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Belize


Laws

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Page last updated on November 28, 2012

When traveling in a foreign country, it's surprising how many people forget that they are subject to local laws, laws that can very often be different from the ones back home. Belize's laws are modeled around British common law so the differences, though they do exist, are minor. Obviously it would be impossible to list all of the laws of the country, but there are a few notable ones to draw attention to.

Drugs are illegal in Belize. Any sort of involvement in drugs in Belize is a bad idea, as the government is working hard to stop all trafficking. Chances are you will be offered drugs a few times on the street, just politely say “no” and move on. Enforcement is strict and if you're caught buying, doing, holding, or selling drugs you can receive heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

Prostitution is legal in Belize, though operating a brothel and sexual solicitation aren't. Enforcement is weak, however, and many brothels operate openly. Homosexuality is against the law, though this too is weakly enforced. Taking pictures of official buildings is illegal, as well as is possession of pre-Columbian artifacts without a permit. If you purchase a Mayan artifact, make sure it's from a reputable store and keep the receipt. Possession of any sort of firearm or ammunition without a license is also illegal and is strictly enforced.

Any jail time will be served in local prisons, though in Belize there's just the one. Belize Central Prison, called the “Hattieville Ramada”, is a fairly unpleasant sort of place, unless you're there for the gift shop in which case it's actually a pretty interesting tourist attraction. The prison conditions don't meet international standards, it's overcrowded and violence is common among inmates. The death penalty does exist for more serious crimes like treason and murder, though it has only been carried out a few times in the past.

If you get into legal trouble in Belize, remember that the police don't accept bribes and more often than not an attempted bribe will land you in more trouble. Police brutality towards tourists isn't common and police are mostly friendly. Your arresting officials have a responsibility to help you get in touch with your embassy or consular office in the country, but only if you ask for it specifically. You must clearly state that you wish to have your consular officers notified of your arrest. Make sure it gets done right away. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot your country will be able to do for you in Belize. Financial assistance from your government will be very rare, though they will most likely provide a list of local lawyers as well as ensure you are being treated fairly and humanely. Contact information for consulates and embassies can be found in the “Foreign Embassies” section.

Belize has signed many conventions to protect human rights. The rights to a fair trial, privacy and freedom of speech are generally well respected. Torture and arbitrary arrest are prohibited in the constitution, though there have been a few reports of officials violating these rules. Belize, as a member of the commonwealth, is able to extradite criminals to other member countries and has signed extradition treaties with the United States, Cuba and Mexico.

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