U.S. Customs - Failing to Disclose Items Upon Entry

immigration stamp with a date

When entering a new country or returning to another nation, it is important to disclose items and money with the customs’ agents to prevent seizure or a failure to enter or return home or another location. While some items are passable, others have restrictions in place which could lead to criminal charges. 

The failure to disclose goods at customs happens when the individual attempts to enter the United States or another country without declaring what he or she is bringing into the nation. The person normally must pass through customs and explain what items, goods or products he or she purchased while out of the country. Sometimes, this is money or personal property such as gold or jewels. The agents will require declarations based on these items. Most incidents that do occur happen through negligence or misinformation. Other incidents of a rarer form are due to a lack of knowledge such as when the traveler is being used as a "mule."

The Failure to Declare Contexts

There are two common contexts that happen when a person fails to declare. The primary is when the individual enters the United States from another country. The person may have American citizenship or possess a travel or work visa. He or she will fail to disclose something purchased abroad. The penalty for the failure to disclose usually occurs in a seizure of the property or a forfeit of ownership with merchandise or other items. Additional penalties are often normal to include a monetary fine. Some Customs and Border Protection departments will provide the individual with the opportunity to explain the matter depending on the item. 

The Usual Penalties

The primary penalty a person will face when failing to disclose any item through the United States Customs and Border Protection is the seizure and loss of the property. This generally starts when clearing customs when arriving in the country if no declaration is made. The agent will take the item, product or property and question the person in normal processes. Forfeit of the merchandise or product is often the next step where the loss is permanent without full disclosure that the person will bring anything into the nation. Then, the next penalty is possible depending on the severity of the situation.

Fines and penalties for arriving with undisclosed or hidden products are the second of two primary penalties the customs agents normally apply to the state of affairs. The failure to declare penalties may increase or decrease based on the value of the merchandise. The fine attached to this failure may even increase up to the entire value of the items found. This could involve thousands in funds along with the loss of the item in question. If the declaration paperwork is lost or the person did declare the merchandise but the agents seized the property anyway, this could involve something illegal or other products the person is not aware of within his or her luggage.

The Complications and Confusion

When the person returns or enters a country with items that he or she did not declare, the first penalty of seizure and possible loss may not harm the individual if the items are not his or her. However, when the paperwork filed was part of the appropriate process, then seizure and loss of property could lead to a problem. The owner may need to contact the authority in the airport to help find the missing paperwork or contact a lawyer to ensure his or her rights are not in violation. Then, the person will need to ensure that documentation is available.

If the person has documentation but also additional items that are not part of the declaration, he or she may receive a fine and seizure or total loss. Purchases of certain objects and property are illegal. Carrying them back to or to another country could incur additional charges that are criminal in nature which could lead to a criminal court case. Even with the declaration of these items, the person could face severe penalties. It is crucial to understand what items may not leave a country, and how these situations could affect the reentry or entering the nation.

Customs Legal Support

To help mitigate the damage of penalties and consequences of non-declared items, the person may need to contact a lawyer after clearing through customs. He or she may need to explain the matter to attempt to seek the best outcome with legal support.

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