Legal issues

Mexico's legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code

  • This is similar to the system in France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal

  • It is different from the English Common Law system in the US, Canada, and the UK

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

  • 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

  • Private prosecutions for crimes are possible

Civil rights differ from country to country

  • Mexico has very strong and clear civil rights

    • Most 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 numerous and important 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 political 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 from 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, political petitions, or similar activities

    • Whether it's permissible to possess or use certain substances (e.g., cannabis)

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

    • Codeine is banned, even in combination products such as Robitussin AC® or Tylenol 3® and even if you have a prescription

    • 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

      • Vicks VapoInhaler® or other things with levmetamfetamine is banned

      • 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). Codeine is banned 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

  • You should travel with any controlled medications in their original, labeled containers and carry a copy of prescriptions