Legal

Very few visitors to Mexico encounter legal issues, but there are some things to be aware of.

Mexico's legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code

  • This is similar to the system in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal
  • It is different from the system in the US, Canada, and the UK

There are some important systemic differences from what many Americans, Canadians, and Brits expect

  • Private prosecutions for crimes are possible
  • There's a different presumption about innocence
    • It's more common to detain people until a final determination is made
    • Criminal defendants may need to prove innocence
  • People can be detained until they've paid potential damages, even before any final determination has been made
    • A driver involved in a car crash might be held until they pay potential damages, even before any court proceedings take place
  • Rules of criminal and civil procedure are very different in Mexico compared to, say, the US

Civil rights differ from country to country

  • Mexico has very strong and clear civil rights
    • Many of the rights enumerated in Mexico's constitution apply to everyone irrespective of citizenship
  • Civil rights deriving from being a citizen of one country only apply within that country
    • As a visitor to Mexico, you have many civil rights, but not necessarily the same ones you might expect at home
      • You're not entitled to insist on any rights not granted to you in Mexico's constitution
    • In Mexico, only citizens may participate in political activity, including demonstrations or petitions
    • You may not have the same rights when you become involved in the legal system as in your home country

Visitors may have to follow different rules than citizens

  • Just as everywhere else, just because something may be legal for a citizen doesn't mean it's necessarily legal for a visitor
  • Examples include:
    • Ownership of property in certain areas
    • The right to have weapons for self-defense
    • Participation in demonstrations or similar activities
    • Whether it's permissible to possess or use certain substances

What's legal in one country may not be in another

  • Mexico has very strict laws about weapons
    • Do not attempt to bring any firearms or ammunition unless you have an official permit to do so
    • Do not carry knives that could be seen as weapons (such as dive knives) around town
    • Do not bring personal defense weapons (chemical sprays, batons) with you to Mexico
  • Substances that you might be able to possess and use legally at home may be illegal in Mexico
    • It does not matter if you have a cannabis authorization at home - that doesn't apply in Mexico
    • Some substances that are over-the-counter in other countries are illegal in Mexico
      • Pseudoephedrine is banned, whether by itself or in combination with an antihistamine
      • There are no exceptions, even if you have a prescription from somewhere else
      • Tourists have been jailed for bringing in personal supplies of Sudafed®

Mexico has prescription and controlled substance laws similar to most other countries

  • Many medications don't require a prescription
    • You can probably get your blood pressure medication, erectile dysfunction medication, antidepressant, or insulin without a prescription
  • Antibiotics (all antibiotics except topical ones) require a prescription
  • Anabolic steroids require a prescription
  • Most medications considered controlled substances elsewhere are in Mexico as well, including
    • All opiate pain medication (which are nearly unobtainable even with a prescription)
    • All benzodiazepines
    • Sedative-hypnotics ("sleeping pills")
    • Barbiturates
    • If it's a controlled substance at home, it almost certainly is in Mexico
  • EpiPen® is not available in Mexico at all, though you can bring your own