Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Please note: The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information.

Arrest of a U.S. Citizen in Thailand:

While in Thailand, U.S. citizens are subject to its laws and regulations. Persons violating the law in Thailand, even unknowingly, may be fined, arrested, and/or deported. If detained, a U.S. citizen will have to go through the Thai legal process of being charged, prosecuted, and possibly convicted and sentenced. It is important to keep in mind that the legal process in Thailand can differ significantly from the one in the United States and may not provide the same protections available in the United States.

In the event of an arrest, the U.S. Embassy will do all that it can to ensure that a U.S. citizen is not discriminated against under local Thai law, but it will not be able to guarantee the same protections available under U.S. law.

U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families; however, they cannot interfere in the Thai judicial process.

If a U.S. citizen is arrested, ACS Consular officials should be notified immediately. This may be done by the police at the time of arrest, or by a friend or relative of the detainee.

Privacy Act

The provisions of the Privacy Act are designed to protect the privacy and rights of Americans, but occasionally they complicate our efforts to assist citizens abroad. As a rule, consular officers may not reveal information regarding an individual American’s location, welfare, intentions, or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the expressed written consent of that individual. Although sympathetic to the distress this can cause concerned families, consular officers must comply with the provisions of the Privacy Act.

Form DS-5505: Authorization for the Release of Information Under the Privacy Act

A consular officer may do the following:

  • Visit a U.S. citizen in jail after being notified of the arrest.
  • Regularly visit a U.S. citizen detained in Thailand. During these visits the consular officer can check on the health and well-being of the detainee, and the treatment provided by the Thai authorities.
  • Notify a family member or friend of the arrest and relay any requests the detainee may have.
  • Provide information to family and friends in the U.S. who wish to send money to the detainee.
  • Provide information about judicial process in Thailand.
  • Provide a list of local attorneys.
  • Facilitate communication with family, friends, and legal counsel (subject to local law and regulations).
  • Work to ensure that the detainee receives fair and humane treatment in accordance with Thai law.
  • Follow the progress of the case in the judicial system.
  • Provide reading materials to the prison authorities which are donated by the local community (subject to local laws and regulations).
  • Assist incarcerated Americans with requesting medical and dental care through the prison (all medical costs must be paid by the detainee’s funds).
  • Address any mistreatment by local officials while incarcerated.

A consular officer cannot do the following:

  • Intervene in the Thai justice system or get U.S. citizens released from jail.
  • Represent a U.S. citizen in legal proceedings or give legal advice.
  • Pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. Government funds.
  • Contract an attorney to represent a U.S. citizen in court.
  • Provide funds for bail.

Additional information can be found on the State Department’s website at Arrest or Detention of an American Citizen Abroad.

Information regarding criminal penalties in Thailand can be found at Thailand Country Specific Information.

Further information on retaining a foreign attorney can be found HERE.