Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Anyone who commits a crime in Australia, including U.S. citizens, is subject to prosecution under the Australian legal system. A U.S. passport does not entitle its bearer to any special privileges, and will not help you avoid arrest, prosecution or prison sentences. The following information provides an insight into the criminal legal system for arrestees.

The Consulate’s Role

If a U.S. citizen is arrested, the U.S. Consular Officials should be notified immediately, either by the police at the time of arrest, or at a later stage should the arrestee request it. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate will do what it can to protect U.S. citizens and their interests, and ensure they are not discriminated against under local law. Consular Officers regularly visit U.S. citizens detained in Australia to check on the health and welfare of arrestees, the treatment provided by the Australian authorities, and consider any additional requests for assistance. For more information on the Consulate’s role, please see the Department of State website.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates can also assist family and friends in the U.S. to send money to U.S. citizens incarcerated in Australian correctional facilities. Please refer to the Department of State’s website for further information.

Consular Officers cannot release prisoners, provide funds for bail, provide legal advice or pay legal fees for you. For assistance with legal advice, a list of lawyers is available. Information regarding a U.S. citizen’s welfare or whereabouts may only be released with their consent under the U.S. Privacy Act. The Embassy/Consulate will only notify family and friends of an arrest after receiving permission from the arrested person.

Criminal defendants who wish to have an attorney but do not have the financial means may have access to an accredited attorney through Legal Aid Commissions. While Legal Aid can also represent defendants who wish to appeal a conviction, they are likely to deny a request for their assistance if they do not believe your appeal has a reasonable chance of success. For further information regarding legal representation please see:

U.S. citizens whose visas expire while awaiting trial or during any prison term may be granted a “bridging visa” to give them lawful status in Australia during this time. Australian Immigration generally takes no action while a criminal case is ongoing or during a prison term, but will do so immediately upon completion of the minimum sentence term.

For those who have permanent residence status in Australia, a criminal conviction will prompt an automatic review of immigration status, and potentially result in revocation of residency and deportation at the completion of their jail term.

Arrestees are classified according to their offense, sentence, prisoner behavior, and immigration status. Classifications may be reviewed at a later date, and assistance is provided by prison welfare officers for such reviews.

Information regarding correctional facilities and visiting inmates can be obtained through the Department of Corrective Services for each State:

Under some circumstances, Americans may be able to serve all or part of their sentence in the U.S. instead of in an Australian prison as part of the Prisoner Transfer program. Information about this program will be provided to U.S. prisoners on the first consular visit by the Consular Officer.