Know Your Rights-Travel Legal Issues
“When in Rome, do as the Romans.”
Traveling for business or pleasure can be very exciting but it does carry with it certain legal considerations.
First, driving in other jurisdictions mean having to obey different laws. The top speed limits on interstate highways can vary from state to state from 65 mph to 80 mph. Violating the limit can lead to civil or criminal citations and even arrest. For a time, Montana had no speed limit, one had to drive at a reasonable and prudent rate. In Germany, certain parts of the autobahn have no speed limit while other parts do. Other countries have speed limits on motor-ways, but they are not enforced, yet, in other countries, speeding can result in very high fines and summary license suspensions, impounding of the car and even arrests.
There are many other traffic laws to keep in mind whether one is in the US or abroad from the use of turn signals to paying for driving on toll roads. Driving under the influence laws can vary in severity from state to state or country to country.
A few countries still insist on driving on the left-hand side, which presents certain dangers to those of us used to right-hand side driving. Everything you do is mirror image to what you are used to. Add the issue of navigation, and suddenly the trip can become stressful. But, of course, it is also part of the adventure!
Self Defense and Weapons
Your neighbor state may have completely different self defense and weapons laws as well as most foreign countries. Check with the State’s Attorney General’s office whether you can legally bring your pepper spray, baton, knife or gun. Violating weapon laws can alter the rest of your life for the worse. Improvised weapons are often good choices in strange locales and countries. A powerful flashlight can temporarily blind an attacker and be used as an impact weapon, a rolled up copy of a big glossy magazine is an excellent impact-weapon, yet entirely legal!
Some states will recognize your states concealed weapons permits, yet you are responsible for staying within the confines of their laws. Maybe your state permits the carrying of guns into restaurants that serve alcohol and even permits moderate consumption while carrying, but that may be a felony in another state, and ignorance of the law is no defense to a criminal charge! The blade length of your knife can be illegal in a city or county but legal in the rest of state.
Laws don’t have to make sense or be easily comprehended, they just have to have been passed correctly and not having been successfully challenged as unconstitutional. You are responsible for knowing them, even if no one else does.
Drugs and Alcohol
The drinking age used to vary from state to state in the United States, and still do from country to country. Having a beer, wine or liquor with your food is par for the course in much of the world, and the drinking age is lower than in the US. If so inclined, indulging in these beverages in a responsible manner can be a very pleasant part of the trip. Be mindful that impairment can lead to being overcharged on tabs, pick pocketed, robbed or worse.
Drugs are sometimes easily accessible but often not legal. If they are illegal, penalties can vary from fines, to jail sentences or even death! That said, Washington and Colorado recently legalized the recreational recently legalized the recreational use of cannabis products. Keep in mind that surrounding states have not done so and bringing a legally purchased product from one of those states does NOT make it legal to posses or use in a different state. Even when you come home to your state, having THC in your system can subject you to DUI penalties even if you are not impaired, although this area of the law is in some state of flux.
Given the self defense purpose of this publication, being impaired by any legal substance is not helpful to the relaxed but alert state-of-mind needed for avoidance of problems or self defense claims. Any action taken while under the influence can compromise claims that the action taken was reasonable. However, if need be, have a designated driver-defender in the group that
Some countries frown on copies of the bible, bottles of bourbon, and even driver licenses for women. If any or all of the aforementioned items are near and dear to you, avoid these places as tourist destinations. In case of any international travel, find out the location of the US embassy or consulate, and if you are arrested, insist that the embassy or consulate be notified thereof. As always, the legal view of the world is based on a “glass half empty” outlook on life.
Magnus Eriksson is a criminal defense trial attorney based in Scottsdale, and is currently licensed to practice in the state and federal courts of Arizona. Contact Magnus at: firstname.lastname@example.org