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My passport contains a paragraph along the lines of "visitors must respect both the laws of country of origin, and the laws of the visiting country". I notice I'm feeling confused about this, so here's a hypothetical that might illuminate my confusion:

Two Londoners (UK) go to Las Vegas (Nevada, US) for a fun weekend. During the weekend in the US, they get into a disagreement over hookers, and one accidentally hits the other on the head, fracturing his skull, leading to death (manslaughter). The police catches him in the US.


  • Which country gets to prosecute the murder? If the judgement involves prison, which country is he sentenced to spend this time?
  • If both countries do a separate prosecution, will his time served in the US count towards time in the UK?
  • Can death penalty be exercised to people who's nation of origin frowns upon this?
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closed as off-topic by Flimzy, littleadv, SztupY Apr 21 '14 at 19:18

  • This question does not appear to be about expatriates, within the scope defined in the help center.
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about vacations, not expatriation. Try Travel.SE. –  Flimzy Apr 21 '14 at 13:28
@Flimzy Is all this necessary? It really does not make any difference, the vacation aspect is immaterial in this case. –  Gala Apr 22 '14 at 7:43
@GaëlLaurans: Then it would be trivial to change the question to be on-topic. –  Flimzy Apr 22 '14 at 13:24
@Flimzy Exactly, then when why pretend it's off-topic, close it, etc. instead of editing it or simply ignoring the irrelevant bit? –  Gala Apr 22 '14 at 17:09
@GaëlLaurans: Answerable != on-topic. –  Flimzy Apr 22 '14 at 20:22

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The country you currently find yourself in can always prosecute and sentence you to the extent provided by local law. That includes the death penalty. Your own country might protest through diplomatic channels but there is no general exemption for foreigners. Treaties might provide for exceptions to this general principle (e.g. diplomats, military personnel). So if you committed a crime and are caught before leaving the US, you will most definitely be prosecuted there.

Some countries also have laws allowing their justice system to prosecute citizens for crimes they committed anywhere in the world. One reason for that is that some (many? most?) countries do not extradite their own nationals under any circumstance so prosecuting them locally is the only solution available, lest some serious crimes go unpunished. This procedure is sometimes limited to a specific list of crimes or to things that are forbidden both in the prosecuting country and in the country where the crime took place.

In that case, whether you can be prosecuted again for the same crime would be up to the local court system (with some limits, e.g. in the European Union). Non bis in idem is an important principle in many countries (and in international human rights law) but the standard regarding what counts as prosecution or what might justify a new trial is different and your country of origin would not automatically be bound by the procedural rules in place where you committed the crime. This is especially relevant if you have been arrested but not charged, which might not count as a full trial and would therefore leave the door to another trial elsewhere fully open.

Finally, some countries have universal competence laws, often for especially vicious crimes. In that case, you can also be arrested and prosecuted by a third country.

Once sentenced, you might be allowed to serve your time in your country of origin (there are international treaties about that) but this is by no means automatic.

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Why the negative vote? Is anything incorrect or misleading in the answer? –  Gala Apr 23 '14 at 12:30

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