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Cash Seizures at the Airport

Seizure of Money at the Detroit Airport

The Detroit Metropolitan Airport (also known as Detroit Metro Airport or DTW), is located in the city of Romulus, MI. As the largest airport in Michigan, DTW is a base for Spirit Airlines and a major hub for Delta Air Lines.

If you bring cash to the Detroit Metro Airport for a domestic flight, it might be seized by law enforcement officers if they have cause to believe the money is involved in drugs or money laundering.

On an international flight, the money might be seized if you do not properly fill out the FinCEN 105 form (often called the “unreported money seizure”).

When money is seized, the traveler is almost never arrested or charged with a crime. Instead, the money is seized for a civil asset forfeiture proceeding.

Seizures of cash at the airport in Detroit have become more common since the COVID-19 health crisis began. In fact, the number of seizures of U.S. Currency at Detroit Metro Airport has increased even as the number of passengers entering the airport has decreased.

After the seizure of your money from the airport in Detroit, MI, you should hire an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney quickly. Your attorney can demand a copy of all surveillance video from the Wayne County Airport Authority and obtain other evidence through a FOIA request for public records.

Your attorney can also help you file a verified claim to contest the legality of the seizure under either state or federal law. When it comes to the seizure of currency at the airport, an aggressive and experienced defense is required to get the money back.

Attorney for Seizure of Cash for Forfeiture at the Detroit Airport

If your money or property was seized by the Detroit Metro Airport Police Department, then contact an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney in Michigan at Dallo Law, P.C..

Attorney J. Dallo is familiar with the procedures for drug asset forfeitures in Michigan under both state and federal law.

J. Dallo can help you prepare and file a verified claim for the property seized at the Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus, MI. To show why the initial detention was illegal from its inception, J. Dallo can also help you obtain surveillance video from the Wayne County Airport Authority. He can file FOIA requests for other public records.

The best defense requires being familiar with the tactics used by law enforcement officers at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The law enforcement officers involved in the seizure of U.S. Currency at the airport might include:

  • agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
  • agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI);
  • agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); or
  • officers with the Detroit Metro Airport Police Department.

J. Dallo is also familiar with the tactics used by the Assistant United States Attorney in federal forfeiture cases and by the attorney with the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in state forfeiture cases.

In addition to fighting currency seizures at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), J. Dallo also helps clients fight forfeiture actions after a seizure of currency at Michigan’s smaller airports including Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Detroit Willow Run Airport (YIP), and Capital Region International Airport (LAN).

Trying to get your seized currency back after a seizure at the airport is never a good do-it-yourself project. When the resources of the local, state, or federal government are working against you to forfeit your money, you need an experienced attorney like J. Dallo to get it back.

Call (248) 283-7000

Claim Procedures for Drug Asset Forfeitures of Cash in Detroit

J. Dallo represents clients with asset forfeiture cases involving the seizure of money at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) under state or federal law.

Seizures at the Detroit Metro Airport can occur before domestic or international flights. In these cases, the authorities might approach the traveler to begin asking them questions. The officers and agents often used coercive tactics to try and gain “consent” to search the carry on or checked luggage.

In some cases, the officers or agents will use a controlled substance police dog (K9) to alert to the presence of controlled substances on the money. This tactic of using the K9 to “alert” is largely disingenuous since the courts tend to agree that this highly circumstantial evidence has little practical value.

We can help you determine the next steps based on whether state or federal agents seized the money. If law enforcement officers working for the state seize the money, then the seizure usually follows state law. Michigan’s forfeiture statute requires that the officers that seized the money or other property provide written notice of seizure and intent to forfeit the property.

The notice identifies the seizing law enforcement agency, and explains that the traveler must file a written claim within 20 days if they wished to challenge the seizure and forfeiture. Keep in mind that “filing” the claim means delivering it to the law enforcement agency and not merely putting it in the mail.

If your claim is not received by the agent within the 20 day deadline, then the agency will argue that you lost your chance to contest the forfeiture.

Under federal law, you can file a verified claim for court action with the federal agency that seized the money in order to bypass their ineffective administrative proceedings.

Seizure of Property Worth $50,000 or Less

The “notice of seizure and intent to forfeit” form names the law enforcement agency at the state or locl level that seized the property. For example, the notice of seizure form might explain that the drug asset forfeiture case involves a seizure of U.S. Currency by the Detroit Metro Airport Police Department or another law enforcement agency at the state or local level in Michigan.

The notice explains the claim procedure in Michigan when the seized property is worth less than $50,000. When the property seized has a value that does not exceed $50,000, the notice form provides:

You are hereby notified the property described above was seized by [the Detroit Metro Airport Police Department or another police agency named on the notice] for a violation of the controlled substances act as provided in MCL 333.7522 and the total value of all the property seized in this case does not exceed $50,000.

Seizure of Property Worth More than $50,000 for Forfeiture

When the seized property is worth more than $50,000, the notice explains that the property was seized by the police agency for a violation of the controlled substances act as provided in MCL 333.7522 and the total value of all the property seized in this case exceeds $50,000.

The notice explains that the property is subject to forfeiture pursuant to MCL 333.7521 et seq. The property remains in the custody of the seizing agency until completion of the forfeiture proceedings.

