Detained Merchandise Law

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has the right to examine all goods and merchandise that cross the border, regardless of the manner in which they’re crossing (airport, ship, etc.).  Both commercial importers and exporters, as well as regular travelers, are subjected to the inspection of their goods. If any unapproved items are discovered, or if there are questions about any merchandise items, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have the right to detain the merchandise. The following takes a look at detained merchandise regulations – if you need legal representation, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Paula M. Connelly.

Notice of Detention

Customs officials have a five day period, with the exclusion of weekends and holidays, to make a decision regarding whether or not they will detain a piece of merchandise that has been submitted for examination. If detention does occur, a notice of detention must be sent to the owner or party responsible for the merchandise detailing the following, as outlined by 19 Code of Federal Regulations section 151.16(b):

  • That the item is being detained
  • The reason for the detention
  • The anticipated length of detention
  • Nature of any tests to be conducted
  • Nature of any information which may expedite the process

After a notice of detention has been sent, a final determination about the merchandise must be made.

Final Determination

Within a 30-day period of sending the notice of detention, Customs officials must make a decision about whether or not the merchandise will be seized or released. If an import or export violation has occurred, then the merchandise will be seized, and the merchandise’s representative will receive a notice of seizure via mail. Following this, the alleged perpetrator has 30 days to file a petition with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. An attorney can be extremely helpful in drafting a petition.

Do I need the help of a customs lawyer?

When importing or exporting goods to or from the United States, in addition to Customs laws, there are numerous other government agency laws and regulations with which importers and exporters must comply. If your merchandise is detained, it is essential that you seek the help of an attorney who is familiar with customs law – an attorney can help to ensure that your detention is adressed within the time frame required under the law, can help you to draft a petition to recover seized merchandise, and can provide you with everything you need to know about how detained merchandise laws work, and what your rights are. If your merchandise has been detained, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney as early as possible. At the Law Offices of Paula M. Connelly, our customs attorneys are ready to represent you today. To begin, call us now at 781-897-1771.


The information contained in this Website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

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