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Note: after writing the question, I found a very similar one covering some of my questions. I crossed them out below, some others are still open.

When discussing with my son about some diplomatic incidents (and worse), he asked me how far someone protected by diplomatic immunity can go. I will rephrase his question as "are there limits to diplomatic immunity immediately after an event?".

By this, I mean incapacitated after having shown evidence for his diplomatic immunity, confirmed by the forces wanting to arrest him.

We had a few typical cases ("they" means the holder of diplomatic immunity:

  • they steal something in a shop and put it aside when confronted, then leave
  • they steal something in a shop and attempt to leave with the stolen good
  • they hit someone (see this question)
  • they kill someone (see this question)
  • they drive in a car with people suspected of crime
  • they drive in a car with people that did commit a crime and are wanted by the local authorities

What I am interested in is the immediate consequences - in other words, whether they can be stopped on the spot (beyond the time needed to confirm their status). I know that there are diplomatic ways to follow up, but this is done independently of the person (not) being arrested.

This question was partly triggered by the ~2 years old case of the wife of a US diplomat who killed a boy with her car in the UK, claimed diplomatic immunity and fled to the US.

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The person could be arrested while an investigation into their diplomatic immunity is carried out. This would normally mean "taken to the police station while phone calls are made". Then released to their diplomatic staff. For example they could be escorted (by police) to the embassy and handed over. Stolen goods can be confiscated.

It is very common for diplomatic missions to waive immunity in such cases. If not it would be normal for the person to be declared persona non grata, and required to leave. Once they are declared persona non grata, they are subject to immediate arrest if they fail to leave.

In the final cases. There is no crime; merely being in a car with (suspected) criminals is not illegal. If the police conclude that they are not suspected of any crime, then they would be released - just like a person who doesn't have diplomatic immunity. They would be witnesses, not suspects and so police might ask (but could not demand) to interview them as witnesses.

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  • For the final cases, I was wondering about how the protection extends to the suspects in the car. In other words, if the diplomat does not want to leave their car and does not allow the police to enter it (to extract the suspects), would they be protected (some kind of "diplomatic suitcase in the form of a car")
    – WoJ
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 8:46
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    No, its a spelling mistake... fixed. As for the car, is it an official diplomatic vehicle. Generally official diplomatic property is inviolable
    – James K
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 8:48
  • relevant source cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/…
    – James K
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 8:50
  • @WoJ it depends on whether the car is the diplomat's car or another diplomatic vehicle. If a diplomat is in my car, it can be pulled over and any non-diplomats in it can be arrested. There are some other nits to pick here: a diplomat with a diplomatic ID card can't be taken to the station involuntarily; once diplomatic immunity is confirmed, the diplomat is released immediately, not to anyone and not escorted anywhere. Someone declared persona non grata retains immunity during a "reasonable period" within which to leave the country, so "immediate arrest" is misleading.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 14:23

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