§ 1590. Aviation smuggling (a) In general
It is unlawful for the pilot of any aircraft to transport, or for any individual on board any aircraft to possess, merchandise knowing, or intending, that the merchandise will be introduced into the United States contrary to law.
(b) Sea transfersIt is unlawful for any person to transfer merchandise between an aircraft and a vessel on the high seas or in the customs waters of the United States if such person has not been authorized by the Secretary to make such transfer and— (1) either—
(A) the aircraft is owned by a citizen of the United States or is registered in the United States, or
(B) the vessel is a vessel of the United States (within the meaning of section 1703(b) of this title), or
(2) regardless of the nationality of the vessel or aircraft, such transfer is made under circumstances indicating the intent to make it possible for such merchandise, or any part thereof, to be introduced into the United States unlawfully.
(c) Civil penalties
Any person who violates any provision of this section is liable for a civil penalty equal to twice the value of the merchandise involved in the violation, but not less than $10,000. The value of any controlled substance included in the merchandise shall be determined in accordance with section 1497(b) of this title.
(d) Criminal penaltiesIn addition to being liable for a civil penalty under subsection (c), any person who intentionally commits, or attempts or conspires to commit, a violation of any provision of this section is, upon conviction—
(1) liable for a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both, if none of the merchandise involved was a controlled substance; or
(2) liable for a fine of not more than $250,000 or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both, if any of the merchandise involved was a controlled substance.
(e) Seizure and forfeiture
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), a vessel or aircraft used in connection with, or in aiding or facilitating, any violation of this section, whether or not any person is charged in connection with such violation, may be seized and forfeited in accordance with the customs laws.
(2) Paragraph (1) does not apply to a vessel or aircraft operated as a common carrier.
(f) “Merchandise” defined
As used in this section, the term “merchandise” means only merchandise the importation of which into the United States is prohibited or restricted.
(g) Definition of aircraftIn this section, the term “aircraft”—
(1) has the meaning given that term in section 40102 of title 49; and
(2) includes a vehicle described in section 103.1 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations.
(h) Intent of transfer of merchandiseFor purposes of imposing civil penalties under this section, any of the following acts, when performed within 250 miles of the territorial sea of the United States, shall be prima facie evidence that the transportation or possession of merchandise was unlawful and shall be presumed to constitute circumstances indicating that the purpose of the transfer is to make it possible for such merchandise, or any part thereof, to be introduced into the United States unlawfully, and for purposes of subsection (e) or section 1595a of this title, shall be prima facie evidence that an aircraft or vessel was used in connection with, or to aid or facilitate, a violation of this section:
(1) The operation of an aircraft or a vessel without lights during such times as lights are required to be displayed under applicable law.
(2) The presence on an aircraft of an auxiliary fuel tank which is not installed in accordance with applicable law.
(3) The failure to identify correctly—
(A) the vessel by name or country of registration, or
(B) the aircraft by registration number and country of registration,
when requested to do so by a customs officer or other government authority.
(4) The external display of false registration numbers, false country of registration, or, in the case of a vessel, false vessel name.
(5) The presence on board of unmanifested merchandise, the importation of which is prohibited or restricted.
(6) The presence on board of controlled substances which are not manifested or which are not accompanied by the permits or licenses required under Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or other international treaty.
(7) The presence of any compartment or equipment which is built or fitted out for smuggling.
(8) The failure of a vessel to stop when hailed by a customs officer or other government authority.
(June 17, 1930, ch. 497, title IV, § 590, as added Pub. L. 99–570, title III, § 3120, Oct. 27, 1986, 100 Stat. 3207–84; amended Pub. L. 112–93, § 2(a), (b), Feb. 10, 2012, 126 Stat. 8.)