Customs Seizure Lawyers

The Customs Seizure Lawyers at the National Security Law Firm assists individuals in the filing of administrative petitions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) with respect to seized goods and currency and obtaining the release of their property from CBP.

Since this is a federal practice area, the Customs Seizure Lawyers at the National Security Law Firm represent clients in this process nationwide.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) is authorized to seize goods or currency for violations of various customs laws and regulations. If CBP finds a customs violation, they will seize the subject goods and transfer them to a bonded warehouse. Forfeitures of seized goods or currency are handled by a department known as Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures (FP&F).

Election of Proceedings Form

After FP&F reviews the case, they will issue a “Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants.” This notice will identify the goods seized, state the location where the goods were seized, and will advise you of the options available to you concerning the seizure.  The Notice of Seizure will also include a document titled an “Election of Proceedings.” This important document lists four options, which are described in further detail below, and must be returned to the FP&F office. The Election of Proceedings Form advises Customs which of the four options you would like to pursue regarding your seized property.

You can only choose one of the four options on the Election of Proceedings form. Moreover, you should not sign and return the completed form without a full understanding of each of the four options.

Those options are as follows.

Option 1: Filing a Petition with Customs

Your first option is to file a petition with the FP&F office seeking to cancel the pending forfeiture. The petition should include proof that you own the subject property and must persuasively articulate why the subject goods or currency should be relieved from forfeiture. If you choose this option, your case will be administratively processed by the CBP, as opposed to beginning the formal, judicial forfeiture proceedings. You must file your petition under this option within 30 days of the date of the Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants.

If you disagree with the petition decision, you will have 60 days to request judicial action. If you fail to act within those time frames, CBP may forfeit the property.

Your petition should include legal argument and apply the relevant case law to the facts of your specific case and, where necessary, cite to CBP’s Mitigation Guidelines. The Petition should also provide an explanation of the factual events leading to the seizure.

Perhaps most importantly, your petition should be carefully worded.  For example, you should be careful not to make any incriminating statements or admissions that you broke the law.  Once you admit things in the petition, you cannot take them back and the CBP will certainly use your admissions to justify its decision to keep your property.  Thus, you should retain an experienced Customs Seizure Lawyer to navigate the complex issues involved with regard to preventing you from disclosing unnecessary or even harmful information versus providing enough information to the CBP to return your seized property.

Option 2: Offer in Compromise

Your second option is to file what is known as an “Offer in Compromise.”  An Offer in Compromise is a request that CBP takes less than the full value of the seized goods or currency in exchange for avoiding the expenses associated with defending a challenge to the forfeiture (either administratively or judicially) and the risk that the challenge will be successful. Essentially, it is similar to making a settlement offer to the government.  The regulations concerning offers in compromise, however, must be strictly complied with.

Offers in Compromise must be written, include payment, and must expressly state that they are being made under the relevant statute – 19 U.S.C. § 1617. Offers in Compromise should be made under the advice and guidance of an experienced Customs Seizure Lawyer.

As noted on the Notice of Seizure and Information to Claimants letter, this option may delay the case.  This is because the law governing offers in compromise requires a full investigation into your case in order to determine the chances of forfeiture success.

An Offer in Compromise can be filed at any time prior to forfeiture.

Option 3. Abandon

Abandoning your interest does just that. It relinquishes your interest in the property.  The government will then proceed with forfeiture proceedings without further involving you.

Option 4. Judicial Action

Your fourth option is to take the matter directly for formal court action. In order to do so, you will need to fill out the seized asset claim form and post a cost bond equal to 10% of the value of the seized merchandise, or $5,000, whichever is lower.  The case will then be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the institution of judicial forfeiture proceedings in federal court.

Nationwide Customs Seizure Lawyers

If you have received a Notice of Seizure, contact the nationwide Customs Seizure Lawyers at the National Security Law Firm today.  We will advise you as to what option is best given your circumstances. In most cases, we find that filing a petition with CBP, and resolving the issue administratively, is the best option. This is because it is the quickest and cheapest method to prevent forfeiture.  That being said, there are times when making an Offer of Compromise or instituting formal judicial proceedings is best.

Contact the Customs Seizure Lawyers at the National Security Law firm today for a free consultation in order to learn which option makes the most sense for your particular case.

We will aggressively pursue a full return of the goods or currency seized, or, when the circumstances require it, make a strong argument for the return of all but a very small portion as a fine or penalty, rather than a complete forfeiture.

Contact us today at (202) 600-4996 for a free consultation.


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