Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

One of the most important tasks of the Department of State and of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad. The State Department is committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for American citizens imprisoned overseas. We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international law.

The U.S. Government cannot get U.S. citizens released from foreign jails.  However, U.S. Consular Officers will insist on prompt access to an arrested U.S. citizen, provide a list of attorneys, offer to contact the arrested U.S. citizen’s family or friends, visit on a regular basis, provide dietary supplements if needed, and keep the Department of State informed. We can and do monitor conditions in foreign prisons and can protest allegations of abuse against U.S. citizen prisoners when requested to do so. We work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards of human rights and to ensure that U.S. citizens are afforded due process under local 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. Penalties for breaking the law in a foreign country can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested, or imprisoned.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted, possibly convicted and sentenced, and for any appeals process. Within this framework, U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families.

The Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., is the point of contact for family members in the United States who are concerned about an U.S. citizen family member who has been arrested abroad. You can reach OCS by calling 1-888-407-4747.  Concerned family members also may contact the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv at +38-044-521-5566 during working hours and at +38-044-521-5000 afterhours or mail to: kyivacs@state.gov.