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Legal Issues Abroad

The truth is that Americans are expected to obey all of the laws of the countries they visit, and those who break these laws sometimes face severe penalties, including jail sentences. If you get into legal trouble, you should immediately contact your on-site director. You may also contact a Consular officer at your local U.S. Embassy abroad; however, it is important to understand what services Consular officers and embassy personnel can provide.

A U.S. Consular Officer can:

  • Visit you in jail
  • Give you a list of local attorneys
  • Notify your family or friends and relay requests for money or other aid with your authorization
  • Intercede with the local authorities to ensure that you are treated humanely and ensure that your rights under local law are fully observed

U.S. embassy personnel can:

  • Provide routine citizenship services and emergency assistance for American citizens abroad. 
  • Assist Americans abroad and their families in cases of death, serious medical emergencies, and legal difficulties.

A U.S. Consular officer cannot:

  • Get you out of jail
  • Represent you at trial or give you legal counsel
  • Pay fees or fines with U.S. government funds