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As you may know, since September 11, 2001, security screening by TSA has increased beyond measure. The intensified security was put in place in order to prevent the smuggling of controlled substances and dangerous weapons in airplanes.

To that end, the Government requires any person who is traveling across any international border while possession of currency or monetary instruments valued at $10,000 or more to file a Currency or Monetary Instrument Report (CMIR) 31 USC 5316. The CMIR is filed using a form that is provided by airport authorities and/or the airline. Failure to make such a report when leaving or entering the United States is considered a federal crime under 31 USC 5324(b).

This law permits federal agents to seize any unreported monies, regardless of whether the money was generated from legal activities or from crime proceeds.  Simply put, if you are traveling an international flight AND in possession of property or cash $10,000 or more, you must report it, or risk seizure and subsequent forfeiture This law offers no distinction between individuals. 31 USC 5324

If you fail to comply with the reporting requires and TSA finds cash in your possession (in your pockets, luggage or purse), you will be escorted to a private room where you’ll be interviewed by federal officers about the source and intended purpose of the cash. In most cases, even though you most likely won’t be arrested, the prolonged questioning/investigation will probably cause you to miss your flight. In most instances, the cash will be seized and transferred from the Centralized Examination Station to an official warehouse. Often times, even if the money is released at a later time, storage fees are often imposed.

If your money is seized, in order to get it back, you must prove that; (1) it was obtained through legal sources and (2) that it was intended for legal use.  No matter how unfair the seizure of your cash or property is, meeting the burden of proof and getting your money back this is harder than you think.

Travelers in airports are often distracted with various aspects of their trip, so if approached by a federal agent, you may unsuspectingly say something that can be used to justify the seizure and/or give consent to a search. If you are stopped, held and/or questioned by law enforcement officers regarding unreported assets, be careful what you say.  Be sure to tell the officers that you will only speak with them in the presence of your attorney and contact the Law Office of Ral Obioha, PLLC immediately! Remember, you are initially at a disadvantage – YOU have the burden of proving your innocence.

Time is of the essence! Call us today at (832) 569-1110 for a case evaluation!