19 U.S. Code § 1594 - Seizure of conveyances

(a) In general
(1) any vessel, vehicle, or aircraft; or
(2) the owner or operator, or the master, pilot, conductor, driver, or other person in charge of a vessel, vehicle, or aircraft;
is subject to a penalty for violation of the customs laws, the conveyance involved shall be held for the payment of such penalty and may be seized and forfeited and sold in accordance with the customs laws. The proceeds of sale, if any, in excess of the assessed penalty and expenses of seizing, maintaining, and selling the property shall be held for the account of any interested party.
(b) Exceptions
(1) No conveyance used by any person as a common carrier in the transaction of business as a common carrier is subject to seizure and forfeiture under the customs laws for violations relating to merchandise contained—
(A) on the person;
(B) in baggage belonging to and accompanying a passenger being lawfully transported on such conveyance; or
(C) in the cargo of the conveyance if the cargo is listed on the manifest and marks, numbers, weights and quantities of the outer packages or containers agree with the manifest;
unless the owner or operator, or the master, pilot, conductor, driver or other person in charge participated in, or had knowledge of, the violation, or was grossly negligent in preventing or discovering the violation.
(2) Except as provided in paragraph (1) or subsection (c) of this section, no vessel, vehicle, or aircraft is subject to forfeiture to the extent of an interest of an owner for a drug-related offense established by that owner to have been committed or omitted without the knowledge, consent, or willful blindness of the owner.
(c) Prohibited merchandise on conveyance
If any merchandise the importation of which is prohibited is found to be, or to have been—
(1) on board a conveyance used as a common carrier in the transaction of business as a common carrier in one or more packages or containers—
(A) that are not manifested (or not shown on bills of lading or airway bills); or
(B) whose marks, numbers, weight or quantities disagree with the manifest (or with the bills of lading or airway bills); or
(2) concealed in or on such a conveyance, but not in the cargo;
the conveyance may be seized, and after investigation, forfeited unless it is established that neither the owner or operator, master, pilot, nor any other employee responsible for maintaining and insuring the accuracy of the cargo manifest knew, or by the exercise of the highest degree of care and diligence could have known, that such merchandise was on board.
(d) Definitions
For purposes of this section—
(1) The term “owner or operator” includes—
(A) a lessee or person operating a conveyance under a rental agreement or charter party; and
(B) the officers and directors of a corporation;
(C) station managers and similar supervisory ground personnel employed by airlines;
(D) one or more partners of a partnership;
(E) representatives of the owner or operator in charge of the passenger or cargo operations at a particular location; and
(F) and other persons with similar responsibilities.
(2) The term “master” and similar terms relating to the person in charge of a conveyance includes the purser or other person on the conveyance who is responsible for maintaining records relating to the cargo transported in the conveyance.
(e) Costs and expenses of seizure
When a common carrier has been seized in accordance with the provisions of subsection (c) of this section and it is subsequently determined that a violation of such subsection occurred but that the vessel will be released, the conveyance is liable for the costs and expenses of the seizure and detention.


(June 17, 1930, ch. 497, title IV, § 594,46 Stat. 751; Pub. L. 99–570, title III, § 3121,Oct. 27, 1986, 100 Stat. 3207–86; Pub. L. 100–690, title VI, § 6076(b),Nov. 18, 1988, 102 Stat. 4324.)
Prior Provisions

Provisions substantially similar to subsec. (a) of this section, so far as it relates to vessels, except that they referred to the “revenue laws,” instead of the “customs laws,” were contained in R.S. § 3088. Provisions substantially similar to subsec. (b), so far as it relates to vessels, were contained in act Feb. 8, 1881, ch. 34, 21 Stat. 322. Provisions similar to subsec. (b), except that they applied to railway cars, engines, other vehicles, and teams, and referred to the owner, superintendent, or agent of the owner in charge, instead of the “conductor, driver,” etc., were contained in R.S. § 3063. All of these sections were superseded and more closely assimilated to this section by act Sept. 21, 1922, ch. 356, title IV, § 594,42 Stat. 982, and repealed by sections 642 and 643 thereof. Section 594 of the 1922 act was superseded by section 594 of act June 17, 1930, comprising this section, and repealed by section 651(a)(1) of the 1930 act.

1988—Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 100–690designated existing provisions as par. (1), redesignated former pars. (1), (2), and (3) as subpars. (A), (B), and (C), respectively, and added par. (2).
1986—Pub. L. 99–570amended section generally. Prior to amendment, section catchline read “Libel of vessels and vehicles” and text read as follows: “Whenever a vessel or vehicle, or the owner or master, conductor, driver, or other person in charge thereof, has become subject to a penalty for violation of the customs-revenue laws of the United States, such vessel or vehicle shall be held for the payment of such penalty and may be seized and proceeded against summarily by libel to recover the same: Provided, That no vessel or vehicle used by any person as a common carrier in the transaction of business as such common carrier shall be so held or subject to seizure or forfeiture under the customs laws, unless it shall appear that the owner or master of such vessel or the conductor, driver, or other person in charge of such vehicle was at the time of the alleged illegal act a consenting party or privy thereto.”

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19 USCDescription of ChangeSession YearPublic LawStatutes at Large

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19 CFR - Customs Duties




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