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Victim of Crime Abroad? Here's What to Do

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 06, 2013 1:28 PM

From mistaken drug possession to sexual assaults, Americans who become victims of crime while abroad are often unaware of what their options are after enduring a harrowing experience while out of the country.

Apart from turbulence and jet-lag, usually international travel goes smoothly. But if you become the unfortunate victim of a crime, would you know what to do?

When you travel outside the United States, it's important to remember that you're subject to the laws of the country you're visiting. That being said, there are some steps you can take to get help.

Call the U.S. Embassy or Consulate

The State Department assists American victims of crime overseas, and suggests that crime victims contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. You can find a list of embassies and consulates here.

When it comes to assistance overseas, consular officers, agents, and staff work with crime victims and help them with the local police and medical systems.

For example, the State Department can:

  • Replace a stolen passport;
  • Contact family, friends, or employers;
  • Help get you medical care;
  • Address emergency needs that arise as a result of the crime;
  • Explain the local criminal justice process;
  • Get information about your case;
  • Get information about local and U.S. victim compensation programs; and
  • Provide a list of local lawyers who speak English.

However, keep in mind that the State Department can't:

  • Investigate crimes;
  • Provide legal advice or represent you in court;
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators; or
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees for you (but there are victim compensation programs that may be able to help).

Also keep in mind that under an international treaty, you are entitled to see and communicate with embassy or consular officials. But there are a few countries that don't follow this treaty.

Take Additional Steps

In addition to contacting an embassy or consulate, the State Department also advises travelers who are victims of crime to:

  • Contact the local police. Report the incident and get immediate help. Make sure to request a copy of the police report.
  • Contact an attorney. When you suffer from emotional, physical or financial injuries, an international lawyer who is familiar with a particular country's laws might be of help. For example, they can assist you with stolen passport issues while abroad, and inform you of your legal options.

A quick final note: Keep in mind that victim advocacy is trickier when the victim remains abroad. That's why it can be cruicial to contact a U.S. embassy or consulate, where staffers are familiar with criminal laws and procedures in the country where the crime occurred.

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