It is a nightmare scenario that plays out far too often in this world: you are visiting another country on vacation and everything is going fine and then all of a sudden you find yourself embroiled in an international incident that has you behind bars and thousands of miles away from home. Here are a few tips you can follow if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the law outside of the United States of America.
Recent stories in the news have put the problem of vacationers having legal problems in the countries that they are vacationing in the spotlight. A number of horror stories have come out of Middle Eastern countries like the UAE in the last few months so it is easy to understand why the interest in international law is at an all time high. In these cases, visitors to the UAE were arrested and held for months on end without trial after 1/8000th of a gram of cannabis was found on the bottom of one person’s shoe, and another man was held for a significant period of time after poppy seeds from a muffin were found on his person. He was held in connection for possession of opiates. Of course, these types of cases are literally the worse case scenario and are extremely unlikely to happen to you, but getting arrested during your international vacation is still serious business.
First off, if you are arrested, don’t say a thing until you are given access to a lawyer or a barrister of some kind. In most Western countries, you are given the option of having a lawyer by your side at all times, and anything you say can and will be used against you, just like here in the US. Even if the cops seem friendly or they say that they want to help you, ask if you are being held; if you are not, ask to leave. If you are, ask for lawyer.
Second, if you are given a phone call, and in most places it is mandatory, call the United States embassy in the country you are living in and get help. This might be the most important phone call you can make because it is the only thing you can do to alert others of your situation. Do not call your lawyer at home as they will not be able to help you and don’t call your family, although that might be the first impulse you have. You can get the phone numbers for the United States embassies all over the world from this website http://www.usembassy.gov/.
Finally, it is important to stay calm and don’t admit to anything you didn’t actually do. You may kiss your rights away if you admit to a crime under duress that you didn’t commit. Hopefully, your host country will notify the embassy of your arrest even if you don’t so help should be on the way in a matter of hours. Even if you are released, contact your embassy right away and let them know what happened so there are no problems when you try to leave.