Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

When you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws, and American officials are limited as to how they can assist you. They cannot, for instance, represent you in legal proceedings or pay your legal fees or other expenses. They can, however, perform a variety of vital services, which include providing a list of attorneys, assisting in contacting your family in the U.S. if you wish it, helping you obtain money from family in the U.S., and monitoring your health and welfare and the conditions under which you are being held.

If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, possibly convicted and sentenced, and for any appeals process. Within this framework, U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families. We can and do monitor conditions in foreign prisons and can protest allegations of abuse against U.S. citizen prisoners when requested to do so. We work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards of human rights and to ensure that Americans are afforded due process under local laws.

If you are arrested, 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. For information on how consuls assist American arrestees, see here.

Privacy Act – The provisions of the Privacy Act are designed to protect the privacy and rights of Americans, but occasionally they complicate our efforts to assist citizens abroad. As a rule, consular officers may not reveal information regarding an individual Americans location, welfare, intentions, or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the expressed consent of that individual. Although sympathetic to the distress this can cause concerned families, consular officers must comply with the provisions of the Privacy Act.

For more information please visit here.