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 Bermuda’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bermuda are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. If arrested for possession of even a small quantity of an illegal drug, offenders may be held for trial and not allowed to leave the island until final disposition. Many drug-related arrests of American citizen visitors are made each year, and there are a number of American citizens serving extensive prison sentences in Bermuda.

If you are an American who has been arrested, you should ask the authorities to notify the U.S. consul.  Bermuda government authorities are obliged to notify the appropriate American consular officials of the arrest and detention of a U.S. national. Be advised, however, that consuls cannot get you out of jail (when you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its local laws).

The U.S. Consulate can:

  • Visit the prisoner as soon as possible after notification of the arrest.
  • Provide a list of local attorneys (PDF – 212 KB) to assist the prisoner to obtain legal representation. Also, provide a list of Criminal lawyers in Bermuda (PDF – 218 KB).
  • Provide information about judicial procedures in the foreign country.
  • Obtain a Privacy Act Consent.
  • Notify family and/or friends, if authorized by the prisoner.
  • Relay requests to family and friends for money or other aid, such as clothing, to the prison authorities.

The consulate can also provide on-going support to incarcerated Americans in Bermuda such as:

  • Providing regular consular visits to the prisoner and reporting on those visits to the Department of State.
  • Protesting mistreatment or abuse to the appropriate authorities.
  • Attending the trial, if the embassy/consulate believes that discrimination on the basis of U.S. nationality might occur or if specifically requested by the prisoner or family, if possible.
  • Providing information about procedures to apply for prisoner transfer treaties, if applicable.

Discretionary support provided as needed includes:

  • Providing reading materials subject to local laws and regulations.
  • Providing personal amenities such as stamps, toiletries, stationery, if permitted by prison authorities, from prisoner’s or family’s private funds.
  • Assisting in arranging correspondence courses.

A Consular Officer cannot:

  • Demand the immediate release of a U.S. citizen arrested abroad or otherwise cause the citizen to be released.
  • Represent a U.S. citizen at trial, give legal advice or pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. government funds.

Please go to travel.state.gov – Arrest or Detention of a U.S. Citizen for more information regarding arrests.