You are currently viewing What Are the Local Laws in Belize I Should Be Aware Of?
Belize Attorney

What Are the Local Laws in Belize I Should Be Aware Of?

Belize’s constitution and laws forbid arbitrary arrest or detention without cause; citizens have the right to challenge this legality in court; however, police often disregard these requirements when conducting raids or investigating crimes.

Be mindful in Belize City, as much of the violence in the southern region is driven by gang activity. Take extra caution in this location and avoid large public gatherings.

Local laws and regulations

Southside Belize City has experienced high rates of gang violence. Travelers should avoid demonstrations, large gatherings, and any potentially volatile situations. There is also concern over high HIV/AIDS infections with limited access to preventive methods like the MPOX vaccine; travelers are advised to practice safe sex while limiting the number of sexual partners they engage in with and check with local public health authorities prior to traveling for vaccination eligibility information.

The Office of Ombudsman suffers from limited staff and funding resources, limiting its ability to effectively investigate human rights violations. To combat this challenge, in 2022 the government converted the National Women’s Commission from an advisory body into a statutory entity which legally addresses gender issues.

Environmental issues abound in Belize, which serves as an essential gateway for illegal drugs moving between South and North America. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking illicit drugs can be severe; offenders facing conviction may face lengthy jail terms. Belize is signatory to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora while possessing pre-Columbian archaeological artifacts or Colonial-period artifacts requires permission from the Department of Culture and Arts.

The banking sector in Belize is relatively well-developed, offering deposit insurance to domestic banks and credit unions. The Central Bank serves as the Registrar for Moneylenders and regulates them in order to prevent money laundering; their convertible monetary system uses the Belize dollar. Overall financial services are efficient and reliable with some products like foreign exchange not readily available in rural areas and private hospitals providing superior care services than public ones.

Traffic laws

Though Belize’s lush jungles and picturesque beaches attract many visitors, it is important to remain mindful of road safety laws while driving there. Road conditions may not always be well maintained, increasing the risk of car theft; thieves frequently target purses, backpacks, wallets as well as mobile phones and tablets from passing cars.

Alcohol-impaired driving is illegal in Belize and drivers should use extreme caution when operating vehicles, adhering to speed limits and being aware of pedestrians and wildlife crossing the road at any time. Furthermore, they should refrain from using hand-held devices while driving unless equipped with hands-free devices.

Gender-based violence poses a moderate threat to foreign nationals and expatriates in Belize. Female travelers and women walking alone may occasionally be subjected to verbal harassment, particularly at night or in isolated areas; physical assaults are rarely encountered; homophobia does not present as a major issue; same-sex couples do tend to attract staring attention, however.

Traffic police in Belize do not engage in bribery and usually do not stop vehicles for random inspections. If stopped by one, be polite and cooperate if asked; they should issue you with a penalty notice should any violations occur.

An international driver’s license (IDL) is necessary in Belize. If you plan to remain for an extended period, however, you will also need a Belizean drivers license by paying a fee, taking an eye exam, and showing either your English- or Spanish-language drivers license as proof. Some government officials do not strictly enforce this requirement, so it would be wise to bring along one as insurance.

Criminal laws

The government investigates reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings committed by security force members. The Belize Police Department (BPD), along with various international and local organizations, provides training on respecting human rights, standard operating procedures, and using force only when absolutely necessary; yet credible allegations still persist of certain officers engaging in extortion or bribery practices.

Public healthcare in Belize is limited, with only poorly equipped hospitals and few doctors available. Travellers should consider vaccination against common cold, influenza, traveler’s diarrhea, hepatitis A/B/C and rabies to protect themselves when visiting this country. Furthermore, the Belize Police Department offers professional standards unit and human rights division that investigate misconduct by police officers.

Belize’s Constitution guarantees free and fair elections for its National Assembly. At the last elections held in 2020, People’s United Party secured 27 seats and selected John Briceno as prime minister; their governing party can form a cabinet along with other National Assembly members. President of Republic of Belize: An Official who Represents King Charles III

Belize’s criminal code criminalizes rape, marital rape, carnal knowledge of females under 16 (Section 46); entrapment (Sections 71-74); and forced marriage (Section 58). Long prison sentences may also be provided for these offenses, although victims have often claimed that courts have failed to address or treat them fairly; if this has happened to you or someone you care for, contact an experienced attorney immediately for guidance and representation in court proceedings.

Alcohol and drug laws

Belize prohibits public consumption of alcohol or drugs and those caught could face both fines and prison sentences. The government takes an anti-drug offense approach with zero-tolerance policies against offenses; undercover police officers regularly patrol nightclubs, bars, restaurants, tourist areas for people selling or using drugs or drinking alcohol who offer it or consume alcohol themselves; these people will typically face heavy charges before being taken back to “piss house” prior to trial.

Petty crime is prevalent in Belize, particularly coastal towns and resort areas. U.S. citizens have reported being pickpocketed or robbed, victimized by credit card fraud and other financial scams; even property sales, real estate transactions, or business deals could result in substantial sums being scammed from them – not to mention extortion occurring more frequently among tourists than locals.

Belize’s government has established the National Drug Abuse Control Council (NDACC), a national drug policy body charged with overseeing demand reduction programs, alternative and integral development plans, international cooperation initiatives, as well as using information provided by academic and research institutions as well as relevant civil society organizations to create policies, plans and programs that address drug abuse in Belize.

Belize provides and participates in training activities focused on intelligence exchange in investigating cases involving drug trafficking and related crimes, maintaining an intelligence exchange registry of individuals and corporations handling controlled chemicals as part of INTERPOL’s pre-export notification system, increasing law enforcement capacity to dismantle laboratories used for illicit production, as well as being party to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Sex laws

Gender-based violence and discrimination represent a moderate threat for foreign nationals and expatriates in Belize, with females particularly at risk of sexual harassment and assault; walking alone at night in certain isolated areas may put women at increased risk of verbal harassment or physical assault from male passersby; violence towards children and adolescents can sometimes occur, especially near tourist hotspots.

There have been multiple reports of human trafficking involving Belizean and migrant men, women, and children; such activities occur in bars and clubs or as domestic or restaurant workers. Unfortunately, the government failed to enforce laws against forced labor effectively and did not have adequate resources or inspections available to investigate complaints filed with authorities.

Same-sex relationships are legal and widely accepted in Belize; however, LGBTI travelers can experience discrimination and violence in some regions. Travelers should refrain from public displays of affection.

On 10 August 2016, the Supreme Court of New Zealand made a landmark ruling that Section 53 of the Criminal Code criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults in private was unconstitutional, finding that protections provided under Sections 3 and 16 against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation included sexual orientation discrimination. While this decision marked an important advancement, over 70 countries worldwide still criminalize private consensual same-sex intimacy between adults.

HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are prevalent in Belize, while mpox infection also exists. Travelers should use condoms when engaging in sexual activity and obtain an up-to-date mpox vaccination before arriving. Waterborne and foodborne illnesses are prevalent as well, so drink only bottled or boiled water and cook meals thoroughly to avoid water or foodborne illness. Malaria and Chikungunya infections also exist here so it is wise to avoid remote and jungle areas when possible.