When delivering a package, it goes through several procedures. The Postal service receives and forwards the packages on a daily basis and them getting stumbled upon a few suspicious packages. The suspicion may either be friendly or maybe not. The customer always has the tracking ID during the ordering and can track their package at any time. And that tracking id information always gets updated whether it has been on cargo or whether the carrier got it or not. If you have been seeing your package having no update after it was received at the postal service, you may suspect it getting seized or maybe some sort of problem has arisen.

However, when you went to the tracking id information, you cannot understand what message you should see to prove your suspicion. Normally, the customer would not get any tracking messages that would make him alert. This happens when a highly risked or suspicious package is seized and the owner of the package needs to be arrested or maybe go through interrogation. And in the case of an insignificant illegal or suspicious item being seized, the customer will see ‘seized by law enforcement’ on their tracking data.

What does seized package mean?

During international shipping, when a package contains something illegal or seems suspicious and needs to be investigated by law, it is seized. Though there can be other underlying reasons for a package seizure, LAW enforcement mostly meddle in the case of illegal items or labels. 

The postal service organizations have no right to seize any packages. Only Law enforcement is capable of doing so. And by seized, it does not mean your items are broken or lost. It simply means that this package is in custody and needs further investigation. There are a few reasons why your package is seized.


If Law enforcement deems your package suspicious whether you have ordered any illegal things or not, they can seize it. Even if they find the package clean, you cannot question their seizure as it is convincing for them to erase any suspicion. You should check why your package made them suspect. There are different causes for a package to look suspicious. If the packaging is untidy or looks like it has gone through something hectic, discoloring due to liquid leaking, powdered substance leaking, wrong labeling, and more.

Illegal items

If your package contains something that your country has banned, it is inevitable that it will be seized. As it is banned, the LAW won’t tolerate it getting into the country border through a package. Moreover, depending on the severity, even you may have to go through an interrogation. For example, Ham is a famous food in the USA and people use this in almost every meal when they can. However, Spanish ham is banned in the USA. Buying and selling it in the USA is illegal. And even importing is illegal unless you have some sort of license to justify the packaged item.

Criminal’s package

Criminals, ex-convicts, or a suspect under investigation get their packages seized almost every single time they order or ship something. Since they have a history, Law is bound to check every package they get or deliver even if the items inside contain nothing harmful or illegal things. After checking, they get their packages back. Even if their package contains a dress or a fairytale book, Law enforcement seizures cannot be avoided.


If a person imports or ships items illegally, it is called smuggling. Some things or products need to have legit licenses to be imported. For example, drugs have law binding. Even possession is illegal in the USA let alone importing or distribution. The postal service may not have the right. But since it is prohibited by federal law, it can be seized by law enforcement.

Labeling problem

If the items in the package are something related to chemicals, agriculture, or something that may have a dangerous element, they can be seized if the labels are improper. When shipping, you must ensure that the right labels are being used. For example, there are many signs to use for indicating what your package may have. If they are hazardous, it has a sign. If they are new species of plant, there is a sign. No country would want something that can change or mutate. So improper labeling may lead to a seizure.

In most cases, packages get sent to their original owner if they are out of suspicion. However, when you see that it has been seized, forget about the package and throw it at your luck. That means you may not even get back your package even if it is out of suspicion.

How can I know that my package is seized?

Package seizure is a lot more serious than any other problem one may face during product shipping. Either it ends with not receiving your package for good, or prolongs with lots of legal procedures and a legal battle. And whether you are the former or the latter, depends on why your package is seized.

Depending on which carrier you used for shipping, you may or may not receive the message of package seizure. USPS, UPS, DHL, and many more carriers are famous in the USA. Only USPS is an organization run by the government. These carriers don’t have any authority to seize packages by any means. Though they are the ones to see which packages are good to go and which packages should be held, without law enforcement authority they cannot hold the packages.

You may see your tracking id showing “seized by law enforcement” which should help you know that you are not seeing your package any soon.  In some cases, the carrier sends you a message to contact them. When you contact them, they will let you know about the seizure. 

Many carriers stop updating the tracking id when a package is seized. If you did not see any change in your package location, you should conclude that maybe it is seized. If you did not ship anything illegal, have no problem whatsoever, and want your package back, you may want to contact the law enforcement agency. There is no other way as the carrier will have no idea what’s going on inside the agency. You may want to know why it is being seized, when you will get it back, etc. However, you should not expect too much as they also cannot disclose any information due to the investigation.

Apart from improper labeling and unrequired suspicion, you will be let go either with or without your package. And for other reasons like illegal items, smuggling, restricted item importing, etc, you will have to get legal advice and procedures. 

What is a suspicious package?

As we have said, packages can be seized if they seem a bit more irregular than others and look suspicious. You may ask, how is that different from a clean and regular package? And why did your one got taken away? Envelopes that seem like containing money, packages with stains or leaking powder, extra heavy despite being really small, messy handwriting with undetected labels, etc.

Shipping, especially international ones require extra care and double checking as they get extra checking when crossing the border. You may also get in trouble if you send or import something without knowing that is illegal or should not be distributed.


Beatrice has started writing to research more to have in-depth knowledge of things she has an interest in and this journey of hers has contributed a lot to our writing team.

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