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US Customs and Border Protection escapes lawsuit over civil asset forfeiture

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on July 14, 2023, 17:41:00

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Customs Border Protection CBP avoided proposed class action

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has avoided a proposed class action lawsuit from Anthonia Nwaorie, who alleged that the agency had overstepped its authority when handling civil asset forfeiture.

The lawsuit was dismissed by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled that Nwaorie lacked standing, failed to state a claim, and was barred by sovereign immunity. This decision affirmed those of the lower court and a magistrate judge.

CBP officials had seized over $40,000 in cash from Nwaorie’s carry-on luggage during her departure from George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, bound for Nigeria. Subsequently, they offered her the choice of either signing a waiver or facing criminal charges. Nwaorie refused to sign the waiver and instead filed a lawsuit challenging the seizure.

Nwaorie alleged that CBP had seized her cash without a warrant or sufficient justification, infringing upon her Fourth Amendment rights. She further claimed that by giving her the option of signing a waiver or being charged with a crime, CBP had violated her Fifth Amendment right to due process. The court, however, rejected Nwaorie's arguments and decided in CBP's favor.

The court stated that CBP had the authority to seize the cash under the Customs and Border Protection Act and that Nwaorie had failed to demonstrate that CBP's actions were unreasonable or in violation of her constitutional rights.

This ruling is significant as civil asset forfeiture has been a controversial issue, with many arguing that it violates individuals' due process rights. While CBP has the authority to seize property that is associated with criminal activity, it must follow proper procedures and uphold the law.

This ruling confirms that CBP acted within its legal authority and followed proper procedures when seizing Nwaorie's cash.

The decision highlights the importance of understanding civil asset forfeiture and the rights of individuals when it comes to seizures. It also emphasizes the need for transparency and accountability in law enforcement agencies to ensure that they act within their legal authority and respect the constitutional rights of individuals.

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