If you are a U.S. citizen arrested in Mexico, the first thing you are going to want to do is not panic. This seems like trivial advice, but it is worth heeding nonetheless. In a situation like this, the last thing you want to do is panic. You want to consider your options. You want to understand everything you are going to be able to do.
Differences between Mexican Law and U.S. Law
In the first place, it is important to understand that the legal system in Mexico is different from the legal system in the United States in a number of ways. For example, a number of the legal rights and protections that are granted to those in the United States do not exist in Mexico. Therefore, the punishment for a crime in Mexico can be considerably more severe than the punishment for a crime in the United States. It is also worth noting that Mexico has the greatest number of arrests of U.S. citizens abroad, in addition to the biggest population of U.S. prisoners outside of America.
One of the biggest differences between Mexico and America’s legal systems concerns the subject of civil/common law. Mexico considers itself to be a civil law country. On the flipside of that, the United States considers itself to be a common law country. It is also worth noting that in Mexico, the general sentiment is that an accused individual is guilty until proven innocent. This provides a stark contrast to the United States, in which the opposite generally holds true.
If You Are Arrested In Mexico
If you are planning to travel to Mexico, make it a point to read all relevant information on the differences between U.S. law and Mexico law. The above paragraphs should give you a clear indication of how important it is to do this.
The following is a short list of some of the crimes you can be arrested for in Mexico:
- Disturbing the peace/being a public nuisance.
- Public drinking.
- Nudity/immoral behavior.
- Using/producing/selling false documents.
- Possessing/introducing/using any weapons.
- Possessing/introducing/using any illegal drugs. Keep in mind that most of the drugs that are illegal in the United States are illegal in Mexico, as well.
- Drunk driving/driving under the influence of narcotics.
- Being responsible for an auto accident/injuring an individual.
If you are arrested for any of these crimes (or anything else) in Mexico, you can expect a visit from the U.S. consulate within twenty-four hours. You can expect to be visited at least once every quarter of your confinement. The particulars of your initial visit with your consulate will include making sure that you are receiving fair treatment. In addition to this, your consulate will also advise you as to your legal rights, while also giving you information on legal counsel in your area that is available to you. Remember, a license to practice law in California, does not grant the right to practice in Mexico. So you will need to obtain local counsel. The consulate will also obtain any information that you may want to pass along to friends and family. You should also make arrangements for money and other essentials to be delivered to you, depending on your situation. In many cases, an individual incarcerated in Mexico will be responsible for purchasing many of the supplies and other essentials that are generally given to prisoners in the United States as a matter of course.
Keep in mind that in order to receive assistance from the consulate, you have to prove that you are a U.S. citizen.
It is also imperative to understand that it is in your best interests to hire a Mexican attorney. You want to have someone in your corner who understands the legal system in Mexico. Furthermore, you are going to want someone who is going to understand the particulars of where you happen to be incarcerated. There might be a certain hierarchy, or a certain way in which things are handled, that you may not be aware of.
In certain extreme situations, you may want to have your attorney contact the media. This can be an effective means for pleading your case.
Depending on your crime, the combination of a consulate with a Mexican attorney should give you the best chance possible of successfully surviving the Mexican legal system in a timely fashion. Do as much research on the area you are traveling to as possible. For many American tourists that cross the border, there’s a sense that anything goes. Anything does not go. You can get arrested, so be prepared and more importantly, just like at home, avoid behavior that can lead to an arrest.