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Legal Assistance and Arrest of a U.S. Citizen
April 2, 2021

Were you made aware that a U.S. citizen was arrested/detained in Mexico?

Ask local authorities to notify the U.S. Embassy or consulate immediately.  You may also wish to notify the U.S. Embassy or consulate of the arrest using the American Citizens Services Contact Form.

See our Local Resources page to search for an attorney in Mexico.

The Embassy or Consulate’s Role:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written consent
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly
  • Help ensure prison officials provide appropriate medical care
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice and legal processes

We cannot:

  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees

When the arrestee states they are a U.S. citizen and requests notification to the U.S. Embassy or consulate, Mexican authorities will inform the U.S. Embassy or consulate of the detention of the U.S. citizen without delay.  A consular representative will visit the arrestee as soon as possible after notification. 

On the initial visit, the consular representative will check on the well-being of the detainee and the circumstances of the arrest, provide a list of attorneys, and ask for a Privacy Act Written Consent to authorize the American Citizens Services office to  contact others regarding the arrest.

The U.S. Embassy and consulates are obliged to bring evidence of maltreatment or discrimination to the attention of Mexican authorities if the citizen so requests.

To learn about the consulate that can assist you, please see Mission Mexico’s Consular Districts.

Foreign Laws

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.
Persons violating Mexican laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mexico are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. If you break local laws in Mexico, your U.S. citizenship will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is illegal wherever you go. If arrested in Mexico, a U.S. citizen must go through the foreign legal process including possible charge or indictment, prosecution, possible conviction and sentencing, and any appeals process.

Avoid getting arrested overseas by:

  • Understanding that you are subject to the local laws and regulations while visiting or living in the country and that you must follow them.
  • Learning about how the laws in the United States might be different from the laws in Mexico. We provide some information for each country on our Country Specific pages.