Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

One of the most important tasks of the Consular Section is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We stand ready to assist incarcerated citizens and their families within the limits of our authority in accordance with international law.

When a U.S. citizen is arrested or detained, notification of the arrest must be made to the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section without delay, even if the US citizen objects. The arrestee is then given the opportunity to communicate with an embassy or consular officer.  In all cases, this consular notification should be made within 24-72 hours after initial arrest.

The U.S. arrestee will initially be detained at the local police station nearest to where the incident occurred.  Cell phones and all other electronics are confiscated, along with other personal possessions until the time of release.  Arrestees must advise local law enforcement of the location of any needed medication.  Depending on the nature of the arrest, he/she will be transferred to the investigative branch of the police, the Central Detective Unit, Drug Enforcement Unit (as it relates to the charges)  or remain at the local police station until the eventual transfer to a Bahamas Magistrate Court.  Not all cases are heard immediately after the arrest, although there are some cases that will go directly before the Magistrate Court.  Matters are heard in the next business morning beginning at 10 a.m. and throughout the day, ending at 4:30 p.m.  Court cases are not heard during the weekend or local holidays.

If assistance is requested, a U.S. Consular Officer will visit the arrestee to obtain a signed Privacy Act Waiver (PAW). This can take place before or after the hearing, based on how quickly police investigations are completed. The signed PAW allows the Consular Officer to contact specific family and friends listed on the PAW to provide information and/or updates from the court hearing.

For those convicted of crimes and serving a prison sentence, sentences are served at BDCS Fox Hill Prison.  Please note that prison conditions in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are considered poorer than U.S. prison conditions.  U.S. prisoners should refer to their attorneys for any questions about Bahamian laws and the legal system as U.S. Embassy Nassau is restricted from doing so.

In cases that are not of a serious nature, once the relevant fines are satisfied, personal possessions are returned to the arrestee and he/she is able to depart the country.  If ordered to be removed from The Bahamas, Bahamas Immigration will take custody of the arrestee and escort to the airport for immediate U.S. departure.  The arrestee, released prisoner or family members must purchase a one way return ticket to the United States.

A valid U.S. passport is mandatory for commercial air reentry into the United States.  The U.S. arrestee or released prisoner will need to fill out an application and pay for an emergency passport at US Embassy Nassau the next business day.  Processing the emergency passport application may take 2-3 hours, so planning a flight departure time accordingly is necessary.

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 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.

Additional Information about Consular Notification and Access

Further Information for Americans Arrested Abroad.