If you're bringing back gifts, souvenirs and other items from a trip overseas, chances are that you aren't violating the law. Bringing home a few tchotchkes from the Louvre shouldn't land you in jail. However, it's important to know what the government considers a customs violation.
Our customs laws are in place to control the goods that are imported into the country, not just for the protection of the economy, but to ensure that diseases aren't spread and that proper taxes are paid by those bringing in legal goods. It's essential to declare the true value of any goods that you bring into the country.
Smuggling is one category of customs violation. It, like the infringement of other customs laws, is a federal offense.
So what exactly is smuggling? It sounds exotic. However, it doesn't have to involve ancient artifacts, endangered species or millions of dollars in jewels. A person can be arrested for smuggling for bringing in seemingly mundane items under some circumstances.
To convict a person of smuggling, federal prosecutors must prove their case that a person failed to declare merchandise being brought into the U.S. that he or she knew should have been declared. That person also has to have intended to defraud the U.S.
People who are found guilty of smuggling can face up to 20 years behind bars in federal prison and/or a fine.
Ignorance of the law is not a defense. Therefore, if you are planning to bring back items of value from a trip abroad, it's essential to know what the law is and what your responsibilities are. This can help you avoid unnecessary legal problems. If you are facing smuggling charges, be sure to create a strong defense strategy.
Source: FindLaw, "Smuggling and Customs Violations," accessed Nov. 02, 2017