What To Do If A Shipment Has Been Detained By Customs

Posted on: 29 July 2020

Few things can be as infuriating as learning the customs officers have detained a shipment. It's important to think about the situation the way a customs attorney would, and here are 5 recommendations a lawyer would encourage you to follow.

Make Copies of Everything

If you've received a paper notice, make at least three copies of it. This will ensure you have one for your current use, another for your records, and an additional one for your customs attorney. Likewise, it will preserve the original. Any emails and text messages should be locked and copied right away. If you have access to a cloud data backup system, use it to store electronic copies. It's also prudent to make copies of your paperwork for the shipment. Make copies of everything you've received from the shipper and any ports where the shipment transited from.

No Admissions

Do not discuss whether you believe a violation occurred with anyone until you've had the chance to meet with a lawyer. It's close to impossible to take back an admission. If someone from customs pressures you on the topic, simply inform them that you are exercising your right to consult with an attorney before answering their questions.

Reply in a Timely Manner

Letting requests for information slip down the memory hole is a good way to never see your shipment again. If the government asks you for information, contact a customs attorney, and figure out what needs to be provided. Try to get responses out as rapidly as you can without sacrificing accuracy and quality.

Understand Why Customs Issued a Notice

Upon seizing the shipment, a customs officer is supposed to provide a written explanation of the legal logic for the seizure. This can be especially informative if the alleged violation involves an issue outside the scope of what customs deals with. For example, the EPA usually deals with allegations of environmental violations. You can then direct your concerns to customs and the appropriate authorities by sending the documents that show how your shipment is compliant.

Notify Customs You're Retained Representation

If every letter goes to you, then there will always be an additional step where you have to send it to your lawyer. By telling the government that you've retained counsel, you can make sure your attorney gets all paperwork directly. That can speed the process up, and it will also allow the customs attorney to head problems off before customs has a chance to create problems.

For more information, reach out to a customs attorney.