By SHAUN FREEMA
After the stresses of finals are finished and the summer break begins, the joy of going on vacation consumes the minds of many students as they envision endless sandy beaches and picturesque mountain scenes.
But in their search for the perfect vacation, some students have ended up staying on their vacations longer than anticipated due to unwanted circumstances, such as arrests — putting them in the custody of foreign governments.
In 1995, over 2,200 American citizens were arrested abroad — many of them for violating local laws regarding the public use of alcohol and the subsequent behavior associated with it.
Suzanne Lawrence, press officer for the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs said, “You might assume that, as an American citizen, you are immune from prosecution under foreign laws and that the U.S Constitution follows you wherever you go. Unlike the United States, few countries believe you are innocent until proven guilty.”
“The truth is that Americans suspected of drug violations can face severe penalties, even the death penalty, in some foreign countries. It is not uncommon to spend months or even years in pre-trial detention, only to be sentenced to a lengthy prison stay without parole in a foreign jail,” Lawrence said.
Once you leave American soil, U.S. laws and constitutional rights no longer apply. U.S. consular officers can visit jailed Americans to see they are being fairly and humanely treated, but cannot get them out of jail or intervene in a foreign country’s legal system on their behalf, Lawrence said.