Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

If you are an American visiting/residing in our consular district and you have been arrested or detained, please contact us.

Americans in our consular district are fully subject to the countries’ laws and procedures. Americans arrested or detained in these islands have the right to communicate with an American Consular Officer. Such communication allows the Embassy to monitor a detainee’s general welfare and ensure, as far as possible, that individual rights under local law are observed and proper treatment is accorded under internationally accepted standards. In addition, the Embassy, upon request, can facilitate communication with family and friends, provide a list of attorneys, and assist in arranging the transfer of personal funds from the U.S. to pay legal or other costs.

Please be aware that a Consular Officer cannot arrange for the release of anyone or act as an attorney. Additionally, a Consular Officer cannot act as a personal representative when dealing with local prison authorities. Also note, the U.S. Government does not provide bail money or pay attorneys’ fees. Detainees who wish to raise an issue with prison authorities should follow appropriate channels within the institution.

Prison Visits:

If you are arrested, you should ask the authorities to notify a US Consul in the American Citizens Services office (ACS).  Local government authorities are obliged by treaty to notify the appropriate American Consular Officials of the arrest and detention of a US citizen who requests that such notification be made. Consuls cannot secure your release from jail because when you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its local laws.  Consular Officers can work to protect your legitimate interests and ensure that you are not discriminated against because you are an American citizen.  They can provide you with a list of local attorneys, visit you, inform you generally about local laws, and contact your family and friends.  Consular officers can transfer money and clothing to the prison authorities from your family and friends.  They can try to obtain relief if you are held under inhumane or unhealthful conditions.

The Embassy strongly suggests that detainees obtain the services of an attorney as the structures of the local judicial and law enforcement systems are often quite different from those in the U.S. A list of attorneys is available on our website.

In all communications with the Consular Officer, the right to privacy is protected by U.S. law under the Privacy Act. The information provided will not be released to anyone unless specifically authorized with a Privacy Act Waiver. (PDF, 27 kB)