Laws in the United States should not be difficult to understand, but may be different from your home country. Take time to read about the most common laws and always use common sense! Some laws are the same no matter where you are. Stealing, hurting someone or damaging property are all things which can get you in serious trouble with the law. Depending on the severity of the crime, you could face monetary penalties, community service or possible jail time.

Common Laws and Terms

The legal drinking age in every state in the U.S. is 21. It is illegal to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol unless you are at least 21. It is also illegal to purchase alcohol for anyone under 21. Violation of these laws are considered highly serious. Regardless of what American counterparts may be doing, you are responsible for your actions and the consequences.

​The legal age for use of tobacco and tobacco products is 18. It is illegal to purchase tobacco products for anyone under 18. Many states and even individual cities have their own laws regarding smoking in public places. These laws may include minimum distances from hospitals, certain persons such as children and government buildings. These laws may or may not apply to e-cigarettes or nicotine vaporizers because they are a relatively new product. Additionally, laws regarding smoking are in constant flux and differ greatly by location so make sure you investigate the laws for your area before you light up.

Illegal substances are exactly that: illegal. The use of illegal substances is strictly prohibited. The purchase and/or use of such substances can result in immediate dismissal from the program. Please note that while certain states in the U.S. have recently passed laws permitting the smoking of marijuana, it is still considered illegal by the federal government. It is NOT legal in the majority of states. Purchasing, selling and using marijuana in most states is still considered a serious crime that carries very heavy penalties. Should you choose to travel to those specific states that permit the use of marijuana understand that you may not bring ANYTHING containing marijuana into other states. You could be charged with federal drug ​charges just by crossing state lines.

​Don’t operate any type of vehicle after consuming alcohol. Don’t ride with anyone who has been drinking. Different states have different laws about alcohol consumption but EVERY states take it very seriously. Thousands of people die each year as a result of drinking and driving. You can get hurt and hurt or kill others. Don’t do it! When you are unsure if you’re too drunk to drive, call a taxi!!

Police are tasked with enforcing the law and protecting citizens. If you are being ordered to comply with an officer’s instructions, do not resist. You are better off explaining a situation at the police station than to a police officer in the field. Running away or fighting arrest will only make the situation worse and can almost guarantee trouble. Be respectful and answer questions honestly.

​While participating in this program you are entitled to the same rights as a U.S. citizen. This means that you are considered innocent until proven guilty. You also have the right to:

  • A fair trial
  • Hire a lawyer or have one appointed if you can not afford one
  • Know what crime you’re being accused of
  • To stay quiet and not answer any questions
  • Not be forced to confess or give evidence against yourself
  • Not to be searched unless a warrant is issued
  • To be released from jail after posting bail

​If you are arrested, it is critical that you contact United Studies​ immediately. We will notify your international partner and ​take the necessary steps to assist you. Your best course of action is to call us first and discuss the situation. We can help find legal assistance and will cooperate with local authorities.

If you are found guilty, you may face monetary punishment, jail time or deportation. Arrest may affect your employment and ability to participate in the Work and Travel Program.

If you arrested and charged with a crime the court may set bail. This is a refundable amount of money you may pay to be released from custody until an appointed court date. If you are unable to pay the full amount, a bail bondsman can take approximately 10% of the full fee and pay your bond amount on your behalf, keeping that 10% as payment. If you miss your court date you must pay the total amount to the bondsman. If you elect to pay bail or have a bail bondsman pay it on your behalf you MUST appear on your given court date or face severe consequences.​