Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

The Department of State is committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for U.S. citizens imprisoned overseas. We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international law, domestic and foreign law.

Avoid getting arrested overseas by:

  • Following the laws and regulations of the country you are visiting or living in.
  • Learning about laws there which might be different from the laws in the United States. We provide some information for each country on our Country Specific pages.  For further information on laws within the foreign country before you go, contact that country’s nearest embassy or consulate within the United States.

If you are arrested overseas or know a U.S. citizen who is:

  • Ask the prison authorities to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate
  • You may also wish to reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate to let us know of arrest.  Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas can be found here or by going to our individual Country Specific Information pages.

Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners:

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented.  It can be more difficult because the prisoner is in unfamiliar surroundings, and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.

 We can help:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written permission
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Help ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care for you
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Inform the detainee of local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime that may be available to them
  • If they would like, ensuring that prison officials are permitting visits with  a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens, when permissible under prison regulations

We cannot:

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

Anyone who breaks the law in Slovenia is subject to prosecution under the Slovene legal system.  If a person is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by a Slovene court, this sentence will be served in a Slovene prison.  Slovenia’s authority to try foreigners as well as its own citizens is based upon the principle of sovereignty, which is the right of a nation to make and enforce its laws within its own boundaries.

The Embassy’s Role 

Under Article 36(1)(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Republic of Slovenia must, at the request of any detained American, notify the U.S. Embassy immediately after an arrest takes place.

In spite of anything you may have heard to the contrary, neither the United States Government nor its representative, a Consular Officer, can get an American out of prison.  A U.S. passport does not entitle its bearers to any special privileges.  American Consular Officers can and do intercede on behalf of Americans imprisoned in Slovenia, but there are definite limits as to what they can do to help. We work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards of human rights and to ensure that Americans are afforded due process under Slovene laws.

What the Consul Can Do

A Consular Officer can visit you in jail or detention after being notified of your arrest and monitor the state of your health and well-being.

The Consular Officer can provide you with a list of English-Speaking Attorneys in Slovenia.  The officer cannot select or recommend an attorney, nor provide legal advice.  The officer will ensure that you have adequate legal representation, where guaranteed by Slovene law, and if desired, provide you with copies of the bill of indictment and trial proceedings.

The Consular Officer will intercede to ensure that you receive adequate medical attention.  The officer will also look into any complaints a prisoner may have, and discuss them with the appropriate authorities.

The Consular Officer can notify your family and friends, and relay requests for financial or other aid, provided that you sign a Privacy Act Waiver.  The Consular Officer can also serve as a liaison between a prisoner and his/her lawyer.

Hiring an Attorney

If the case involves anything more serious than a minor traffic violation, we recommend retaining a Slovene attorney.  Slovene court procedures are quite different from those in the United States, especially in that a larger part of the proceedings are conducted through written briefs and motions, as opposed to the oral arguments common in the United States.  As in the U.S., the attorney is obliged to honor the attorney-client privilege.  The attorney may not reveal any confidential information, and the court in turn may not question the attorney.  Note: If you hire an attorney, you will be responsible for paying the attorney’s fees and expenses – the U.S. Government does not cover those costs.