Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

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 protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.   Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested, or imprisoned.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.  If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, possibly convicted and sentenced, and for any appeals process.  Within this framework, U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families.

If you or a family member is arrested, local authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy pursuant to the Vienna Convention. You may ask that local police contact the Embassy on your behalf. Officers will work to protect your interests and ensure that you are treated in a manner consistent with local laws and customs.

You may wish to download a list of Jamaican attorneys (PDF 966 kb) or attorneys from the Cayman Islands (PDF 41 kb).  Please note that this list is provided as a resource only. The Embassy assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or reputation of the attorneys listed.

If you have a family member who has been incarcerated in Jamaica, you may find it useful to review this document (PDF 105 KB)

PRIVACY ACT NOTE: The provisions of the Privacy Act are designed to protect the privacy and rights of U.S. citizens, but occasionally they complicate our efforts to assist citizens abroad.  As a rule, consular officers may not reveal information regarding an individual U.S. citizen’s location, welfare, intentions, or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the expressed written consent of that individual. Although sympathetic to the distress this can cause concerned families, consular officers must comply with the provisions of the Privacy Act.