Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Have you been made aware that a U.S. citizen was recently arrested in Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Saba, or St. Eustatius?

Please ask the local authorities to notify the Consulate immediately. The Consulate can work to help protect the person and ensure fair treatment. The Consulate will visit the prisoner, provide information about the local legal process, provide a list of attorneys on each island (Aruba (PDF 282 KB), Curacao (PDF 283 KB), Sint Maarten (PDF 280 KB), and Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba “BES Islands” (PDF 280 KB)) and notify family and friends if authorized by the U.S. citizen. The State Department has also provided Specific Criminal Penalty Information for Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, and the BES Islands.

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 local laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. In the Dutch Caribbean, laws against possession of controlled substances are enforced rigorously, including against tourists in possession of marijuana for personal use. If you break local laws, 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 the Dutch Caribbean, 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.

The Consular Officer’s Role

When the arrestee states his/her U.S. citizenship and requests notification to their U.S. consular representatives, local authorities will inform U.S. Consulate General Curacao of the detention of that American citizen without delay.  The Consular Officer will visit the arrestee as soon as possible after notification.  On the initial visit, the Consular Officer 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 Waiver to provide authorization for the consular officer to be in contact with others regarding the arrest.  If necessary, the Consular Officer will intercede with local authorities to ensure fair treatment of the U.S. citizen under local law.  If authorized by the citizen to do so, the Consular Officer will notify the arrested person’s family and relay requests for financial or other assistance.  Legal services will be at the U.S. citizen’s own expense. If a detainee has no funds, the court will appoint an attorney to represent him.

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