One type of restriction that is placed upon the importation of goods into the U.S. is imposed by public safety measures such as the Consumer Product Safety Act. Goods that are deemed to be unsafe are prohibited from importation and will be seized if found during customs inspection.
The purposeful importation of such goods can have criminal consequences, including massive fines and prison time. The severity of the sentence will be based, in large part, on the quantity of prohibited goods, the frequency of importation, and other indicators of intent by the importer to break the law. While one incident of attempted importation may result in a warning and affine, repeated transgressions are more likely to result in severe penalties.
When Customs and Border Protection seizes a prohibited shipment, it issues a notice to the owner of the shipment, detailing the reasons for the seizure and advising them of the law prohibiting the shipment. Criminal charges are usually filed after several instances of such seizures and notices. A company that attempts to avoid these consequences by either making false statements on importation documents, creating shell corporations, or any other means, will be treated more harshly when it is ultimately charged.
One example of goods prohibited by the CPSA which has been on the public radar lately is the importation of certain toys manufactured in China. These toys are prohibited largely based on their high lead content, high phthalate content, as well as the presence of choking hazards in toys marketed to young children.
When a business has been regularly importing prohibited items and doing a significant trade in them, chances are higher that it will be targeted by a large-scale investigation. Forfeitures in such cases are not limited to the prohibited items themselves; any assets that can be traced to proceeds from the sale of the forbidden items can also be seized, whether they are in the name of the business or in the names of individuals.
If you are concerned that your business may be under investigation for violating importation laws, you should consult an experienced defense attorney at once. An attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in the area of international trade, as well as criminal defense, can guide you as to the best course to pursue, taking into account your individual needs and circumstances. Call our experienced NYC criminal defense attorneys at (212) 577-6677 to schedule an immediate consultation.