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Vacation Nightmare: What if You Get Arrested Abroad?

by | Last updated Mar 2, 2022

US Swimmer Ryan Lochte is back home, but you may not be as lucky.

Typically, getting arrested or in trouble in a different country is not on the “to do” list as you pack up for a relaxing getaway. But it happens. Every year, thousands of Americans are locked up in foreign prison cells. For a normal person (who is not U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte in the ‘mugging’ scandal during the Brazil’s 2016 Olympic Games), you’re not going to get the same treatment.

The US Embassy is Your Friend, Not You BFF

If you find yourself in trouble or arrested overseas, your first phone call should be to a U.S. embassy or consulate. Embassies will help deliver messages to family members and put you in contact with local lawyers and interpreters; however, don’t expect the U.S. Embassy to bust you out of jail.

Embassies cannot offer you any legal assistance, immunity, or help you flee the country. It’s unrealistic to think the U.S. will intervene on your behalf. And, rarely will an American receive any special treatment in a foreign country’s judicial system.

If you are traveling to a different country, you must play by their rules. Americans may take for granted constitutional rights like free speech and due process, however, certain rights we enjoy as Americans, don’t apply on foreign soil.

Know Your Rights Before You Pack Your Bags

Do a quick “Google” search before you leave. You may be surprised at what laws you may innocently break. For instance, it’s illegal to transport more than 24 artificial fingernails to Cuba. Travelers to Cuba also are forbidden to stay overnight at a local’s home unless the homeowner has a permit.

Beware of harsher penalties. In Cuba, a drug conviction can result in 20 years in prison or even death. What’s more, certain prescription medication authorized for use in the United States could also be banned elsewhere and create liability in those foreign countries.

As with the laws in America, pleading ignorance isn’t a defense. Earlier this year, Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student in North Korea was arrested for trying to steal a propaganda banner at a Pyongyang hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Finding a trustworthy, experienced attorney can be difficult whether you’re at home or overseas. If you are ever visiting Florida and find yourself in a situation that may require a consultation with a lawyer do not wait to act and call the attorneys at Shiner Law Group, P.A. Don’t hesitate to call us no matter how unusual the circumstances of your case are. Your Palm Beach County personal injury attorneys are available 24/7 to discuss all your legal options.