All imports and exports are regulated by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP or US Customs; formerly the US Customs Service), which is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The history of CBP and the fines, penalties, and forfeitures (FP&F) process goes back to July 4, 1789. The second Act of the First Congress of the United States was to establish a system of tariffs on imported goods to fund the new federal government. Shortly thereafter, Congress established the U.S. Customs Service and subjected merchandise to fines, penalties, and forfeitures for breaches of the law.
The authority to initiate seizures and impose fines was initially vested in Customs field personnel and all fines, penalties, and forfeitures required judicial enforcement. There was no provision allowing the granting of equitable relief. In 1797, the authority to grant equitable relief was vested in the Secretary of Treasury. Over time, as the Secretary’s responsibilities increased, the authority to remit or mitigate penalties was delegated to subordinate officials in the Department and the Customs Service.
In 2003, the US Customs Service was transitioned to CBP, the nation’s first comprehensive border security agency with a focus on maintaining the integrity of the nation’s boundaries and ports of entry. Today, CBP has full authority—pursuant to delegation of authority—to assess penalties and seize merchandise for violations of customs laws. […]