Arrests - Arrests Abroad
If you are arrested in a foreign country, immediately ask to speak to a consular officer at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Under international agreements, the U.S. Government has a right to provide consular assistance to you upon your request. If your request to speak to your consul is turned down, keep asking—politely, but persistently.
Several hundred Americans are arrested abroad on drug charges. Persons caught with illegal drugs in a foreign country are subject to the drug laws of that country, not those of the U.S.; as always, ignorance of the law is no excuse. In many countries, the burden of proof is on the accused to show that he or she is innocent of the charges.
Every aspect of a drug arrest abroad can be different from U.S. practice. For instance:
- few countries provide a jury trial
- many countries do not permit pre-trial release on bail
- pre-trial detention, often in solitary confinement, can last several months
- prisons may lack even minimal comforts, such as beds, toilets, and washbasins
- diets are often inadequate and require supplements from relatives and friends
- officials may not speak English
- physical abuse, confiscation of property, degrading treatment and extortion are possible.
- persons convicted may face sentences ranging from fines and jail time, to years of hard labor, and even the death penalty
- penalties for drug possession and for drug trafficking are often the same abroad, so possession of one ounce of marijuana could result in years in a foreign jail