facilitate the illegal importation of merchandise;
  • undeclared, unreported, or smuggled merchandise;
  • the non-reporting of currency over $10,000;
  • restricted merchandise because of CPSC, FDA, or Quota;
  • prohibited merchandise that qualified as counterfeit or a controlled substance.

Attorney for Seizure of Imported / Exported Merchandise in Florida

An attorney can help you file a petition and claim with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The petition should be filed within 30 days of the date of the Seizure Notice. We also file a claim within 30 days to speed up the process because the petitions are typically denied.

The petition contains the factual and legal arguments establishing that the merchandise entered or exported is consistent with U.S. law. Filing the petition might help you get the merchandise back and waive or mitigate the penalties, although such relief is rare. A full remission might be obtained, but that result is also very rare before the filing of a claim for court action.

In other cases, the remission might be contingent on the completion of certain conditions of release set forth by the U.S. Customs Service, Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures office.

We understand the rules agents must follow when seizing property. If the agents don’t follow their own rules, it might lead to a fast return of the property.

If federal agents in central Florida seized your property, contact a civil asset forfeiture attorney in Tampa, FL, at Sammis Law Firm. We can help you file a claim or petition to demand the property be returned.

Your attorney can help contest the legality of the initial seizure or cooperate with Customs (or agency officials) while protecting your rights.

Call 813-250-0500.

Mitigating and Aggravating Factors for Importing Violations

How the case is resolved might depend on various mitigating and aggravating factors. Mitigating factors might include:

  • any prior good record;
  • inexperience in importing; and
  • cooperation with Customs (or agency officials) in ascertaining the facts establishing the violation.

Aggravating factors include:

  • any criminal conviction relating to the subject transaction;
  • repetitive violations of the same import restriction involved in the seizure (even for violations for which no seizures had been made); and
  • evidence of intentional importation contrary to law.

Showing Special Circumstances for the Importing Violation

If your property was seized, an attorney can help you demand the return of the merchandise.  Several factors impact the disposition of imported merchandise seized under section 1595a(c). Those factors include a showing that the sole cause of the introduction was a mistake of fact or clerical error as defined under 19 C.F.R. 162.71(c), (d)).

If the attempted introduction contrary to law results from either a mistake of fact or clerical error, the U.S. Customs Services Office of Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures office should remit the seizure in full.

Additionally, your attorney might be able to show extenuating circumstances that would lead to remission being granted in full when justified by the equities relating to the violation for which the seizure was made.

In other words, your attorney might be able to show that “extenuating circumstances” justify granting remission in full.

Notice of Seizure of Imported Merchandise Violations

Form 22-7, ENF 4-04 NF, operates as a “Notice of Seizure.” The Paralegal Specialist at FP&F issues the Seizure Notice. The form provides the following:

Dear _________:

The record of the U,.S. Custom Services Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures, indicate that you might have an interest in certain merchandise seized by U. S. Customs in Florida on ________.

The merchandise was seized under the provisions of title 19, United States Code, section 1595a(c), because it was introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law. 19 U.S. Code § 1595 concerns aiding unlawful importation.

The appraised domestic value of the merchandise is ____________

Under the provisions of title 19, United States Code, section 1618, you may petition for relief from the above liability.

The enclosed notice of seizure and information for claimants explains your options with regard to the remission of the forfeiture seized property.

If you do wish to petition for relief from the forfeiture, you must provide an express agreement to defer judicial or administrative forfeiture proceedings until completion of the administrative process.∂

Completion of the enclosed Election of Proceedings form will provide this express agreement.

All petitions should be filed, in triplicate, within the time specified in the notice to the address for the U.S. Customs Service, Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures, contained in the notice.

Sometimes, the Supervisory Paralegal Specialist with the Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures Staff of the U.S. Customs Service might agree to Conditions For Early Release. That letter provides:

It has been determined that the merchandise described in this seizure will be released upon payment of __________.

This amount for an early release will be accepted in cash, irrevocable letter of credit for a one year period, check or money order. Any outstanding liens must be satisfied and labor and storage charges must be paid.

Read more about the failure to properly disclose merchandize with CBP.

19 U.S. Code § 1595 concerns aiding unlawful importation.

Subsection (c) of Section 1595a provides:

(c) Merchandise introduced contrary to law – Merchandise which is introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law shall be treated as follows:

(1) The merchandise shall be seized and forfeited if it—

(A) is stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported or introduced;

(B) is a controlled substance, as defined in the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), and is not imported in accordance with applicable law;

(C) is a contraband article, as defined in section 80302 of title 49; or

(D) is a plastic explosive, as defined in section 841(q) of title 18, which does not contain a detection agent, as defined in section 841(p) of such title.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, February 20, 2024.