Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

Arrest Procedures

As visitors to Morocco, U.S. citizens are subject to Moroccan laws.  If a U.S. citizen is arrested in Morocco, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which the U.S. and Morocco are parties, provides that Moroccan authorities shall inform the U.S. consular officer of the arrest without delay, if the arrestee requests such notification.  Moroccan Police and Gendarmes generally do so in a timely manner.

If you are arrested, immediately ask that a consular officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca be notified. If you are turned down, keep asking — politely, but persistently. If unsuccessful, try to have someone get in touch with us on your behalf.

Upon initial notification of the arrest of a U.S. citizen, a U.S. consular officer will:

  • Visit the arrestee as soon as possible.
  • Ensure the arrested U.S. citizen is accorded due process under Moroccan law and not subject to discrimination by authorities due to his/her U.S. citizenship.
  • Provide a list of local attorneys from which the arrestee can choose legal representation.  The consular officer cannot provide legal advice or representation, nor recommend a particular attorney.
  • Provide information on the Moroccan judicial system.
  • With the arrestee’s permission, contact family or friends to inform them of the situation and provide information on how they may send money and goods.
  • If the U.S. citizen is convicted and sentenced to prison, a consular officer will visit on a regular basis but is available to make additional visits for urgent matters.

Please remember American officials are limited in what they can do to assist you by foreign laws, U.S. regulations and geography. The U.S. Government has no funds for your legal fees or other related expenses. Consular officers cannot serve as attorneys or give legal advice.

A consular officer will do whatever she/he can to ensure you are not discriminated against under local law. A consular officer cannot release prisoners, provide guarantees for their comportment or provide funds for bail.

NOTE: The right of a dual national Moroccan-American arrested in Morocco to seek US consular assistance under international treaty is secondary to the Moroccan government’s right to treat the arrested person solely as one of its own citizens.

Moroccan Judicial Procedures

  1. The arresting officers prepare a police report (“Procès Verbal”[PV]) which includes details of the arrest.  In a question and answer format, it is considered the defendant’s initial statement.  The detainee is expected to sign the PV, but it is usually in Arabic or French and, while the police do sometimes provide an interpreter to assist, they are not required to do so by law.
  2. The Prosecutor (“Procureur”) has the authority to decide whether a detainee is allowed to phone a family member or friend to notify them of the arrest.  Such calls are usually allowed and periodic calls are permitted if an individual is later sentenced.
  3. Once a defense attorney is chosen, which can be done directly via phone or through the Consulate, s/he can obtain a copy of the PV and authorization from the Prosecutor to visit the defendant.
  4. The police/gendarmes must present the defendant in court within 48 hours of the arrest for arraignment (“accusation”), although they can request an additional 24 hours from the Prosecutor.
  5. If the Prosecutor presses charges, the judge decides whether the accused will be detained (“mise en garde à vue”) pending the investigation and trial.  In practice, foreigners are held.
  6. During the arraignment or trial, if the defendant does not have legal representation, the court will assign him/her an attorney.
  7. After conviction and sentencing, the defendant’s attorney has 10 to 15 days in which to appeal to the Court of Appeals to contest the verdict and/or reduce the sentence and fine.  In drug cases, the law provides for an automatic appeal by the Prosecutor in the same time frame.
  8. Family visits are permitted weekly and are limited to immediate relatives.  Prisons provide minimal food and inmates are expected to rely on their own resources for basic personal items, some of which are available at the larger facilities.

Additional Information

Imprisoned Americans may receive mail directly addressed to them at the prison in which they are incarcerated.

In addition, funds may be wired from a family member, friend, or employer via the U.S. Department of State to be deposited at the prison in the American’s name.  Please note that prisoners do not have direct access to their funds but must request money for use inside the prison via the prison registrar.