Anyone who breaks the law in Montenegro is subject to prosecution under the Montenegro legal system. If a person is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by a Montenegrin court, this sentence will be served in a Montenegrin prison.
Montenegro’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. All Americans in Montenegro are under the absolute jurisdiction of Montenegrin courts.
The Embassy’s Role
A U.S. passport does not entitle the bearer to any special privileges or preferential treatment in Montenegro. Neither the United States Government nor its representative, the consular officer, can force the Montenegrin government to release an American citizen. Nevertheless, neither arrest nor conviction deprives a United States citizen of the consular officer’s best efforts in protecting the citizen’s health, safety and welfare.
At the time of arrest, if the prisoner requests that the American Embassy be notified, then the consular officer will visit the jail as soon as possible. Thereafter, the consular officer will visit periodically, and in an emergency will come right away. Prison visits enable the consular officer to monitor the health and well-being of the prisoner and the status of the judicial proceedings.
Consular officers are not attorneys. However, the consular officer will provide the prisoner with a list of English-speaking Attorneys in Montenegro. The consular officer cannot select or recommend an attorney, nor provide legal advice.
The consular officer can intercede on the prisoner’s behalf when necessary to ensure that he/she receives adequate medical attention. The consular officer will also look into any complaints the prisoner may have, and discuss them with the appropriate authorities.
The consular officer will notify the prisoner’s family and friends, and relay requests for financial or other aid, provided the prisoner gives authorization to do so by signing a Privacy Act Waiver.
An arrested person should hire an attorney as early as possible. The Montenegrin attorney is the primary source of advice and can better explain Montenegrin legal procedures. Montenegrin court procedures are quite different from those in the United States
Legal services must be paid by the prisoner. The Embassy cannot cover these costs.