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Cuban cigars
April 3, 2008 8:26 AM   Subscribe

What can a person who brings 2 Cuban cigars into the US and has them seized at US Customs expect?

Confiscation? Fines? Interrogation? Arrest?
posted by j1950 to Law & Government (18 answers total)
 
They can expect the full force of an authoritative customs officer's lungs to inhale them.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:33 AM on April 3, 2008 [9 favorites]


When crossing the Canadian border some years ago (from Canada into the U.S.), I had a six pack of excellent homemade beer taken from me. They said it was because they weren't commercially made, labels-on bottles. I begged the guy to please make sure it went to someone who really liked beer.

However, this was before 9/11. But I've read about people trying to get into the U.S. with various kinds of contraband - fruit, meats, etc. - and the most that seems to happen is that the stuff gets confiscated. It probably will make a difference if you acquired them in Cuba, rather than Canada, say. And you may have the rest of your stuff thoroughly searched.
posted by rtha at 8:42 AM on April 3, 2008


What wgp said. They'll be confiscated if they find them. And they'll laugh at you as they smoke them later. Nothing else. Happens all the time.

BTW, you do know that you can get Cuban SEED cigars from just about everywhere in Central America. Dont know how much of a cigar smoker you are, but the "legendary" Cuban made cigars are really no better than decent cigars made elsewhere that wont get you in trouble. I recommend Arturo Fuente personally (not Cuban seed however).
posted by elendil71 at 8:44 AM on April 3, 2008


Confiscation. I have not personal experience with this though. If you had 4 cases, perhaps more.
posted by zpousman at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2008


I had a *cough* friend who was going to school in Vancouver, and would regularly bring back cubans to sell in seattle and portland. The best way he found to bring them over: buy a bottle of legal wine or beer and tell the customs dude about it, fill out the necessary paperwork for the wine bottle, and then drive across the border. Long process, but he still doesn't get caught. it's the perfect diversionary tactic.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:55 AM on April 3, 2008


two? it ends with confiscation, if they even find out.
posted by caddis at 9:15 AM on April 3, 2008


I've heard some folks declare that they have "Dominican" cigars in small quantity and there is no problem at all.
posted by Exchequer at 9:36 AM on April 3, 2008


No personal experience with this, but I was told that if you snip the label off of the cigar, you have nothing to worry about. In and of itself, bringing cigars across the border isn't illegal. And if there's no label, then there's no way to show that they're Cuban.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:54 AM on April 3, 2008


When I went on a cruise over the summer slipping the label off the end is what I heard everyone saying. It makes sense since really there isnt a way to prove they are cuban without a label.
posted by DJWeezy at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2008


Yep, just slip the label rings off (keep them to put back on if that's important to you) and tell tell Customs they're Dominican. A friend of mine does this....yeah, a friend, that's the ticket.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:11 AM on April 3, 2008


Everyone's addressing the immediate problem, which is valid. It surely sounds like you won't be taken off to a little room to be strip-searched and transported to the slammer. But I'd be slightly concerned about the longer-term implications. My assumption is that documentation of the event would appear in your computerized passport record and could, conceivably, come back to haunt you later. Particularly if you intend to make a habit of it testing customs restrictions and it isn't just a one-time "oh my! how did those get in here?" thing. Could be enough to get you scrutinized more closely in future border-crossing events, for example, which could mean delays and inconvenience if nothing else.

So, definitely the best course of action is to play the Dominican gambit, as others have proposed, and avoid the problem altogether.
posted by mumkin at 11:16 AM on April 3, 2008


I've been to Cuba, flown on the daily flights from Miami. Never once had my bags searched, once asked curiously, "what if I were bringing contraband into the country?" US Customs guy said, "I don't care." He didn't search my bag that time, either.

Not entirely an answer to your question, but I've found they really don't care, particularly if you're a US citizen.
posted by arnicae at 11:17 AM on April 3, 2008


JFK had Pierre Salinger go out and buy every Cuban cigar in DC the night before he declared the embargo.

Salinger himself, big cigar smoker, once tried to smuggle a few of them in the US, they were seized, and being the witty guy he was he told the custom officer, "I'm sure you will destroy them one by one"
posted by matteo at 11:19 AM on April 3, 2008


looks like you could face bigger problems then just losing the cigars. haven't heard of anyone who has been fined, but you could be ...
posted by lester at 12:44 PM on April 3, 2008


no biggie, confiscation probably. you can buy cuban cigars in canada, so.... Cuba's not the only place to get them.
posted by hulahulagirl at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2008


I lived in Mexico for a few years and am very familiar. It depends on the port of entry and if you are on foot, in a car, off a plane or off a boat. After I moved back to Chicago, a good friend was bringing me 6 Cuban cigars from Mexico. He was driving across the border and was pulled into a random secondary search. They found the cigars in his bag. His options: pay a $250 fine or have his car confiscated as collateral. He paid, surrenders the smokes and was able to drive away.

I would consider not just snipping the bands but putting other bands from the Dominican in their place.

So much hassle, but when you light up that puro and take a pull...man, that is heaven.
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:22 PM on April 3, 2008


Thanks for the help everyone!
posted by j1950 at 6:46 PM on April 3, 2008


I brought absinthe back from Europe before it went back on the market in the US; declaring it as "spirits" on the customs form (although I think the law was that one could bring it in for one's own personal use). I was also waved through customs on another occasion even though I had declared a gem on the form (I don't know whether I wasn't believed or being done a favor).
posted by brujita at 9:17 PM on April 3, 2008


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