Italy is generally a safe country to travel in. The most likely reason for a brush with the law is to report a theft. If you have something stolen and you want to claim it on insurance, you must make a statement to the police, as insurance companies won’t pay up without official proof of a crime.

Drugs & Alcohol

  • If you’re caught with what the police deem to be a dealable quantity of hard or soft drugs, you risk prison sentences of between two and 20 years.
  • Possession for personal use is punishable by administrative sanctions, although first-time offenders might get away with a warning.
  • The legal limit for blood-alcohol when driving is 0.05% and random breath tests do occur.


The Italian police force is divided into three main bodies: the polizia, who wear navy-blue jackets; the carabinieri, in a black uniform with a red stripe; and the grey-clad guardia di finanza (fiscal police), responsible for fighting tax evasion and drug smuggling. If you run into trouble, you’re most likely to end up dealing with the polizia or carabinieri.

To contact the police in an emergency, dial 112 or 113.

Italian Police Organisations

Polizia statale (state police) Thefts, visa extensions and permits
Carabinieri (military police) General crime, public order and drug enforcement (often overlapping with the polizia statale)
Vigili urbani (local traffic police) Parking tickets, towed cars
Guardia di finanza Tax evasion, drug smuggling
Corpo forestale Environmental protection

Your Rights

  • You should be given verbal and written notice of the charges laid against you within 24 hours by arresting officers.
  • You have no right to a phone call upon arrest, though the police will inform your family with your consent. You may also ask the police to inform your embassy or consulate.
  • The prosecutor must apply to a magistrate for you to be held in preventive custody awaiting trial (depending on the seriousness of the offence) within 48 hours of arrest.
  • You also have the right to a lawyer. If you do not know of any local lawyers, the police should ask the local bar council for a state-appointed lawyer (difensore di ufficio) to be appointed.
  • You have the right not to respond to questions without the presence of a lawyer.
  • If the magistrate orders preventive custody, you have the right to then contest this within the following 10 days.