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Arrest of Foreign Nationals in Florida

Any non-U.S. citizen who is being arrested or detained is entitled to have the law enforcement agencies responsible for the arrest or detention notify their country’s consular representatives in the United States. A consular official from their country may be able to help the, obtain legal counsel, visit them in detention, or contact their family.

In some cases, because of the person’s nationality, the law enforcement agency might be required to notify the person’s consular representatives here in the United States that they have been arrested or detained.

Although the United States recently formally withdrew from the “Optional Protocol” to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), the notification obligations remain unchanged. Florida law creates special procedures governing the arrest and detention of foreign nationals, regardless of whether they are this country legally or illegally.

After the law enforcement officer determines the foreign national’s home country, the officer should determine the mandatory notification requirements and whether notification must be made to the consulatre of the foreign national’s country. Even if the foreign national’s country is not on the mandatory notification list, the law enforcement officer must offer, without delay, to notify the foreign national’s consular officials of the arrest or detention status.

The rules pertaining to the arrest or detention of a foreign national in the State of Florida can be found in Florida Statute Section 901.26. The statute provides that the “[f]ailure to provide consular notification under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations or other bilateral consular conventions shall not be a defense in any criminal proceeding against any foreign national and shall not be cause for the foreign national’s discharge from custody.

If the foreign national asks that consular notification be given, the law enforcement officer should notify the nearest consular officials of the foreign national’s country without delay. The law enforcement officers should keep a written record of the provision of notification and actions taken.

Attorney for Foreign Nationals Arrested in Tampa, FL

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm represent foreign nationals who are arrested or detained by state or federal law enforcement officers in Florida. We are sometimes contacted by a family member oversees or a consular official or representative acting on their behalf.

We can act quickly to provide legal advice to a foreign national or to visit them at the jail for a consultation.

Our attorneys represent clients charged with serious felony and misdemeanor crimes throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Manatee County, Sarasota County, and Polk County, FL.

Call 813-250-0500.

Additional Resources

Procedures for the Arrest of Foreign Nationals – Visit the U.S. Department of State web site to find instructions, forms, prepared statements, and guidance for the arrest and detention of foreign nationals and the mandatory requirements for notification of consular officials. Find the suggested statement to be offered to the foreign national and translations of the statement into selected foreign languages. The suggested statements apply when consular notification is at the foreign national’s option and when consular notification is mandatory.

Guidelines for the Arrest of Foreign Nationals in the U.S. – Visit the website of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find special advisory guidelines for the arrest and detention of foreign nationals in the U.S. that were last updated on March 29, 2005. The article explains why the obligations of a law enforcement officer are unchanged when a foreign national is detained or arrest despite recent U.S. actions. Find a list of mandatory notification countries and jurisdictions including the special rules for persons who carry “Republic of China” passports issued by Taiwan, bearers of Hong Kong passports,  bearers of Chinese passports, British dependencies who carry British passports, persons carrying U.K. passports or who indicate that they are from Great Britain, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, nationals of its successor states of the former U.S.S.R.

This article was last updated on Friday, July 24, 2020.

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