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Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Information for U.S. Citizens Arrested/Incarcerated in Albania

While in Albania, every U.S. citizen is subject to local laws and regulations.  If you violate the law in Albania, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, fined, arrested, or imprisoned.

The judicial process can be lengthy.  Living conditions in prisons are improving, but are still quite difficult.  Prisoners live in close quarters and have limited access to telephones.  Typically, family members will purchase toiletries, comfortable bedding and personal articles for the prisoner.

If you, a family member, or a friend is arrested in Albania?

Please notify the American Citizen Services Unit at +355-(0)-4224-7285 or by email at acstirana@state.gov.

What services can the U.S. Embassy provide to American Citizens arrested or incarcerated in Albania?

We monitor prison conditions and can protest allegations of abuse against U.S. citizen prisoners.  We work with prison officials to ensure treatment consistent with internationally recognized standards of human rights and to ensure that Americans are afforded due process under Albanian laws.

Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented. It can be more difficult because the prisoner is in unfamiliar surroundings, and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.

We can:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written permission, Form DS-5505 (PDF 81.9 KB)
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Help ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Inform the detainee of available local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime
  • Upon request, ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust, when no other means to send funds are available so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens

We cannot:

  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators

Who can the Embassy contact on a prisoner’s behalf?

At the prisoner’s request, we will contact any family or friends he/she wishes to notify.  However, under the Privacy Act we cannot release any information regarding a case without specific authorization from the prisoner.

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.

Does a prisoner have the right to an attorney?

An attorney plays a vital role in the Albanian judicial process.  According to Albanian law, a detainee is entitled to have an attorney present during any questioning, as well as at any of the hearings or trials.  If the detainee cannot afford to have an attorney, the government will provide a public defender upon request.

The defendant’s attorney should facilitate bringing the case promptly to trial, pressing for a favorable sentence, paying any applicable fine and ultimately securing the final permission for release.  The attorney’s intervention is often essential in delivering the defendant’s documents from one office to another, completing necessary local bureaucratic steps, and pressing for scheduling of court appearances.  Prior to entering into an attorney-client relationship, the defendant should confirm the role of his attorney with respect to his case.

Accordingly, a defendant should exercise great care in the selection of one’s attorney.  For a list of attorney who practice law in Albania, please visit our webpage “List of Attorneys.”  Please note that this list does not constitute an endorsement from the Embassy for any individual lawyer.

What if a prisoner needs funds for legal fees or fines?

If someone needs to send you funds for any legal fees, fines, or other expenses the State Department encourages you to use commercial services, such as Western Union, which are generally faster than the State Department transfer system.  Western Union services are described at their website http://www.westernunion.com/, or by phone 1-800-325-6000.

Family or friends may send funds to you through the U.S. embassy or consulate using the Department of State Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) Trust process. For additional information, contact the U.S. Department of State, Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management at (202) 647-5225. More information can be found at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs webpage “Sending Money to U.S. Citizens Overseas.”