In this section, you will find information on what you should know about the legal system of the United States. Your home country's embassy is limited in what it can do to assist you if you should get into legal trouble while in the United States. As an international student in the United States, you are expected to follow U.S. law.
1. General Information
Not knowing local laws can get you into serious trouble. Just because something is legal in your home country doesn't mean it is legal in the United States. Most students who study in the U.S. do not break laws on purpose; instead, they end up doing something illegal without knowing it. Even as an international student, you must obey all U.S laws.
If you break laws in the United States, your home country's government can do very little to help you. You are granted no special privileges or rights, and will be dealt with according to standard procedure of the U.S. legal system. The U.S. government encourages all visitors to become familiar with local laws before they visit. Upon arrival in the United States, you may also wish to ask an U.S. official about local laws and procedures.
For more complete information on the U.S. legal issues listed below, visit the official website of the U.S. Department of State
2. Basic Legal Tips
Understand that gambling (including on-line betting) is illegal in most places. Make sure you understand the laws before you make a bet on your favorite team! Ask your international student coordinator.
3. Relevant Questions
- Do you know how the legal system works in the country of your choice and in the countries to which you will be traveling ("innocent until proven guilty" or "guilty until proven innocent")?
- What kinds of laws do students from the United States break in the country of your choice and other countries (perhaps, unknowingly)?
- What are your program's specific set of rules to be followed, in addition to any local/national laws?
- Is consumption of alcohol legal in the country of your choice and in the countries you will visit? If so, what is the legal age for alcohol consumption?
- What are the penalties for drug use in the country of your choice and in the countries you will visit?
- How do locals and local laws deal with harassment and sexual assault (a cultural norm, supportive of victims, blame victims, prosecute, etc.)?
- What kinds of legal assistance can the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate provide you?
- I am familiar with the basic social laws of the countries to which I will be traveling, including laws related to drug and alcohol use.
- I am familiar with how the legal system works in each country I plan to visit.
- I know the location of the U.S. Embassy in each country I plan to visit.
- I have registered/will register with the U.S. Embassy in the country of your choice.
- I have proper insurance (see the insurance guide section) and a personal lawyer in case I should need legal counsel.