Assistance to U.S. Citizens Arrested in Brazil

Disclaimer: The following is a summary of services provided by U.S. consular officers to U.S. citizens arrested in Brazil. Since conditions vary by prison, the precise nature of services may likewise vary, depending on individual circumstances in a particular case. While we hope this flyer will be of assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated in Brazil and their families, the Embassy cannot take responsibility for the correctness or accuracy of the information contained therein.


One of the most essential tasks of the Department of State and of U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad is to provide assistance to U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad. We stand ready to assist these citizens and their families within the limits of our authority, in accordance with international law.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is 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.

The U.S. is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963. Not all countries are signatories to this Convention and are not, therefore, bound by it. Article 36(a) of the Convention provides that consular officers shall be free to communicate with their nationals and have access to them. Article 36(b) states that the foreign authorities shall inform the consular officer of the arrest of a national “without delay” (no specific time frame), if the national requests such notification.

Consular Services

Consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens incarcerated in Brazil. Services include:

Upon initial notification of arrest:

  • visiting the prisoner as soon as possible after the arrest;
  • providing a list of local attorneys to assist the prisoner in obtaining legal representation;
  • providing information about local judicial procedures in Brazil;
  • notifying family and/or friends, if authorized by the prisoner;
  • obtaining a Privacy Act Waiver;
  • relaying requests to family and friends for money or other aid.

On-going support to incarcerated Americans:

  • providing quarterly consular visits to the prisoner and reporting on those visits to the Department of State;
  • providing prisoners with vitamin supplements;
  • providing loans to qualified destitute prisoners through the Emergency Medical/Dietary Assistance (EMDA) program;
  • arranging for examination by an independent physician, if needed;
  • arranging special family visits, subject to local law;
  • protesting mistreatment or abuse to the appropriate authorities;
  • attending the trial, if the Embassy believes that discrimination on the basis of U.S. nationality might occur or if specifically requested by the prisoner or family, if possible;
  • providing information on pardon procedures or prisoner transfer treaties, if applicable.

Discretionary support provided as needed:

  • providing reading materials subject to local laws and regulations;
  • arranging with the American community to provide holiday meals;
  • providing personal amenities such as stamps, toiletries, stationary from the prisoner’s or family’s private funds, if permitted by prison authorities;
  • assisting in finding ways to expedite the prisoner’s mail;
  • inquiring about the possibility of prison employment;
  • assisting in arranging correspondence courses;
  • arranging for American community volunteers to visit prisoner.

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.

In criminal cases, most defendants arrested in the act of committing a crime, should be charged within 30-45 days of their arrest. This time period may be extended, and, due to backlog in the courts, appears to be almost always extended.

All prisoners have the right to an attorney. If the accused cannot afford an attorney, the judge will appoint a public defender. No one may be subject to criminal proceedings without the benefit of an attorney. Family members in the United States may arrange funds for a private attorney through a Consular Officer.

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

The United States and Brazil are both parties to the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad which permit prisoner transfers between our countries subject to treaty conditions and applicable domestic laws.  For more information, contact the American Citizen Services Section at the U.S. Embassy or 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.