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U.S. Department of State
95/11/01 Travel Warning on Drugs Abroad
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Department of State Publication 10307
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Revised November 1995
Travel Warning on Drugs Abroad
Things You Should Know Before You Go Abroad
During 1994, 2,500 Americans were arrested in 95 foreign countries. Of
these, 880 ended up in jails abroad because they assumed they couldn't
get arrested for drug possession. From Asia to Africa, Europe to South
America, Americans 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
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 vacation, they get a
permanent residence in an overseas jail.
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.
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 any of the following:
..."My family has enough money and influence to get me out of trouble."
..."If I only buy or carry a small amount, it won't be a problem."
..."As long as I'm an American citizen, no foreign government will put
ME in THEIR jail."
The Overseas Citizens Services of the Bureau of Consular Affairs,
Department of State, provides emergency services pertaining to the
protection of Americans arrested or detained abroad, the search for U.S.
citizens overseas, and the transmission of emergency messages to those
citizens or their next of kin in the United States. Assistance at the
Overseas Citizens Services is available Monday through Friday, 8:15 am
to 10:00 pm 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.
If you are arrested on a drug charge it is important that you know what
CAN and CANNOT be done.
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
-- 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 standards
-- 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 the country!
-- 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 any type of drug --
from hashish to heroin, marijuana to mescaline, cocaine to quaaludes --
IT CAN 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
-- Two Years to Life in Prison some places include hard labor and heavy
fines, if found guilty
-- The Death Penalty in a growing number of countries (e.g., Saudi
Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey, Thailand)
Although drug laws may vary in each country you visit, 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. 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
BECOME A NIGHTMARE!
This information has been provided to inform you before it is too late.
SO THINK FIRST!
-- A number of countries, including Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and
the Dominican Republic, 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
-- 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
more without parole for drug violations
-- If someone offers you a free trip and some quick and easy money just
for bringing back a suitcase....SAY NO!
-- Don't carry a package for anyone, no matter how small it might seem
-- The police will be waiting for you at the airport
-- If it's in your suitcase, you will be caught
-- You will go to jail for years and years and may even lose your
-- Don't make a jail sentence part of your trip abroad
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