When more than $50,000 is at stake, the seizing police agency is not allowed to use its administrative proceedings. Instead, the seized property is not subject to an action to recover personal property and may be disposed of only by an order or judgment of the court that has sole jurisdiction over the forfeiture proceedings.

A forfeiture proceeding must be promptly instituted in accordance with Michigan law. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Asset Forfeiture Unit will seek to serve you with the relevant lawsuit.

Unreported Money Seizures by CBP at the Detroit Metro Airport

Even before the COVID-19 health crisis, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents were ramping up efforts to seize U.S. Currency from travelers at the Detroit Metro Airport.

In fact, in 2019, CBP reported that during the first half of the fiscal year 2019, CBP agents in the Detroit Field Office had a 62% increase in the seizure of unreported currency from international passengers when compared to the same period in 2018. The vast majority of the seizures of U.S. Currency occurred at Detroit Metro Airport.

Seizures of U.S. Currency might also occur at other ports of entry within the Detroit Field Office including:

  • the Ambassador Bridge;
  • the Detroit Windsor Tunnel;
  • the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron; and
  • the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie.

Seizure of U.S. Currency often involve allegations of bulk cash smuggling. According to CBP, the term “bulk cash smuggling” means concealing currency or other monetary instruments with the intent of evading currency reporting requirements, including the FinCEN 105 Form, in an attempt to transport the money or monetary instrument across an international border.

If your money was seized by CBP for violating the reporting requirements of the FinCEN 105 Form at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, contact attorney J. Dallo to find out how to contest the seizure by filing a verified claim for court action.

Filing the verified claim with CBP triggers a 90 day deadline for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to either return the money or file a complaint for forfeiture in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Contact J. Dallo to find out how to beat a civil forfeiture by mounting an aggressive defense.

New Legislation on Currency Seizures for Forfeiture at Airports in Michigan

On January 20, 2020, Sen. Curt VanderWall (R) introduced 2020 Senate Bill 761 which would have allowed for more forfeitures of property without a conviction if the property was seized at the airport.

Although the legislature voted to enact the exception for airport seizures, the bill was vetoed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on December 30, 2020. In a letter, the Governor explained the reason for the veto:

Today I am returning Enrolled Senate Bill 761 to you without my approval. This bill would allow airport authorities to seize and forfeit money even when they are unable to tie that money to criminal activity.

Earlier this session, I signed Senate Bill 2 and House Bills 4001 and 4002, which passed with nearly unanimous support, to limit civil asset forfeiture for individuals who have not been convicted of a crime in order to increase property protections for citizens.

This bill would begin to unwind that important progress. Law enforcement continues to have the power to seize money suspected of ties to criminal activity and to initiate forfeiture of that money when a criminal connection can be demonstrated.

The bill would have excluded property seizures at airports from provisions of the 2019 law that limited property forfeiture actions unless the owner has actually been convicted of a crime, with certain exceptions.

According to the official legislative analysis of the bill by the House Fiscal Agency, Senate Bill 761 would amend the Public Health Code to exempt certain property from forfeiture proceedings if the property is seized by law enforcement officers appointed by a
public airport authority or a regional airport authority.

Senate Bill 761 would have amended sections 7521a and 7523a to provide that the required forfeiture proceedings do not apply when the aggregate fair market value of the property and currency seized is more than $20,000, excluding the value of contraband, and is initiated in connection with the seizure of property by law enforcement officers appointed under the Aeronautics Code by a public airport authority (i.e., the Wayne County Airport Authority) or a regional airport authority (i.e., the Gerald R. Ford International Airport).

The legislative analysis concluded that 2020 Senate Bill 761 would have “an indeterminate fiscal impact on public airport authorities and regional airport authorities, though revenues resulting from asset forfeitures in controlled substances cases could increase under the bill, since asset forfeiture would be allowed in an increased number of cases.”

Additional Resources

Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Asset Forfeiture Unit – The Asset Forfeiture Unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is a specialized unit that seizes property from citizens that were allegedly involved in facilitating illegal activities, including:

  • illegal drug trafficking
  • illegal gambling operations
  • buildings used in violation of nuisance abatement laws
  • property used by environmental polluters
  • vehicles used in connection with drunk driving
  • vehicles used in connection with prostitution

When it comes to illegal drug trafficking, the state of Michigan has very tough drug asset forfeiture laws. Under MCL 333.7521, any property or money used or intended to be used to facilitate drug dealing shall be subject to forfeiture by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.  Over the past 10 years, the Asset Forfeiture Unit in Wayne County, MI, has sought the forfeiture of millions of dollars in monetary and non-monetary assets to law enforcement agencies from alleged drug dealers.

Detroit Metro Airport Police Department – The Airport Police for the Detroit Metro Airport are responsible for providing law enforcement services to all Airport Authority properties including Detroit Metro Airport and Willow Run Airport. The police provide regular law enforcement duties in the airport as well as provide support to TSA with passenger screening. The Records Bureau of the Wayne County Airport Police Department is located at 31399 West Service Drive, Building 610, Detroit, Michigan 48242.

This article was last updated on Saturday, January 16, 2021.