The term “seizure” is something you may come across when it comes to international shipments.
It’s not common for domestic shipments, but it can still happen if a domestic package contains prohibited or restricted items.
When a package is seized, it’s not considered lost or missing. It may be damaged during inspection, but a seized package generally refers to a package confiscated by customs or law enforcement.
How would you know if a package is seized? What happens after, or what are the consequences?
Here’s How to Tell if Your Package is Seized:
How you would know if your package is seized depends on the carrier you shipped with. If it’s with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), you will get a tracking message telling you your package has been seized. If it’s with other carriers, you’d most likely get a message to contact the carrier.
Table of Contents
How Can You Know Who Seized Your Package?
Every day, there are a lot of mail pieces and packages that get examined and inspected by customs or law enforcement.
This is happening at airports, seaports, and other ports of entry to another country.
If your package did not pass inspection, it might be seized by customs or law enforcement. It depends on what grounds your package was seized on.
If you shipped your package through USPS, you could find out who seized it from the tracking message they sent you. You’d have to contact the carrier to find out if it’s with other carriers.
One of the most common reasons why customs would seize and detain a package is if there are import duties that haven’t been paid. This happens if the sender fails to properly declare the items.
For example, the sender placed a large quantity of certain items inside the package, like 30 pieces of handbags of the same style, and shipped it to another country without declaring it.
To a customs officer, this would seem like the sender is shipping items for reselling in another country, and if this is the case, import duties and other taxes should be paid accordingly.
Until these fees are settled, the items will be detained with customs. On the other hand, law enforcement officers would seize a package if it contained something illegal.
Even if the item is legal in the country of origin but it’s illegal in the destination country, it will be seized and detained by law enforcement.
In this case, there may be penalties or fines that the sender or recipient has to face. There may also be more serious consequences.
How Can You Know if Customs Has Your Package?
This generally depends on whether you’re the sender or the package recipient.
In most cases, the customs office will contact the recipient rather than the sender.
If you’re the sender of a package on its way to another country, that country’s customs office will contact the recipient if customs have seized that package.
The only way to find out is by checking the tracking data of the package or if the recipient informs you that the package was seized.
If you’re the recipient, then the customs office will get in touch with you.
If you live in the United States and the package you’ve been expecting has been seized and detained by customs, you will receive a letter from the Customs and Border Protection department to inform you of what happened.
The letter will also tell you the steps you need to take to retrieve the package.
Will USPS Tell You if Your Package is Seized?
As a government entity, the U.S. Postal Service is bound by law to protect your package from seizure.
It’s also bound to notify you accordingly when it happens.
Because of this, packages sent through the USPS are heavily regulated by laws in the United States. There are many restrictions, but this doesn’t mean that shipping with private carriers is easier.
USPS will tell you if your package has been seized.
If your USPS package has been seized and is being detained, it will show on the tracking data when you log in to your USPS account.
Depending on the reason it was seized, you may never get the items, which is not bad compared to other consequences.
It could be worse. There may be fines or penalties that you have to settle. The worst-case scenario is you may have a legal battle to face.
Will The Tracking Say if A Package is Seized?
Depending on the carrier that you shipped that the package was shipped with, the tracking may or may not say if a package is seized.
Here’s how different carriers will notify you:
If your package was shipped with USPS and seized, it will be indicated on the tracking data.
Once you log in to your USPS account to check the status of the USPS package, then you will see that the most recent update will display the word “Alert” in big, bold red letters, and under that, it will say “Seized by Law Enforcement.”
Because FedEx is a private company, there’s a different process for informing you that your package has been seized.
It will not be displayed in the tracking data, unlike USPS.
FedEx will communicate with you if your package is seized, depending on what law enforcement says. Law enforcement officers will give specific instructions on what to say, and FedEx will just do it as instructed.
The process with UPS is very similar to FedEx. The UPS tracking data will not tell you if your package has been seized.
When you check the tracking data, it will just show that there’s a delay in the shipment.
Then UPS will contact you while following the instructions given to them by law enforcement.
How Quickly Will You Know if Your Package Has Been Seized?
If your package has been seized, it may take a few days, up to a month, for you to find out.
This depends on the carrier used to ship the package because the process may differ.
For a package shipped with USPS, you would get notified within a few days from the time it was seized. Plus, the tracking data will be updated almost immediately.
So if you see that your USPS package has been seized, then you can expect a letter from the department of Customs and Border Protection.
For packages shipped with private carriers, such as UPS and FedEx, it may take a while to find out that your package has been seized. If you would check the tracking data, it would just show that there’s a delay in shipment.
It can take a week. It can even take up to 30 or 45 days before someone from law enforcement or customs gets in touch with you by mail.
How Long Before a Decision is Made On Seized Packages?
When U.S. Customs seizes your package, it has to decide whether to clear it and release it for shipping or detain it for further investigation.
It generally takes five days before the U.S. Customs department decides on seized packages.
If U.S. Customs thinks a package contains something illegal, it must be detained within five days of its arrival.
From here, the customs officer is given another five days to issue a Detention Notice, which explains why the package is being detained.
What Is The Process if A Package is Seized?
If a package is seized, the process varies depending on where the package is being detained.
This also depends on the reason for seizure and detainment.
If the Package was Seized and on Hold at Customs
This usually happens if the package contains a regulated item that lacks certain documents, such as permits or licenses.
This can also happen if certain fees haven’t been paid due to incorrect or missing information during the declaration.
Here is the process if customs have seized the package:
- Get in touch with the customs office in your country and ask what you need to comply with for the items to be released.
- Prepare the documents needed. If import duties and taxes are to be paid, ensure you have them ready.
- Submit all the documents being asked for and pay all the necessary fees.
Your package will be released to you once everything has been settled accordingly.
Your package will be considered abandoned if you don’t contact customs to pay import duties or comply with other requirements. It may be destroyed or returned to the sender.
To prevent this from happening, check all customs declarations and pay the correct import duties and taxes.
If you’re importing items for reselling, make sure to declare that properly.
If the Package was Seized and is Being Detained by Law Enforcement
This has more serious consequences than if your package was on hold at customs.
A package will be seized and detained by law enforcement if it contains illegal items such as contraband, and the consequences of this would involve hefty fines.
The worst-case scenario is that a criminal case may be charged against you and the sender.
Here is the process:
- Get legal counsel from an attorney and report a petition. You should file a claim to preserve your rights against a package seized by police, be it shipped through USPS, FedEx, or UPS. You have 35 days to file a claim.
- Your attorney will then conduct an investigation. This is for you to build a strong defence. Your attorney will gather all pieces of evidence, such as shipping receipts and other documents. They will also gather witnesses to help with your case.
- After a thorough investigation, your attorney will use every single piece of evidence for your case. Then they will use this set of evidence to negotiate a settlement with the government.
- In most cases, a settlement will suffice. This may involve paying a huge sum of money for penalties or fines. In cases where a settlement is not enough, or you do not want to settle, there will be a trial.
- If it goes into a jury trial, the government must provide proof that the seized package was or will be used to commit a criminal offence.
The next steps would then be determined based on the trial results.
In some cases, you may never recover your package, and you’d have to pay some fines, which isn’t really that bad because the worst-case scenario is that you could be arrested and face 1 to 3 years in prison.