Seizures of U.S. Currency at the Airport

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Airport Seizures Attorney in Dayton, OH

Federal, state, and local authorities have the right to seize your cash as you travel through Dayton International Airport. Sometimes an agent can catch a traveler off guard by asking questions for which the traveler is not prepared. Unwittingly, the traveler might consent to a search. Some agents, like those with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), have the power to conduct random searches, and they can seize your property, including cash, under specific conditions.

Usually, airport seizures in Dayton, Ohio, connect to federal cases, but they can be state or local, too. Each type of seizure requires that you work through a distinct, complex process to get your money returned to you.

Joslyn Law Firm’s lawyers understand the complexity of the airport seizures and forfeitures. We know how various airport agents monitor cash, and we know what they have the right to seize versus the types of seizures that violate travelers’ constitutional rights.

Furthermore, our lawyers are nationally recognized and locally respected. A slew of media outlets, including NBC4, ABC6, FOX28, WBNS10, The Plain Dealer, and The Columbus Dispatch, turn to Brian Joslyn for his expertise when they are covering stories about criminal law. Our clients benefit from this expertise.

Respected Lawyers With Experience in Seizures at Dayton Airports

Multiple scenarios could prompt government agents to seize your property. Some of these scenarios might surprise you. For example, if your international travel plans take you to Dayton International Airport with large sums of cash, you must adhere to certain rules that require you to report that cash. If you fail to report amounts over $10,000 using the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s FinCen Form 105, agents can seize your cash.

If this happened to you, you might feel as though your rights were violated—but this is not necessarily true. Our legal team can review your case and inform you either way. Regardless of what we find, take comfort in knowing that mechanisms do exist to help you reclaim your property, and we can navigate you through the process.

We Know How to Handle Civil Asset Forfeiture Cases

Our law firm’s civil asset forfeiture attorneys can handle your Dayton International Airport seizure. We have decades of experience—amounting to more than 20,000 criminal cases handled throughout Ohio—and in this time, we have developed strong relationships with key people, from judges and prosecutors to bailiffs and parole officers. We know the system, and we will use this knowledge to craft a compelling case on your behalf.

When you hire us to represent you in your airport seizure case, you will see why we have received so many acknowledgments and awards from the local community and from our peers in the legal profession.

Call us today for a free case evaluation (937) 356-3969.

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Airport Seizures in Dayton, OH, Information Center

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Overview of Airport Seizures in Dayton

Airport seizures fall under the realm of civil asset forfeitures. This differs from criminal asset forfeiture in two key aspects. Criminal asset forfeiture demands that law enforcement officers have a warrant before a person’s property can be searched and/or seized and that a person is convicted of a crime before the seized property can be forfeited.

In contrast, with civil asset forfeitures, law enforcement officers or federal agents can search, seize, and take forfeiture action on a person’s property without a warrant, charge, or conviction.

How the Government Justifies Airport Seizures

According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), civil asset forfeiture exists for the purposes of:

  • Deterring criminal activity
  • Punishing criminals
  • Disrupting criminal organizations
  • Separating criminals from the tools of their trade
  • Giving back to victims of crime
  • Protecting communities

U.S. Customs

Any of several government authorities can seize your property at the Dayton airport. We shall review these authorities here.

We have seen numerous highly publicized cases, especially in recent years, in which the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency seized cash at U.S. airports. This is the agency that enforces the requirement for travelers to report currency they are taking in or out of the country when the amount equals or exceeds $10,000. The rules are strict. If you travel in a group, you cannot divide the $10,000 amongst you to avoid reporting it.

Given the severe consequences of seizure and potential forfeiture, CBP is duty-bound to make sure all travelers understand the federal currency reporting requirement. The law expects agents to give you ample opportunity to report cash and monetary instruments in accordance with this requirement—before they examine your luggage.

Reasonable Suspicion

If DEA agents have a warrant, they can seize your cash at the airport or just about anywhere. Furthermore, under the rules of civil assets forfeiture (outlined in Ohio Revised Code § 2981.02), a federal agency can seize your property without a charge, much less a conviction.

This means that if a DEA agent sees you at the Dayton International Airport and suspects that you are somehow involved in illicit drug-related activity, the agent can search you and your bags and seize any property—including cash—that they believe to be linked to criminal activity.

With such a civil asset forfeiture, your property (your cash) is the defendant. Your property is not protected by the same rights you are as a person. If an agent or law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion to believe your currency is either the proceeds of a crime or has been or will be used to facilitate a crime, the agent or officer can seize the cash.

How Can These Seizures Not Be a Violation of Your Rights?

Anyone who has had their cash seized at an airport might very reasonably wonder how this warrantless seizure does not violate their Fourth Amendment rights (which guarantee protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government).

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, airport searches and seizures can sometimes constitute “exceptional circumstances” that render impractical the standard requirement for the warrant and probable cause. This exclusionary rule keeps these actions above board.

You Still Have Rights

Once your cash or other property has been seized, this does not mean you lose them forever. The police officer or agent who seized the property must notify you of their plans to proceed with a civil asset forfeiture action. Before you even receive this notice, you can get to work on reclaiming what belongs to you. Our civil asset forfeiture lawyers can submit an administrative forfeiture claim on your behalf.

