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Getting Legal Assistance

If U. S. citizens become involved in legal difficulties abroad, there is little that the U. S. embassy or a consular officer can do for them. American officials are limited by foreign as well as U. S. laws. In short, a consular officer cannot get them out of a foreign jail, nor can they serve as their attorney or give them legal advice. They can, however, provide them with a list of local attorneys. These lists of attorneys are compiled from local bar association lists and responses to United States Department of State questionnaires, although the embassy or consular staff cannot vouch for the competence of any particular local attorney.

If U. S. citizens are arrested, they should ask the local authorities to inform a consular officer at the nearest U. S. embassy or consulate. International agreements and diplomatic practice give them the right to talk to the U. S. consul. If the local authorities refuse to inform the nearest U. S. embassy or consular office, try to have someone else get in touch with the U. S. consular officer for. Once they know that U. S. citizens has been arrested, U. S. officials will visit them, advise them of their rights under the local laws, and contact their family and friends, if they wish. Additionally, U. S. consuls can arrange to send money, food, and clothing to the appropriate authorities from their family or friends. If they are being held in unhealthy or inhumane conditions, they will work to get relief for them.

Inside Getting Legal Assistance