Mexico’s Legal System

David Simmonds

When I was younger and dumber, in my late teens and early 20’s, Mexican laws, in my mind, were non-existent as long as you had a $20 bill in your pocket. Whether it was getting caught peeing in the parking lot of Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada or most anything short of murder, a $20 bill would take care of the problem. Working for years on that rule it’s a minor miracle that I’m alive and walking freely today. Fortunately, I wised up as I aged, as most of us do.

In fact, Mexico is a country steeped in law and tradition. What surprises many gringos is that the laws are different than in the United.States. Mexico operates under the Napoleonic Code instead of English common law, as is practiced in the States. Mexico law is codified as referenced in law books, with unique circumstances having no effect on innocence or guilt. When in court, the judge looks up the law and applies it. Sentences tend to be longer with fewer back-room deals being negotiated. The harsh penalties tend to have a direct effect on illegal acts by many Mexicans. They know they’re going to jail if caught, so they, for the most part, abide by the law. Lawsuits with large awards are very uncommon.

I know Americans who have spent time in Mexican jails, and believe me, you don’t want to be one of them. If you break the law and can bribe your way out of going to jail, do it. Better yet, respect the laws of Mexico. Remember that you are in their country and show proper respect to the institutions that prevail. Otherwise, keep that $20 handy