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Travel Warning On Drugs Abroad: Just Say No

During 1994, 2,500 Americans were arrested in 95 foreign countries. Of these, 880 ended up in jails abroad because they assumed they couldn't get arrested for drug possession. From Asia to Africa, Europe to South America, Americans are finding out the hard way that drug possession or trafficking equals jail in foreign countries. There is very little that anyone can do to help you if you are caught with drugs. It is your responsibility to know what the drug laws are in a foreign country before you go, because "I didn't know it was illegal" will not get you out of jail. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of women arrested abroad.

The rise is a result of women who serve as drug couriers or "mules" in the belief they can make quick money and have a vacation without getting caught. Instead of a vacation, they get a permanent residence in an overseas jail. A number of the Americans arrested abroad on drug charges in 1994 possessed marijuana. Many of these possessed one ounce or less of the substance. The risk of being put in jail for just one marijuana cigarette is not worth it.

Once you're arrested, the American consular officer CANNOT get you out! You may say "it couldn't happen to me" but the fact is that it could happen to you if you find yourself saying any of the following: . "My family has enough money and influence to get me out of trouble." ."If I only buy or carry a small amount, it won't be a problem." ."As long as I'm an American citizen, no foreign government will put ME in THEIR jail." If you are arrested on a drug charge it is important that you know what CAN and CANNOT be done. The U. Consular Officer CAN -- visit you in jail after being notified of your arrest -- give you a list of local attorneys (the U. Government cannot assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of these individuals -- notify your family and/or friends and relay requests for money or other aid -- but only with your authorization -- intercede with local authorities to make sure that your rights under local law are fully observed and that you are treated humanely, according to internationally accepted standards -- protest mistreatment or abuse to the appropriate authorities The U. Consular Officer CANNOT -- demand your immediate release or get you out of jail or the country! -- represent you at trial or give legal counsel -- pay legal fees and/or fines with U. Government funds If you are caught buying, selling, carrying or using any type of drug -- from hashish to heroin, marijuana to mescaline, cocaine to quaaludes -- IT CAN MEAN: Interrogation and Delays Before Trial including mistreatment and solitary confinement for up to one year under very primitive conditions Lengthy Trials conducted in a foreign language, with delays and postponements Two Years to Life in Prison some places include hard labor and heavy fines, if found guilty The Death Penalty in a growing number of countries (e., Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey, Thailand) Although drug laws may vary in each country you visit, it is important to realize, before you make the mistake of getting involved with drugs, which foreign countries do not react lightly to drug offenders. Anyone who is caught with even a very small quantity for personal use may be tried and receive the same sentence as the large scale trafficker.

A number of countries, including Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic, have enacted more stringent drug laws which impose mandatory jail sentences for individuals convicted of possessing even small amounts of marijuana or cocaine for personal use. Once you leave the United States, you are not covered by U. laws and constitutional rights. Bail is not granted in many countries when drugs are involved. The burden of proof in many countries is on the accused to prove his/her innocence. In some countries, evidence obtained illegally by local authorities may be admissible in court. Few countries offer drug offenders jury trials or even require the prisoner's presence at his/her trial. Many countries have mandatory prison sentences of seven years or more without parole for drug violations. REMEMBER! If someone offers you a free trip and some quick and easy money just for bringing back a suitcase.

SAY NO! Don't carry a package for anyone, no matter how small it might seem. The police will be waiting for you at the airport. If it's in your suitcase, you will be caught. You will go to jail for years and years and may even lose your family. Don't make a jail sentence part of your trip abroad.


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