Safety Abroad: Arrests
What if I am Arrested?
You may say "it couldn't happen to me" but the fact is that it could happen to you if you find yourself saying one of the following:
"I am a U.S. citizen and no foreign government can put me in their jail."
"If I only buy or carry a small amount, it won't be a problem."
If you are arrested, the U.S. consular officer CANNOT get you out.
If you are arrested on a drug charge it is important that you know what the U.S. government can and cannot do for you.
The U.S. Consular Office CAN:
- visit you in jail after being notified of your arrest
- give you a list of local attorneys (The U.S. Government cannot assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of these individuals or recommend a particular attorney)
- notify your family and/or friends and relay requests for money or other aid - but only with your authorization
- intercede with local authorities to make sure that your rights under local laws are fully observed and that you are treated humanely, according to internationally accepted standards
- protest mistreatment or abuse to the appropriate authorities
The U.S. Consular Office CANNOT:
- demand your immediate release or get you out of jail or the country
- represent you at trial or give legal counsel
- pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. government funds
If you are caught using illegal drugs by UM-Flint on-site personnel, you may be immediately dismissed from the study abroad program. If you are caught by local authorities buying, selling, carrying or using drugs it could mean:
- interrogation and delays before trial including mistreatment and solitary confinement for up to one year under very primitive conditions
- lengthy trials conducted in a foreign language, with delays and postponements
- weeks, months or life in prison (some places include hard labor, heavy fines, and/or lashings), if found guilty
- the death penalty in a growing number of countries
A few words to the wise...
- A number of countries, including the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and the Philippines, have enacted more stringent drug laws that impose mandatory jail sentences for individuals convicted of possessing even small amounts of marijuana or cocaine for personal use.
- Once you leave the United States you are not covered by U.S. laws and constitutional rights.
- Bail is not granted in many countries when drugs are involved.
- The burden of proof in many countries is on the accused to prove his/her innocence.
- In some countries, evidence obtained illegally by local authorities may be admissible in court.
- Few countries offer drug offenders jury trials or even require the prisoner's presence at his/her trial.
- Many countries have mandatory prison sentences of seven years to life without the possibility of parole for drug violations.
- If someone offers you a free trip and some quick and easy money just for bringing back a suitcase...SAY NO!
- Don't carry a package for anyone, no matter how small it might seem.
- The police and customs officials have a right to search your luggage for drugs. If they find drugs in your suitcase, YOU will suffer the consequences.
- You could go to jail for years with no possibility of parole, early release, or transfer back the United States.
- Don't make a jail sentence part of your trip abroad.
Overseas Citizens Services
The Office of Study Abroad will register participants of UM-Faculty led programs with the U.S. Department of State. The Overseas Citizens Services of the Bureau of Consular Affairs is responsible for the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad. American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS), a branch of OCS, assists in all matters involving protective services for Americans abroad, including arrests, death cases, financial or medical emergencies, and welfare and whereabouts inquiries. Log-on to http://travel.state.gov/travel/overseas.html for details on their services.
The OCS toll-free hotline is 1-888-407-4747. If you are unable to use the toll-free number, call 202-501-4444. An OCS duty officer is available for after-hours emergencies and during Sundays and holidays at (202) 647-4000.