We will also ensure that all filing deadlines are met and that we provide any supporting evidence that supports your claim. If your case requires further action, our legal team can file a claim for court action (judicial intervention). We will represent you through the trial proceedings, and we will work to dismantle the prosecution’s arguments, holding them to the legal test of proving with a preponderance of the evidence that your property is connected to criminal activity.

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Penalties for Airport Seizures in Dayton

The seizure and forfeiture of your cash and assets are considered penalties for crimes that you either have been convicted of committing or that authorities simply believe occurred. This punishment can prove financially devastating for a person.

However, when it comes to failing to report the transportation of currency or monetary instruments at the airport, you could face even great penalties. State and federal governments take this offense very seriously. If you do not report carrying $10,000 or more at the airport, you face a possible fine of up to $500,000, as well as up to 10 years in prison.

Additionally, if the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) finds you are carrying a firearm—whether it is loaded or unloaded—and have not reported the gun as per TSA requirements, you face paying stiff financial penalties.

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Defenses Against Airport Seizures in Ohio

Warrantless searches and seizures are a slippery legal slope, and it should come as no surprise that abuses of the laws that permit these actions are often abused. In 2014, The Washington Post reported that Ohio agencies had seized cash from more than 1,900 people since 9/11—all without warrants or indictments—and reaping almost nearly $140 million in equitable-sharing funds from the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to the Institute of Justice, three states have completely abolished civil forfeiture in response to these assaults on private property rights. Thirty-five additional states have reformed their civil forfeiture laws.

HB 347 Cuts Property Owners Some Much-Needed Slack

In 2017, Ohio joined the ranks of this reform, with former state Gov. John Kasich signing a bill requiring a criminal conviction before the government can take civil forfeiture action. The new legislation, House Bill 347, established that criminal conviction must precede the forfeiture of any properties with a value of less than $15,000.

Because the state’s asset forfeiture laws primarily aim to thwart and punish drug trafficking and other criminal organizations, this threshold would seem to preserve this capacity while protecting innocent property owners. HB 347 also shifted the burden of proof onto state prosecutors.

Whereas it used to be that property owners had to prove their innocence to block a forfeiture, the new legislation requires that the state proves with “clear and convincing evidence” (the highest standard of proof) that seized assets were linked to criminal activity.

Defenses We Can Raise on Your Behalf

When law enforcement initiates asset forfeiture proceedings, our defense team will be ready with the appropriate defense strategy to block the forfeiture.

Some of the most common defenses in this type of litigation include:

  • Innocent Owner Defense: This affirmative defense seeks to establish that you were not involved in the criminal activity that law enforcement connected with the seized property.
  • Proportionality Defense: The law requires that any asset forfeiture be proportionate to the crime in question. We can argue that the forfeiture in your case is grossly disproportionate for the offense.

Proving Your Money Comes from a Legitimate Source Can Help Your Case

Our legal team will use its knowledge of airport procedures for searches and seizures to weaken the state’s argument for forfeiture. If agents used a K9 unit to establish reasonable suspicion, we will question the reliability of the K9 evidence.

If you have proof that the cash seized by government authorities came from a legitimate source, we will present that proof. If authorities or prosecutors failed to meet the required deadlines, we will raise this violation as grounds for invalidating the forfeiture.

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Additional Resources for Airport Seizures in Ohio

Ohio Revised Code § 2981.02

You can read about Ohio’s statutes regarding property subject to forfeiture in this section of the Ohio Revised Code. Learn about the types of property that government has the authority to seize permanently, as well as the factors that identify property that has been used to commit or facilitate a crime.

Simmons v. Dayton

Dayton police officers seized $10,274 in cash from Aaron Simmons at the Dayton Airport. Simmons had been arrested for outstanding traffic warrants. The arrest prompted a search, wherein police officers found the cash taped to Simmons’ legs. The officers told Simmons they were confiscating the cash for federal seizure. Simmons did not file a claim to have the cash returned to him. The City of Dayton’s lawyers argued that this failure to claim fatally barred Simmons’ later claim. The court agreed.

Office of the Ohio Public Defender

The Franklin County Public Defender Office provides this useful page of legal resources where you can go to find the parts of the Ohio Revised Code that relate to an airport seizure in Dayton. Of particular interest is a collection of Ohio case decisions that explain the circumstances of various asset forfeiture cases and how the courts decided them. These decisions could set precedents that apply to the outcome of your case.

U.S. Supreme Court Case Luis v. United States

This U.S. Supreme Court decision lends valuable insight into how the Court handles financial assets that have been argued to be “tainted.” Specifically, the case asked the question of whether a defendant can use tainted money to hire legal counsel for their defense. In its decision, the Court highlights previous decisions that precluded such use of funds gotten as proceeds of criminal activity.

However, in Luis vs. United States, the Court weighed the defendant’s right to legal counsel against the government’s right to punish a defendant through forfeiture. They decided that the right to legal counsel trumped the government’s interest and decided in favor of the appellee.

