Expatriate crime prosecution

NOTE: I want to state at the start of this entry that I firmly DO NOT condone the activity/crime itself that is being prosecuted in the article I’m writing about today.  I find it totally abhorrent and completely disgusting.  However, the core topic I will be writing about I do find t0 be a hugely troubling issue for citizens of the United States.  Remember, I’m talking about the process, not the crime itself.

I was reading through some news articles today on CNN.com when I tripped across an article about prosecuting US citizens for US crimes committed while they are physically present in a foreign country.  That is, they are being prosecuted at home for things that are against US law that were done in foreign countries.  I’m not sure about you, but I find this action troubling.

In the case of the article above, the men involved are being prosecuted for child molestation.  This is a horrible, horrible crime, and I personally think men that do this should be hung from the highest tree we can find, by their testicles, until they are torn from their bodies, and released only if they do not survive the resulting fall.  However, in this case their actions were performed outside the borders of the United States.  To me, this means they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, in the country where they comitted their crimes, NOT in the US.

I say extradite them to the location in question YES, prosecute them in the United States NO.

Here is a scenario.

I go to visit my good pal TQE and he and I pop into the local shop where he resides (outside of the US) and purchase a couple of Cuban cigars.  TQE, being the pal he is, purchases both cigars.  I later purchase something for him with my money since we have an agreement to loosely trade expenses during the visit.  I smoke this cigar.  I do not smoke this cigar in the name of the US, or anything like that, I smoke it in a foreign location, in a country with its own laws and sovereign rights, and I do not try to bring any Cuban cigars with me back to the US.

Unfortunately for me, Boris Badenov is sitting at the next park bench and observes me smoking this cigar.  He calls up the US Treasury Department and tells them, “Hey, I saw CQ smoking a Cuban cigar in Germany…”

I depart Germany, head back to the US and my passport is flagged.  They haul me off to a side room at the airport and start questioning me about the cigars.  I answer truthfully – “yes, I smoked a Cuban cigar while I was in Germany…”

It is illegal for me to purchase and possess Cuban cigars (well at least post October 1960 vintage cigars), but I consumed the questionable item outside the borders of the United States. I did not break any German law, which is where the activity occurred.

Isn’t this a question for Germany?

Is the United States going to prosecute non-citizens for crimes commited in other countries?

Is the US overstepping here and not letting the country in question decide the laws governing the behavior of people during the time they spend in the defined territory of the other country?

Using this theory, shouldn’t the US be prosecuting anyone who has enjoyed some special brownies in Amsterdam, or 16-year olds that have enjoyed a beer in the UK or Germany, for violating US law while abroad?

This seems so odd to me.  Thoughts?


8 Responses to “Expatriate crime prosecution”

  1. I have to say that I will disagree with you here: Multiple governments have made it explicitly clear that their own citizens can be prosecuted at home for violation of certain specific categories of law; even when such violations occur abroad or are not illegal in the country where the violation occurred. Overall I think in cases where the a country’s court system and/or legal-regime is weak, corrupt, or otherwise incapable of dispensing justice, this is not an unreasonable approach.

    As I’m not a lawyer, I can’t speak to the specifics, but it seems to me that these specific categories of law are pretty narrow and well defined, and consist pretty much at reigning in sex tourism where people travel abroad to sexually molest children. I’m not readily aware of any other restrictions on citizen behavior abroad, save for Cuba. Therefore using marijuana in Amsterdam is not a crime that interests law enforcement in the United States (and, I might note, technically speaking, using marijuana is a crime in The Netherlands; the government just choose not to prosecute said usage except in specific circumstances).

    The Cuban question is a bit more tricky to deal with–but I think its only a crime for US citizens to spend money earned from US sources on goods and services (including cigars) originating from Cuba. In this case the US government has to prove the source of funding, which would be incredibly difficult since you wouldn’t have any receipts or credit card transactions showing purchasing of a cigar and because you could plausibly blame me–somebody without money sources in the USA.

    And on a total sidetrack pedantic moment, the word expatriate refers to people who are living in a country that does not match their citizenship. People who travel abroad for vacation are tourists. If you’re traveling for business, it’s business travel…

  2. Mark-Anthony Says:

    I agree with you, and the previous comment is missing the point entirely. No matter how narrowly you define it, the principle still remains, you are prosecuting a US citizen for breaking US laws in a foreign land. This is more troubling to me than what these sick perverts are doing. I can live with the liberals use of the Alien Tort Act to sue US corporations in US courts for action that would be in violation of US law because that is a civil action. Because here is the kicker, you are going to have to violate their Constitutional Rights to get a conviction …. the right to challenge evidence against you and question witnesses, what is the Justice Department really going to fly witnesses all the way to the US, pay all of there expenses to convict some sex offender on an untested new statue ….. hell no, they are going to leverage the nature of these crime to justify bending the rules of evidence for these “special cases”. Then the cats out of the bag …..

  3. Kerry Says:

    Those who commit sex offenses abroad and are merely deported by the nations where the alleged offenses take place, should face prosecution back in the United States so long as the nation deporting said US national provides adequate evidence of the alleged offense.

    In the case of pedophilia, prosecution should be to the fullest extent of the law up to and including chemical castration and life imprisonment without parole. We have to use common sense.

    If the perpetrator has been convicted and served time in the country where the offense was committed prior to being deported, at a minimum he or she should be made to register as a sex offender. However, this should be done only after the case is reviewed to ensure that entrapment, forced confessions, and/or refusal to pay bribes to police authorities is not a factor in each case.

    We should give the benefit of the doubt to the alleged perpetrator when determining whether to prosecute, because the legal systems in many emerging market nations are not transparent and do not provide adequate safeguards and/or legal representation for foreign defendants. By establishing a high standard of proof and documentation on the part of the other nation, we would be preventing abuse and the potential of innocent individuals from being unfairly jailed.

    We have to avoid emotion and examine each case on the basis of facts. The burden of proof must be placed on the nation that arrested, tried, and jailed one of our citizens before we prosecute to get sex offenders off the street.

  4. B Brandt Says:

    First let’s go after the child molesters. Nobody cares about them. Then after that gets to be S.O.P., we’ll go for the drug users. Almost as few people care about their rights as about the pedophiles. Then having set that precedent, we can extend the reach of U.S. law anywhere for anything.

    Feel safer now? This will be great for the “War On Drugs.” How’s that war going, by the way?

  5. Vermont now recognizes same sex marriages from other states and countries, yeah! Sorry lI know this is off topic but I do think those married in Canada should be recognized as married in the US of A. baby steps.

  6. I am thought-less today.

  7. Bernard Says:

    I totally agree with you. If you are in a vountry and act within the law why should the US dictate what you can and cannot do.

    I am not advocating paedophilia but if one has sex with a person of legal age in another country, but that may be younger than the US state you live in why should you be prosecuted. If someone performs a homosexual act, but comes from a country where homosexuality is punished by death would the US agree with that? Kill them on their return?

    What is the legal age for alcohol consumption? Varies in different countries. Should one be arrested on the return to your home country?

    Driving without a certain country’s legal driving licence? The list is endless. The US is not the world’s police force. Even today they are prosecuting Daimler for actions in other countries.

    If I went to the US and broke the law, but the law in my own country was not infringed could I claim immunity? Hypocritical double standards.

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