An official website of the United States government

Arrest of a U.S. Citizen
February 20, 2018


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, domestic, and foreign law.

U.S. citizens are subject to the local laws and regulations while visiting or residing in Colombia.

Avoid getting arrested abroad by becoming familiar with local laws and regulations.  For information on Colombian laws please visit the Colombia Country Information page. Click here.

In case of an arrest in Colombia, please ask the local authorities to officially notify the U.S. Embassy in Bogota or U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla or inform us of the arrest to our email address ACSBOGOTA@state.gov

Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners

We understand that when a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented. They may be in unfamiliar surroundings and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system. The U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consular Agency can assist the U.S. citizen with the following:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English. Click here.
  • Facilitate communication with family, friends, or legal counsel of the detained U.S. citizen via written permission with a Privacy Act Waiver (PAW) form DS-5505. Click here .
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen as soon as possible after being informed of the arrest to check on the prisoner’s treatment by law enforcement authorities and to monitor the state of his/her health and well-being.*
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen while imprisoned and report on those visits to the Department of State.*
  • Provide vitamin supplements, where approved by Colombian authorities.
  • Ensure that Colombian authorities are providing appropriate medical care.
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process. (Note:  Consular staff cannot provide legal advice.)
  • Upon request, ensure that Colombian authorities permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the detainee’s choice.
  • Establish an Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) Trust, for information click here , if necessary, so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens, when permitted by the Colombian authorities.
  • Arrange for medical, dental, and dietary care if not provided by the prison, to be paid for from the prisoner’s funds; funds provided by family or friends; or, if applicable and subject to conditions, funds loaned to the prisoner by the U.S. government. For financial assistance click here. Financial Assistance page
  • Work to ensure that the individual’s basic rights under local law are protected and that he/she is treated humanely in accordance with internationally accepted standards.
  • Follow the progress of the individual’s case in the judicial system.

Note: *During the COVID-19 pandemic Colombian authorities are not permitting in-prison visits. Other internet-based options (Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp) have allowed us to do virtual meetings with prisoners.

The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consular Agency CANNOT do:

  • We cannot get U.S. citizens out of jail.
  • We cannot assert guilt or innocence.
  • We cannot provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court.
  • We cannot serve as official interpreters or translators.
  • We cannot pay legal, medical, or other fees.