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Arrest and Detention Abroad

Travelers 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.

First steps

If you get into legal trouble, you (or a companion) should immediately contact your program director, trip leader or on-site staff (if applicable) or call the Northwestern University Police's 24/7 assistance line at (847) 491-3456.

A consular officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad should also be notified.

  • From the U.S. & Canada: (888) 407-4747
  • From Abroad: (202) 501-4444

Available services

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

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

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

Read more about Arrest or Detention Abroad on the U.S. Department of State’s website.