Whether you vandalized a bathroom in a foreign country and got charged with falsifying a police report or you actually did get robbed abroad, one of the first places you'll turn to for help is the U.S. Embassy. Embassy officials can help with everything from lost or stolen travel documents to hooking you up with a local lawyer.
So if you get into some trouble overseas, here's how the U.S. Embassy can help.
After the Fact
Even as their stories of robbery at gunpoint in Brazil unraveled this past week, the U.S. consulate in Rio was there for American swimmers Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and Jimmy Feigen. "We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance," read a brief statement from embassy officials. But what does consular assistance entail? Quite a bit, as former U.S. ambassador James Cason told USAToday:
Americans who get too drunk and get arrested or have their wallets and passports stolen. The consular official usually visits the American, gives them a broad outline of the charges they're facing and provides a list of local attorneys who speak English. The consular official can also bring them medicine or letters, help them arrange money wire transfers from home or call their relatives in the U.S. to update them on what's happening.
While U.S. officials can't bypass the local legal process, they do try to maintain a close working relationship with police, prison, and judicial officials abroad so they can provide Americans with accurate information and helpful advice.
Before You Go
The U.S. Embassy can help even if you're still on American soil. The Embassy's website has travel warnings as well as country specific information containing "the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices, information about whether you need a visa, crime and security information, health and medical considerations, drug penalties, localized hot spots and more." So be prepared as you plan your travel to avoid any legal pitfalls while you're abroad.
You may also want to contact an experienced international attorney who can help with pre-travel and post-trouble international law issues.