Millions of Americans travel to foreign destinations each year. Inevitably, some of these travelers will find themselves in legal trouble. What are the rights of U.S. citizens when arrested or detained abroad, and what can they expect when entering a foreign criminal justice system?
Americans travel for different reasons—study abroad, business, or vacation. Regardless of the reason for traveling, Americans traveling abroad often do not realize that it is easy to get into trouble when unfamiliar with a country’s laws, culture, and language. Consider two recently publicized cases. Amanda Knox, an American studying abroad in Italy, was convicted of murder in 2009, along with her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. She was incarcerated in Italy until she was released on appeal in 2011. Also in 2009, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Joshua Fattal, Americans hiking along the Iran-Iraq border, were arrested by Iranian authorities on charges of espionage and trespass. Although all three were eventually released, for a time their very emotional ordeal became entangled with the international hostility that exists between the United States and Iran.