Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

If a U.S. citizen is detained in Brazil, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate closest to the place of arrest.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S., as do the protections and rights available to an individual. If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process.

With the permission of the U.S. citizen, the consular officer can contact family members, friends, and others on request. We can also provide a list of local attorneys. If the U.S. citizen is sentenced to prison time, a consular officer will visit periodically.

Upon initial notification of arrest, a Consular Officer will:

  • visit the prisoner as soon as possible;
  • provide a list of local attorneys;
  • provide information about Brazilian judicial procedures;
  • notify family, friends, or others on request of the prisoner;
  • relaying requests to family and friends for money or other aid on request.

A Consular Officer cannot:

  • demand the immediate release of a U.S. citizen arrested abroad or otherwise cause the citizen to be released;
  • represent a U.S. citizen at trial, give legal advice or pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. Government funds.

Post-arrest in Brazil: What happens next?

In criminal cases, most defendants are formally charged within 30-45 days of their arrest, though the time period may be extended.

All prisoners have the right to an attorney. If the accused cannot afford an attorney, the judge will appoint a public defender. Family members in the United States can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens.

Defendants may appeal convictions. All defendants sentenced to 20 years or more have the automatic right to a re-trial.

Prison Transfers To the United States

The United States and Brazil are parties to the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad, which permits prisoner transfers between our countries subject to treaty conditions and applicable domestic laws.  For more information visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s website for DOJ’s International Prisoner Transfer Program at


An extradition treaty between the United States and Brazil was signed on January 13, 1961 and implemented on February 11, 1965. The treaty allows both countries to request the return of individuals if the offense(s) committed are considered crimes by both countries. “Voluntary” extradition is not included in the extradition treaty.

All extradition cases are decided by the Supreme Court, with an average waiting period of one to two years. During this waiting period, the individual remains in the custody of the Federal Police and is entitled to receive consular visits.