All people entering or leaving Canada are subject to the Customs Act. The Customs Act and its regulations provide the legal framework for determining what items may be brought into Canada and how they may enter or leave.
The Customs Act creates a number of offences:
The penalties for each of these Customs Act violations can be substantial. Customs Act offences can lead to significant financial penalties, seizure and forfeiture of all items, and possible imprisonment. Additionally, criminal charges can be laid in addition to the Customs Act offences.
Mr. Filkow is very experienced defending against Customs Act charges. If you are facing Customs Act charges contact the Filkow Law at 604-558-8778
The Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) is the primary government agency that enforces the Customs Act. CBSA officers have the same powers as ordinary police or peace officers, such as the power to search, detain people, and make arrests.
CBSA officers have broad powers to search anyone who has arrived in Canada or who is about to leave the country. This includes opening and searching any goods, packages, containers, or baggage entering or leaving the country. At an airport, this may include opening a traveller’s luggage to search for undeclared goods, money, and more. At border crossings, CBSA officers also have the power to search vehicles extensively. Additionally, CBSA officers operate at mail facilities to intercept and search suspicious packages entering or leaving the country.
Many individuals return from trips abroad with luxury goods, alcohol, cigarettes, or money. There are strict limits on the value of goods and money that an individual can bring into Canada without paying duties and fees. However, the penalties for failing to declare these items are much more serious than the duties associated with a proper declaration.
These items can be discovered through a routine luggage search or random security check at any border crossing or security checkpoint. Failure to declare these goods at the border may result in the seizure of all items, substantial fines, and Customs Act charges for making false statements, smuggling, and hindering an officer. Criminal charges such as fraud, obstruction of justice, and making false statements may also be applied.
Many Americans own firearms and travel through the USA with their weapons. CBSA officers frequently search the vehicles of Americans entering Canada at vehicle border crossings. There will be serious consequences for an individual that has forgotten to declare their firearms.
The weapons can be seized by the CBSA officer that conducts a search, and the individuals in the vehicle can be charged with many Customs Act offences such as making false statements, smuggling, and hindering an officer. Additionally, individuals may be charged criminally with possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition. That charge frequently carries jail time and a criminal record.
CBSA officers may request to access an individual’s unlocked phone or computer without a password so they can conduct a thorough search of the individual. People may feel pressured to provide this information to the officer, and in so doing open themselves to a broad investigation of their person.
Upon such an investigation, the CBSA officer may uncover what they believe is child pornography. In this case, the officer would seize any computers and laptops they found, charge the individual with smuggling and hindering an officer under the Customs Act, and charge the person criminally for possession of child pornography, accessing child pornography, and attempting to distribute child pornography.