Are you innocent until proven guilty in Ecuador? Unlike some other countries in Central and South America, you have more civil rights in Ecuador as a citizen and resident.

Here’s what the Chapter 8, Section 2 of the Ecuadorian Constitution has to say:

“All persons shall be presumed innocent, and shall be dealt with as such, until their guilt is stated by means of a final ruling or judgment of conviction.”

However, and this is a big however, the bail system is nothing like the U.S. system. You won’t find bail bondsman who will loan you the money to get out of jail following an arrest. You’ll have to pay your own bail, which has drawn international criticism due to the inherent inequality because it allows wealthy people to get out of jail while poor people remain locked up.

And if you’re a foreign visitor, there is no bail option. That means if you’re arrested for a crime, you could be held in jail until the trial.

The legal system in Ecuador is highly bureaucratic and the rules/laws are often open to interpretation. Since there is no jury system, the verdict is left to a judge who may have their own interpretation of the law, or simply be in a bad mood on the day of your decision.

As is the case in every country, your best option is to avoid contact with the legal system by following the local laws. And if you’re unsure about the legality of a certain action, check before you act.

In some aspects of life, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission, but this old adage never applies when dealing with laws in a foreign country.

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