Criminal Penalties in Saudi Arabia

While in Saudi Arabia, you are subject to its laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. To visit incarcerated individuals, the Saudi Government requires diplomatic missions to request visits -- including to police stations -- via formal diplomatic channels, which often causes delays.

Persons violating Saudi Arabian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, imprisoned, or even executed. Suspects may be detained without charges or legal counsel, and with limited access to a consular officer, for months during the investigative stage of criminal cases. Penalties for the import, manufacture, possession, and consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs in Saudi Arabia are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, public floggings, and/or deportation. The penalty for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia is death, and Saudi officials make no exceptions. Customs inspections at ports of entry are thorough. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General have no standing in Saudi courts to obtain leniency for a U.S. citizen convicted of alcohol or drug offenses. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Saudi authorities do not permitcriticism of Islam or the royal family. The government prohibits the public practice of religions other than Islam. Non-Muslims suspected of violating these restrictions have been jailed. Muslims who do not adhere to the strict interpretations of Islam prevalent in much of Saudi Arabia frequently encounter societal discrimination and constraints on worship.

While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained in Saudi Arabia. In the case of dual nationals the Saudi Government may recognize only the nationality of the document used to enter the Kingdom. While staff at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General will make every effort to visit incarcerated U.S. citizens, they may experience delays in obtaining permission from the Saudi authorities for the visit.

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2019 Edition