Countries have significant differences in their local laws and if ignorant, a foreigner can be easily detained due to petty charges. A smart traveler would do his research on the local rules of the foreign land he is going to visit and take note of it. But if by an unfortunate event, you have been incarcerated, the number one rule for everything else is: Don’t Panic.
It may be easier said than done, but your presence of mind is the immediate defense you have when you are being handcuffed and carried by the local policemen. Try to understand what is happening, ask only the WH questions (what, where, when, why) and as much as possible do not say a thing that will aggravate the authorities and words that may be used against you.
Don’t Sign Anything
Although English is lingua Franca, not all countries’ local documents are in English or have an English translation. Do not sign anything you don’t understand even as it is being shoved in your face or you are being forced to.
Ask For An Interpreter
If needed and allowed, ask for someone who can translate for you. It is only fair and just that you understand what is going on and what are you about to sign.
If given an opportunity to make a phone call, contact the local US Embassy. Surely at this point, you have calmed down and gathered your thoughts. Ask for help. They will not disown you because you are in prison. Although the consular officers cannot demand your release or represent you in court, they can help you in several ways, such as finding you a local lawyer, contacting your family, arranging medical care, attending your trial and monitoring your situation at a prison to ensure that you are being treated fairly.
Contact Family In The US
If by chance you are allowed to make a phone call to your family in the US, do so. By this point in time, you know what is happening, how much trouble you are in and you can say that you will be fine because you have contacted the embassy for help. In this way, your family knows and will not be worried as much because you can tell the whole story and your action plan instead of calling them and all you can say is that you are in jail. It is important to understand that worry plus long distance is not a very good combination and it can drive people nuts. It is reasonable that you do not contact them right away because you do not want them to be worried.
Get A Local Lawyer
After all the necessary calls and you have restrained yourself from giving statements, it is now time to deal with the issue at hand. The embassy can give you a list of local lawyers and educate you about the due process. It is essential now to get a lawyer that will help you out.