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What to do if you commit a crime in a foreign country?

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Although getting arrested abroad can easily be avoided by being sensible, and more importantly, researching any differences between the country you’re visiting and where you’re from, committing crime in a foreign country isn’t all that uncommon. Even if you’re the most law-abiding citizen at home, a little drunken revelry or just a misunderstanding of the law in the country you’re in could see you landed in jail. For instance, did you know that public displays of affection are illegal in the UAE? Or bad-mouthing the king is punished with long prison terms in Thailand? Or that baring your bottom can get you arrested in some parts of Australia?

Finding yourself in trouble with the law in a foreign country is worrying, particularly if you don’t speak the language. If you are arrested after committing a crime in a foreign country, here is what you should do:

1. Ask About Your Rights
Ask the arresting officer for information about your rights in a language you understand. Your rights will vary from country to country. Knowing your rights will help you to plan the best course of action. Also try to clarify why you have been arrested.

2. Don’t Give Too Much Information
If you can’t imagine what crime you’ve committed, you may try to talk yourself out of an arrest. However, without a full understanding of why you have been arrested and the laws in question, you should keep quiet. You may only be incriminating yourself further.

3. Call Your Embassy
Your embassy won’t usually be able to intervene in the legal practices of their resident country. They will, however, be able to inform you of your rights, usual legal procedures and give you details of a local English-speaking lawyer, all invaluable for securing your release.

4. Instruct a Lawyer
As at home, if you’ve been arrested you want a lawyer by your side as soon as possible. Only they will fully understand the legal ramifications of the arrest and be able to advise you accordingly. Avoid speaking to the police until you have instructed a lawyer.

committing crime in a foreign country
Getting Arrested Abroad – Photo by pixabay

5. Call Your Family
If you’ve been arrested you need to notify someone in your family. Tell them where you are being detained and on what charges. You should also give them contact details for your lawyer so they are able to keep up to speed on any developments.

6. Don’t Sign Anything
Sometimes, due to corrupt police practices, people have been arrested and then encouraged to sign a document in a language they don’t understand. You could be signing a confession that gives the police grounds to keep you in custody for longer. Don’t sign anything until you have a translator or translated copy of the document in front of you.

7. Don’t Share Information With Other Prisoners
Whilst it can be comforting to talk to other prisoners you come into contact with, keep information about yourself and your case close to your chest. Some prisoners may give you unreliable advice or even pass on sensitive information to the police in order to gain a reduction in their own sentence.

Knowing that laws differ from country to country is the first part of the battle in avoiding trouble with the law. Research any differences between the laws in your destination and the laws at home before you travel. And then stick to them. You certainly don’t want your case to be used as an example and a deterrent, finding yourself stuck with a long jail term in a country far from home. And if you do get arrested, try to stay calm and get yourself a lawyer. It could be that you are out of jail and back home before you know it.

Author: Lucy Taylor is an avid blogger who enjoys sharing her tips and suggestions with her online readers. Working as a legal expert at LY Lawyers, Lucy often helps people dealing with legal problems, addictions and crime.

One thought on “What to do if you commit a crime in a foreign country?

  1. Hi Lucy,

    If you have a pending case in one country, Will it be a problem if you decided to travel to other countries. For instance, if I have a pending jaywalking or smoking in public case in singapore, will I still be able to travel to china or vietnam? Or China and Vietnam will prohibit me to enter their country because of my case from singapore?

    Thank you

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