Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

One of the highest priorities of the Department of State and the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated overseas.

The Department of State is committed to ensuring fair and humane treatment for U.S. citizens imprisoned overseas. We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international law, domestic, and foreign law.

While in Bolivia, U.S. citizens are subject to Bolivian laws and regulations that might differ significantly from the laws in the United States.

U.S. citizens may be indicted, tried, convicted, sentenced, or appeal under the Bolivian legal system.  During this process, consular officers provide a variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families.  However, consular officers cannot release arrested individuals from jail since they are subject to Bolivian laws, but can monitor their condition while incarcerated.

If you are arrested in Bolivia, contact the U.S. Embassy in La Paz immediately.  With your authorization, we can contact your relatives, friends, employer, or Congressperson. In the unfortunate event that you are sentenced to jail, a consular officer will visit you regularly to monitor your health, treatment, and legal process. If you are in need of legal representation, we can provide you with a list of local attorneys.

Avoid getting arrested overseas by:
  • Following the laws and regulations of the country you are visiting or living in.
  • Learning about which Bolivian laws may be different from the laws in the United States. We provide some information for Bolivia on our Country Specific pages.  For further information on laws within Bolivia, contact the nearest Bolivian embassy or consulate within the United States before your trip.
If you are arrested overseas or know a U.S. citizen who is:
  • Ask the prison authorities to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy La Paz by e-mail at ConsularLaPazACS@state.gov or by telephone at [011](591-2) 216-8000.
Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners:

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented.  It can be more difficult because the prisoner is in unfamiliar surroundings, and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.

 The American Citizen Services Unit can help:
  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English.
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written permission.
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate.
  • Help ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care for you.
  • Inform the detainee of local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime that may be available to them.
  • If they would like, ensuring that prison officials are permitting visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice.
  • Establish an Overseas Citizen Services (OCS) Trust so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens, when permissible under prison regulations.
 The American Citizen Services Unit cannot:
  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail overseas
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court overseas
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees for U.S. citizens overseas