Arrest or Detention of a U.S. Citizen in Slovenia
Anyone who breaks the law in Slovenia is subject to prosecution under the Slovene legal system. If a person is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by a Slovene court, this sentence will be served in a Slovene prison. Slovenia's authority to try foreigners as well as its own citizens is based upon the principle of sovereignty, which is the right of a nation to make and enforce its laws within its own boundaries.
The Embassy's Role
Under Article 36(1)(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Republic of Slovenia must, at the request of any detained American, notify the U.S. Embassy immediately after an arrest takes place.
In spite of anything you may have heard to the contrary, neither the United States Government nor its representative, a Consular Officer, can get an American out of prison. A U.S. passport does not entitle its bearers to any special privileges. American Consular Officers can and do intercede on behalf of Americans imprisoned in Slovenia, but there are definite limits as to what they can do to help. 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 Slovene laws.
What the Consul Can Do
A Consular Officer can visit you in jail or detention after being notified of your arrest and monitor the state of your health and well-being.
The Consular Officer can provide you with a list of English-Speaking Attorneys in Slovenia. The officer cannot select or recommend an attorney, nor provide legal advice. The officer will ensure that you have adequate legal representation, where guaranteed by Slovene law, and if desired, provide you with copies of the bill of indictment and trial proceedings.
The Consular Officer will intercede to ensure that you receive adequate medical attention. The officer will also look into any complaints a prisoner may have, and discuss them with the appropriate authorities.
The Consular Officer can notify your family and friends, and relay requests for financial or other aid, provided that you sign a Privacy Act Waiver. The Consular Officer can also serve as a liaison between a prisoner and his/her lawyer.
Hiring an Attorney
If the case involves anything more serious than a minor traffic violation, we recommend retaining a Slovene attorney. Slovene court procedures are quite different from those in the United States, especially in that a larger part of the proceedings are conducted through written briefs and motions, as opposed to the oral arguments common in the United States. As in the U.S., the attorney is obliged to honor the attorney-client privilege. The attorney may not reveal any confidential information, and the court in turn may not question the attorney. Note: If you hire an attorney, you will be responsible for paying the attorney’s fees and expenses – the U.S. Government does not cover those costs.