I am studying abroad this semester in Italy and want to bring my parents some limoncello for Christmas, but I live in the United States and am under 21. If I put the bottle in my checked suitcase, would I be able to get it through customs, or would they confiscate it and/or fine me? I've heard and read mixed answers, so would love some clarification. Thanks!
[ Edit: Edited on 06-Nov-2011, at 08:50 by khiemstra09 ]
You're under-age so of course it's illegal for you to import booze into the US.
The chances of you having your checked luggage inspected are slim, but if a CBP official takes a look and finds the undeclared and illegal booze then you'll have a red flag on your file for eternity.
Why risk the hassle for something that is available for purchase in the US?...
CheersT is correct. Last year I came through Seattle customs, and they looked through everything, but this year at JFK, I was just waived through with nothing looked at at all.
ship it from a post office where you buy it
enjoy the day
Yes, don't risk putting it in your luggage. Ship it from the area that you purchase it.
The cost/hassle of shipping it from Italy will be WAY more expensive than simply buying it in the US.
I can speak to this as someone who tried exactly what you are considering (except I was already 21). The first two times I tried "sneaking" some extra bottles of liquor in and not declaring it--since I had more bottles than you were allowed to legally bring without paying any duties (fees). Anyway, I was caught and told I could drink my stuff right there before entering the US or else I could dispose of it (meaning of course the inspectors would enjoy it later) depending upon my preference. One of these times was at the Mexican border, and I noticed that the California Highway Patrol car was sitting about 200 yards away just waiting to ticket (and possibly give a DUI) to anyway who decided to drink liquor and then drive. (I decided to drink some--dispose of some--and have my non-drinking wife do the driving.)
The third time I brought in liquor and legally declared it upon my return from Germany some years later. Rather than have me pay the duty on it--the inspectors decided it wasn't worth the trouble--and waived me through without having me pay the required charges.
Okay--fourth time--this time I brought in gold jewelry and fancy ruby rings (coming back from Thailand and India). They were properly listed on the duty form, and the inspector had me pay about a $90 duty on about $1500 in imported goods. He also asked if he could "borrow" the 22-carat gold stuff to show some of the other (newer) inspectors in order to inform them of exactly what kind of stuff they were looking for when spot-checking suitcases. I asked him about that--and he said anything not declared could be seized--and nowadays it would be sold at a federal government auction.
Translation: Being honest does pay. In the first two cases, when I was dishonest, I lost a lot more in the cost of the liquor than what I would have paid in duties. In the third case I paid nothing when properly declaring liquor, and in the fourth case, even after paying the extra "duty fees", the cost of what I bought overseas was less than half of what it would have been in the US--and I didn't run the risk of having it confiscated and sold.