Can Us embassies in foreign countries arrest Americans? For example if an individual is living in France but there is a bench warrant for their arrest for not appearing in court in New York. If they go into the US embassy in France to get their passport renewed can they be arrested?
Yes, but its not that simple.
US Embassies are protected by US Marine Military police. These MP's have the authority to detain and arrest anyone on Embassy(or consulate) grounds given proper cause. What is required to happen once depends on the treaties regarding the establishment of the embassy and/or consulates involved.
The base agreement comes from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
Article 3 Section 1 part b states that among the functions permissible to the embassy:
Protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law;
Article 22 Section 1 states:
The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
So by this the Vienna Conventions would seem to allow for this. And to that point the British government have requested that the Ecuadoran government arrest and turn over to their custody Julian Assange, so that they can comply with a warrant from Sweden.
Where it gets more interesting would be if the US wanted transport their prisoner back to the US for trial. Article 26 of the Vienna Convention provides for:
Subject to its laws and regulations concerning zones entry into which is prohibited or regulated for reasons of national security, the receiving State shall ensure to all members of the mission freedom of movement and travel in its territory.
However that would only apply to the guard and not to the detainee. Should the host country come into contact with the detainee they could demand that they be turned over to the authorities of the host country. The practice is that the diplomatic limo is respected and not harassed by the host country in most cases.
The proper procedure in this case is probably that the US would request that the host country allow them to transport and return the detainee to the US.
- Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.
- All official business with the receiving State entrusted to the mission by the sending State shall be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving State or such other ministry as may be agreed.
- The premises of the mission must not be used in any manner incompatible with the functions of the mission as laid down in the present Convention or by other rules of general international law or by any special agreements in force between the sending and the receiving State.
So the US should follow the laws of the host nation regarding the extradition of their prisoner. It is possible that there is a Status of Forces agreement or other treaty that would supersede that.
Practically this is all a big headache. So unless the person that is wanted in the US is worth the hassle it is unlikely that the embassy would go to the trouble. However I suspect that if Edward Snowden or Roman Polanski were to decide to enter a US Embassy the state department is likely to go to the efforts.