Travel Warning on Drugs Abroad
Things You Should Know
You Go Abroad
Each year, 2,500 Americans are arrested overseas. One third of
the arrests are on drug-related charges. Many of those arrested
assumed as U.S. citizens that they could not be arrested. From
Asia to Africa, Europe to South America, U.S. citizens are finding
out the hard way that drug possession or trafficking equals jail
in foreign countries.
There is very little that anyone can do to help you if you are
caught with drugs.
It is your responsibility to know what the drug laws are in
a foreign country before you go, because "I didn't know it was
illegal" will not get you out of jail.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of
women arrested abroad. The rise is a result of women who serve
as drug couriers or "mules" in the belief they can make quick
money and have a vacation without getting caught. Instead of a
short vacation, they get a lengthy stay or life sentence in a
A number of the Americans arrested abroad on drug charges in
1994 possessed marijuana. Many of these possessed one ounce or
less of the substance. The risk of being put in jail for just
one marijuana cigarette is not worth it.
If you are purchasing prescription medications in quantities
larger than that considered necessary for personal use, you could
be arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking.
Once you're arrested, the American consular officer CANNOT
get you out!
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
..."I'm an American 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
If you are arrested on a drug charge it is important that you
know what your government CAN
and CANNOT do for you.
The U.S. Consular Officer 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
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 law are fully observed and that
you are treated humanely, according to internationally accepted
protest mistreatment or abuse to the appropriate authorities
The U.S. Consular Officer CANNOT
demand your immediate release or get you out of jail or
represent you at trial or give legal counsel
pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. Government funds
If you are caught buying, selling, carrying or using drugs --
from hashish to heroin, marijuana to mescaline, cocaine to quaaludes,
to designer drugs like ecstacy....
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 (e.g., Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey)
Although drug laws vary from country to country, it is important
to realize before you make the mistake of getting involved with
drugs that foreign countries do not react lightly to drug offenders.
In some countries, anyone who is caught with even a very small
quantity for personal use may be tried and receive the same sentence
as the large-scale trafficker.
DON'T LET YOUR TRIP ABROAD
BECOME A NIGHTMARE!
This information has been provided
to inform you
before it is too late.
SO THINK FIRST!
A number of countries, including the Bahamas, the Dominican
Republic, Jamaica, Mexico and the Philippines, have enacted
more stringent drug laws which 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 or life, without the possibility of parole for drug
If someone offers you a free trip and some quick and easy
money just for bringing back a suitcase.... SAY
Don't carry a package for anyone, no matter how small it
The police and customs officials have a right to search
your luggage for drugs. If they find drugs in your
will suffer the consequences.
You could go to jail for years and years with no possibility
of parole, early release or transfer back to the U.S.
Don't make a jail sentence part of your trip abroad.
The Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' Office
of Overseas Citizens Services provides emergency services pertaining
to the protection of Americans arrested or detained abroad, the
search for U.S. citizens overseas, the transmission of emergency
messages to those citizens or their next of kin in the United
States and other emergency and non-emergency services. Contact
the Office of Overseas Citizens Services from Monday through Friday,
8:15 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at (202) 647-5225. For an emergency after
hours or on weekends and holidays, ask for the Overseas Citizens
Services' duty officer at (202) 647-4000. Internet home page: