While stacking up cash is part of the American dream, carrying those stacks around could actually land you in legal trouble. Despite being the grease that keeps the wheel turning, large sums of money, in cash, will raise the ire of law enforcement. And while having stacks of cash is not illegal, it can result in unwanted police attention, seizure of the cash, and even arrest if evidence of a crime is found.
Generally, individuals do not carry around thousands of dollars in cash because that much cash is bulky and the modern banking and credit industry has made it much more simple to have access to that sort of money via credit cards and mobile banking.
However, because of the modern banking laws which require certain types of transactions be reported, criminals that receive large sums of cash, such as drug dealers, tend to avoid putting money in the bank. As such, when law enforcement officers find large stacks of cash on an individual, there is a presumption that the cash is meant for an illegal purpose, and can be used as the basis for a more in-depth search of your person, property, vehicle or home.
Stacks of Cash Indicating Criminal Activity
While you may have been adding $20 to your bankroll every time you used a curse word, if officers see a rubber-banded roll of twenty dollar bills during a traffic stop, it's going to raise red flags and suspicions of drug dealing or other criminal activity. Although the context of how the cash is discovered will likely matter more than anything else, civil asset forfeiture laws incentivize law enforcement departments to make arrests when large sums of cash are discovered. In some jurisdictions, arrests are not even required to seize large sums of cash.
Importing or Exporting Cash
Under US Customs laws, there is a $10,000 limit for the amount of cash a person can take out of the country or bring into the country without reporting it to customs. Failing to report the import or export of over $10k, can result in severe penalties, including up to $500,000 in fines and 10 years in prison. These laws are targeted at protecting against financial crimes such as money laundering. And it is worth noting that it is only illegal if the sum of money is not reported.
If your cash has been seized by law enforcement, you likely have the right to have your property returned. However, it may require filing a formal request or even a lawsuit. Seeking legal help as soon as possible after an asset seizure is recommended.