Let’s say you are practicing law in Australia. As you know, there are more people who are not from Australia than those who were born there. Being a large and beautiful nation/continent, with diverse flora and fauna, not to mention cultural attractions, places like this have a tremendous number of tourists showing up on their shores. Tourists are notoriously unaware of local laws and customs, at least that’s what the stereotype would have us believe. As such, they frequently work themselves into pickles with the law, meaning that you might one day find yourself representing the legal interests of someone who lives overseas.
So, if you get contacted after a worried tourist finds your contact information after Googling “criminal lawyers in Sydney”, don’t be shocked. It happens everyday, but representing someone from out the country presents its own unique challenges. Being in touch with multiple lawyers and studying this phenomenon as a hobby of my own, here are three of the most common issues I see.
- Time. Because many of these individuals do not reside in the nation where they are standing trial, they need to get away to take care of things back home. This can present a challenge. Depending on the severity of the charge, they may be restricted in their movement across the country, as flight risk is a serious concern. Depending on the severity of the infraction, this may not be a consideration, but the defendant’s responsibilities back home certainly are. As such, the process may be permitted to be expedited. In fact, this is what I would recommend for anyone representing such a client. Get it over with as fast as possible, try to reduce it to a fine, do what you can to get the client’s life back to normal as soon as possible.
- Money. International exchange of currency may present a difficulty when representing a foreign client. In general, I try to recommend my clients the cheapest possible currency transfer services, but sometimes there simply isn’t money to spare. In situations like this, there may be remuneration on the part of the state, or a situation which allows your client to more or less go free, pending specific action.
- Language Barrier. In addition to ignorance of local law and custom, your client may not speak the local language. This may present a difficulty, but it may help your client to be able to get home without too much trouble also. If it can be argued to your judge that a client and the wronged party would be better served to let the client return home, then this is a desirable outcome. If the case must be brought to trial, then necessary translation services must be obtained, and the defendant made aware of his or her rights and the details of the case.
Travelers get in trouble overseas all the time, but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be well-represented. Acquaint yourself with the details of their situation, and you and they should be able to move beyond the present trial without too much trouble.