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

3 thoughts on “Mexico’s Legal System”

  1. May I remind the readers that offering a bribe is an illegal act. I have never bribed a public servant, and being a law abiding citizen I have never been sentenced to aything worse than paying a fine for traffic violations. Of course, if the officer is right and I deserve the fine, I take it. If the officer is wrong and I do not deserve the fine I fight it through legal means.

    Please keep the $20 bill in your bank account and do not offer bribes. It takes two to tango and the person who gives the bribe is as guilty as the person who receives it. If you do not believe me… ask Carlos Ahumada…

  2. I know what you’re saying, Rodrigo, and I don’t necessarily disagree. But a gringo on vacation usually doesn’t have the time, inclination or juevos to fight it further up the chain than the guy right in front of him/her. I’d rather pay the “fine” right there and then and hopefully the underpaid cop will buy his kids something nice with it rather than the money being filtered into the system…ending up who knows where? It’s no secret that there are “stings” operating in tourist areas (Puerto Vallarta road to Punta Mita comes to mind)where gringos are routinely pulled over for an “infraction”. That’s where the focus should be…cleaning up the practice on the local level. It will just end up hurting tourism. which is no good for anyone.

  3. And corrpuption will continue as long as there are corrupt tourists willing to pay a bribe. “Hombres necios que acusáis a la mujer sin razón…”

    The moment gringos at Munta Mitla will take the time to go to the police station to file a complaint against the corrput officers, the moment the problem will be solved once and for all.

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