The 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law for all citizens of the US. It's my understanding that this means from the Federal Government, and doesn't exactly apply when it's a "states' rights" kind of issue.

My #1 question then is, what if something is illegal in all 50 states and US territories at the state level? Is that not a de facto Federal Law that all citizen's should have the equal protection of, even if they reside outside of the United States?

I don't want to dish too much dirt, but the specifics are I'm a US citizen, full time resident of Peru. I have a son who is a US/Peruvian dual citizen, and an estranged Peruvian wife. She has been abusing him mentally, physically, and possibly sexually, and I have ABSOLUTELY 0 LEGAL STANDING HERE TO DO ANYTHING. To make matters worse, the National Police here have been unwittingly helping her continue her abuse and continue the whole fraud that predicated our marriage and his birth etc. So, basically I'm now having to literally watch my back now that they know I've got them on the hook.

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    We don't offer legal advice here; find a lawyer. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 18:13
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    Certainly none of the US Constitution applies in Peru in any case. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 18:22
  • Go to the nearest U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate. They will be able to advise you of your legal rights.
    – hszmv
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 18:23
  • Equal Protection under US laws, which typically do not apply in a foreign country. The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment has been incorporated to apply to both state and federal laws (it specifically calls out states).
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 18:30
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    @Tiger guy Actually it is the due process clause of the 5th, not the 14th which restricts the Federal government. But the restrictions are much the same. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 18:54

2 Answers 2


The 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law for all citizens of the US. It's my understanding that this means from the Federal Government, and doesn't exactly apply when it's a "states' rights" kind of issue.

Your understanding is incorrect. The primary original purpose of the 14th amendment was to prevent states from passing laws that treated former slaves differently from other citizens, and indeed to clearly declare that they were in fact citizens, thus reversing the decision in Dred Scot v Sandford 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857). That decision held that black people could not be US citizens and had no rights granted to citizens under the US Federal Constitution.

Of course the amendment is applied in a much wider scope than merely granting citizenship to the former slaves freed by the 13th amendment. The Equal Protection Clause** generally requires that laws not make arbitrary and unjustified distinctions between people, nor treat different people in the same legal situation differently.

The clause does not, however, prevent laws from treating who are in some significant legal sense in different positions differently. What is and is not a violation of the clause has been the subject of many legal cases and much debate. The clause requires "state action" to be invoked. and is generally only applies to state and local governments, and those in their employ or acting on their behalf. However, the US Supreme Court held in Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954) that the 5th amendment imposes a similar requirement of equal protection on the Federal government.

The amendment, and the equal protection clause, do not guarantee any particular outcome in judicial cases. It is not clear from the question what equal protection issue, if any, might be at issue in the particular matter described.

If the issue is one of treatment under the laws of a country other than the US, even though the people involved are US citizens, the US constitution, including the amendment will not apply.

  • Yeah, basically your last paragraph. I can't understand for the life of me how or why the Embassy / US State Dept. will rush right out with coco and warm blankets every time a US tourist gets drunk and does something stupid, but when it comes to a 5 year old getting their face smashed in and a corrupt national police department now trying to entrap me by kidnapping him, suddenly nothing can be done about nothing. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 19:17

Theft is against the law in all US states. However that does not create a US law under which you could seek prosecution in federal courts of a person in Peru or North Korea who steals your stuff in that country. The US does not have jurisdiction over criminal acts carried out in a foreign country. Also, Arkansas (and the other states) do not have jurisdiction over acts committed outside of their territory.

There can be extraterritorial federal jurisdiction, as outlined here – six specific offences. This crime is at least in the general ballpark. The accused must, however, be a US citizen or LPR in order to be prosecuted under US law. Theft is not one of the offenses for which extraterritorial prosecution is possible.

  • In some cases the US does claim and exercise, jurisdiction over actions occurring in foreign countries. In addiotion to the offenses linked in this answer, The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq. is such a case. But ordinary theft indeed is not. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 18:58
  • I appreciate the feedback, but the crime you linked to doesn't really fit my situation. It's more physical and mental abuse. The sexual side I'm not certain of, but am certain that if it did occur wasn't due to anything 'commercial.' Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 19:12
  • That's the point: you can't get anything from the US government, it's up to Peru.
    – user6726
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 19:59

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