Institute for Justice “Policing for Profit” Report, 3rd Edition

The Institute for Justice has been reporting on the unfairness of the country’s civil forfeiture laws for years. In this third edition of the organization’s “Policing for Profit” report, the group provides and interprets states’ forfeiture data through 2019.

For Ohio, the report indicates that the state received $25.7 million in forfeiture revenues, based on three years of reported data. Read this illuminating report for deeper insights into the inherent problems with asset forfeiture laws and what various states are doing in terms of reforming those laws.

Congressional Research Service, “Searches and Seizures at the Border and the Fourth Amendment”, Updated March 30, 2021

This report by CRS details the authority of the federal government to search and seize property. It explains the limits and the exceptions to some search and seizure cases, including border locations or location considered being at or a near a border (such as international airports).

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News About Airport Seizures in Dayton

June 2, 2020

“Coronavirus Costs Drug Cartels Millions of Dollars; Drug Seizures Are Up in Ohio, DEA Says”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents have increased seizures of drugs, items, and cash from drug dealers in Ohio and all over the country. In this story posted by News 5 Cleveland, agents reported that an increased flow of cash came through airports in 2020. This increase of cash from traffickers came about because said traffickers could not rely on their typical means of money laundering because of the pandemic.

October 13, 2018

“150 Pounds of Meth Seized After Investigation That Worked in Southwest Ohio”

WHIOTV7 reports that police seized over 4 pounds of heroin and 150 pounds of methamphetamine as the result of an extended investigation led by the FBI and the Parkersburg Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force. Investigators learned of large shipments of the drugs from Mexico to southern states and on to Ohio and West Virginia. One of the individuals’ cargo was seized during a traffic stop, and the other at his hotel near the Dayton airport.

Posted: August 3, 2018; Updated January 30, 2019

“Ohioan Sues Over US Seizure of $58,000 in Cash Without Charging Him”

In 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized almost $60,000 from retired police officer Rustem Kazazi. Although Kazizi was never charged with a crime, officials stated that they believed Kazizi was involved with money laundering, drug trafficking, or smuggling. Kazizi claimed it was his family’s savings that he was taking overseas. According to this 2018 story from the Columbus Dispatch, federal authorities returned Kazizi’s money, but Kazizi claimed that some money was missing from the total.

November 29, 2016

“After $11K Seized at CVG, Man to Get Money Back Plus Interest in Settlement”

In February 2014, Charles Clarke II was traveling through the Cincinnati airport with $11,000 in tuition money, according to Enquirer. A ticket agent reported to DEA task force officers that Clarke’s luggage smelled like marijuana. A drug dog sniffed the pocket where Clarke was carrying his cash and indicated the pocket smelled of marijuana. The officers found the money and—without having found any drugs on Clarke or in his luggage—seized the young man’s cash. Clarke sued to reclaim his money and recovered it in 2016, along with interest.

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FAQs About Airport Seizures in Ohio

Q. Can I Get Money Back After It’s Been Seized at a Dayton Airport?

Although there are mechanisms in place for you to try to claim your seized cash, there is no guarantee you will get it back. It depends on the circumstances of the seizure. A civil assets forfeiture lawyer can file a claim on your behalf. If the claim does not succeed, you can always request a judicial intervention and have your lawyer litigate for the return of your currency.


Q. Can I Avoid Reporting My Cash at the Airport if I Divide It Amongst a Group of People?

A. If you travel to the airport with $10,000 or more in cash, you must report it to the customs and border patrol agent—even if you distribute the cash amongst the people in your group so that each person carries only a few thousand dollars each.


Q. Will the Court Appoint Me a Lawyer to Help Me Get My Seized Funds Back?

A: No, the court will not appoint you a lawyer in the matter of a civil asset forfeiture. This is because the forfeiture constitutes an in rems action, meaning it is “against the property,” not against you. As such, you are not entitled to court-appointed legal counsel. You will need to hire a lawyer if you want help navigating the asset forfeiture process.


Q. What Is the Largest Amount of Cash I Can Take on an International Flight?

A. You can take any amount of cash you want to take to an airport and onto a flight. However, you must adhere to the airport rules requiring you to report the cash to Customs and Border Patrol using FinCen Form 105. The agents at the airport are required to notify you of this requirement and give you plenty of chances to fulfill your obligation before they resort to searching your bags.


Q. What Are the Penalties if I Do Not Report Carrying $10,000 in a Dayton Airport?

A. If you do not report carrying $10,000 or more in a Dayton airport, you risk having the money seized—and possibly permanently. You also risk paying fines up to $500,000, as well as a prison term of up to 10 years.

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Dayton Airport Seizures Lawyer

If drug task force officers, local law enforcement, or federal agents seized your cash at the Dayton International Airport, you would have to show the government you mean business—or risk losing your cash permanently.

Consider hiring an experienced civil assets forfeiture attorney like those at Joslyn Law Firm to help you. We understand how the airport’s authorities work, and we can immediately begin filing your claim to get your money back. If things do not go as planned with that process, we are prepared to represent you in a civil court.

Call Joslyn Law Firm today for a free case review: (937) 356-3969.

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