Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Anyone who breaks the law in Spain or Andorra is subject to prosecution under the Spanish or Andorran legal system. If a person is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by a Spanish or Andorran court, this sentence will be served in a Spanish or Andorran prison.

The Consular Officer’s Role

U.S. passport does not entitle the bearer to any special privileges or preferential treatment in Spain or Andorra. In spite of what you may have heard to the contrary, neither the United States Government nor its representative, the American Consul, can get anybody out of prison. Nevertheless, neither arrest nor conviction deprives a United States citizen of the Consul’s best efforts in protecting the citizen’s legal and human rights.

At the time of arrest, a prisoner can request that the American Consulate be notified.  A Consular Officer will visit him/her periodically, and in an emergency will come right away. Prison visits enable the American Consul to monitor the health and well-being of the prisoner, as well as the status of the legal case.

Consular Officers are not attorneys. However, The Consular Officer will, as soon as possible, provide the prisoner with a list of English-speaking attorneys. An attorney cannot be selected for the prisoner, nor can legal advice be given. The Consular Officer will ensure that the prisoner has adequate legal representation, where guaranteed by Spanish or Andorran law.

The Consular Officer can intercede on the prisoner’s behalf when necessary to ensure that he/she receives adequate medical attention. The Consul will also look into any complaints, and discuss them with the appropriate authorities.

The Consul will notify the prisoner’s family and friends, and relay requests for financial or other aid, provided he/she gives authorization to do so by signing the Privacy Act Waiver. The Consul can also serve as a liaison between the prisoner and his/her lawyer.

An arrested person should hire an attorney as early as possible. The Spanish or Andorran attorney is the primary source of advice. The prisoner should regard him/her as though he/she were an American attorney defending him/her in an American court. The prisoner should ask the attorney any questions that he/she may have about the case and listen carefully to his/her advice.