Legal assistance for a traveller who was arrested in San José

The sister of a backpacker contacted Traveller Assist through social media to seek advice after her brother was arrested in San José, Costa Rica.

The backpacker had been travelling through Central America to photograph street art when he was stopped by local police and accused of grafitti in a National Park.

Even though the backpacker did not have spray paint in his posession, and could prove through postings on social media that his sole intention was to photograph the street art, the police still arrested, and held him without bail.

The backpacker's phone, laptop and camera were confiscated and although he was allowed one phone call, he was not allowed access to his belongings, and he could only remember his mothers home phone number, but he knew she would be away for the next three days.

He left a voicemail on his mothers phone, and he waited. When his mother listened to the voicemail, she immediately contacted her daughter, and while the mother contacted the consulate, her daughter remembered that she followed Traveller Assist on Twitter and reached out for help.

Our multi-lingual assistance team contacted a local lawyer, and explained the situation, and contacted the consulate to inform them that Traveller Assist would be providing assistance. In additon, we contacted the backpacker's hostel to inform them of the situation, and to secure the rest of his belongings.

Our team was able to gather a case file of evidence to prove the backpacker's innocence, which included: recent photographs of street art, social media posts, copies of emails to his mother and sister, and a travel intinerary which matched his posts on instagram and facebook.

Upon providing this to the lawyer, he was able to act quickly and secure bail for the backpacker who had been in a jail cell for four-days. The police returned his phone, laptop and camera, but would not return his passport until after he had appeared in court.

We assisted the backpacker with rescheduling his onward flights, and we were in constant contact with the lawyer who would represent him in court.

Five-days later, the lawyer called our assistance centre to inform us that he had been successful in getting the charges dropped against the backpacker, and that he had the backpacker's passport in his possession.

We facilitated payment to the lawyer for his services, and the backpacker was free to carry on his travels.

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