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Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Arrest of a U.S. Citizen in the UK

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the same protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Persons violating the law in a foreign country, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested, or imprisoned.  If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, and possibly convicted and sentenced.

More than 2,500 U.S. citizens are arrested abroad annually.  More than 30% of these arrests are drug-related, and more than 70% of these drug-related arrests involve marijuana or cocaine. 

Each country is sovereign and its laws apply to everyone who enters regardless of nationality.  The U.S. Government cannot get U.S. citizens released from foreign jails.  However, a U.S. Consul will insist on prompt access to an arrested U.S. citizen, provide a list of attorneys, provide information on the host country's legal system, offer to contact their family or friends, visit on a regular basis, protest mistreatment, monitor jail conditions, provide dietary supplements if needed, and keep the Department of State informed. 

The Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., is the point of contact for family members in the United States who are concerned about a U.S. citizen family member who has been arrested abroad.  You can reach OCS by calling 1-888-407-4747.   

 

Arrest of an American Citizen in England and Wales

  • Family members in the United Kingdom who are concerned about an American arrested in England or Wales can call the  U.S. Embassy in London at 020-7499-9000, 

Arrest of an American Citizen in N. Ireland

  • Family members in the United Kingdom who are concerned about the arrest of an American citizen in Northern Ireland, should call 028 9038 6100 during office hours (8:30am through 5:00pm).  In the case of a genuine emergency outside of normal business hours, telephone 01253-501106.

Arrest of an American Citizen in Scotland

  • Family members in the United Kingdom who are concerned about the arrest of an American citizen in Scotland should follow this link for further information, including contact details for the Consulate General in Edinburgh.