Getting Arrested in Tijuana

posted in: Uncategorized | 34

August 17th, 2011


So a few months ago I was arrested in Mexico. It’s not terribly exciting, but it was my first international arrest, so here is my tale. Perhaps you can get a life lesson out of this one.


An old friend of mine came to San Diego for a weekend of surf, sunshine, and Mexico. I did my best to give him a thorough experience as only a local can (mind you, I am not a local to San Diego). I’ve lived here for just over 2 years and Mexico is hardly a dangerous and foreign place to me. In fact, I’ve been there dozens of times and never had an ounce of trouble. So here we are, a sun-shining afternoon in Tijuana, Mexico enjoying $1 beers and plenty of fish tacos. I wanted to give my friend the real deal TJ experience so I gave him a stroll through the red light district. Lo and behold, we run into another friend of mine who lives in the area. He invites us to have some beers. Mind you, beers only. Let’s not get carried away here.


One thing leads to another and it’s after dark, stumbling to the border time. I’m always building or fixing something, so it’s not unusual for me to have a knife in my pocket. Well, the Mexican law doesn’t take so kindly to such tools of the trade (I later learned you can get 5 years just for carrying a bullet). A police office noticed my clip and knife, and found me as an easy target. Fortunately for me, my Spanish is up to par.


So quickly in cuffs, I learn it’s illegal to have a blade in Mexico. I’m escorted to a small holding cell. It’s no joke; like every bad movie… cling clanging bars, concrete floor, and a 6’x6′ cell filled with ten other guys. One guy was holding his nose, pouring blood like a busted faucet. I’d later learned he was smashed up in a street fight with some drug pushers.

I did my best to size them all up, but I’m no giant. I’m 5’8” on a good day, and 145 lbs soaking wet. Don’t be deceived though, I’ve tossed back enough punches to know what it feels like to catch one in the jaw. I’m not afraid. If anything, I’m feeling on top of the world. How many guys get pinched in Mexico and get to enjoy the tale?


So eventually we are processed and moved across town. Should I mention that they took all my money and fake Ray-Ban shades? Well, those cops did. So $62 and a fake pair of sunglasses later, I’m being transferred across town in the back of a pick up truck handcuffed to a daisy-chain of other detainees. We pick up a few Johns and women of the night. Remember, I’m the only gringo here (entonces, solo en espaΓ±ol).


We get to the main jail and I’m brought before a judge. I plead my case (remember its still the same night and I’m buzzing with excitement and nerves). He ends up letting me go (sans the money in my pockets and those nice damn fake Ray-Bans). This is where that photo above is taken. Little did I know, my buddy I ran into in Tijuana is married to an angel who is friends with the local magistrate (she managed to snag this photo from the outside door as I was walking through the hall to the magistrate, still handcuffed). She pulls some strings to let the gringo out that night. I’m free!


So check it out: The blood you see on the floor? Yeah, that guy with the broken nose was still leaking blood like he had a few gallons to spare. I get out and catch a ride to the border. Fifteen minutes later I’m home free and sleeping sweetly in my 800 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets. Yeah, we’ve got it good. Getting arrested in Mexico? No big deal for the almost bohemian. Oh yeah, and I don’t think my old buddy will be visiting me anytime soon.




34 Responses

  1. I hated this night. I was worried sick when I called your cell phone and all I heard was Spanish jumble in the background. I was convinced you were being held hostage by the Mexican mafia. I am glad you have this experience under your belt…. hopefully there will be no jail cells when we are traveling but it’s us… so you never know! I am still convinced it was more then a several beers that got you arrested. What happens in Mexico….stays in Mexico!

    • The beers didn’t get me arrested, it was the easy mark that I was, and the carrying of a knife in a rough city. But meh, I’m more brazen for the experience. Never fear when I’m involved! πŸ™‚

  2. I do love a good foreign arrest tale. Probably why one of my favourite shows is “Banged Up Abroad”. Glad that you only lost your moola and your Ray Bans that night — I’ve seen those “Lock-up” shows too… πŸ™‚

    • It gives a strange confidence every time I get through an experience with corrupt officials. Those lock up shows are frightening though, but not quite enough to keep us from the road!

  3. Baker Lawley

    Wow, good story, David! Congratulations…? Not sure what the lesson might be yet–maybe something about privilege? Anyway, I’m glad it all worked out. This reminds me of this theory I have, that there’s something inside us that kind of wants something to go wrong sometimes. If nothing goes wrong, we don’t have any stories to tell. (Of course, we want it all to work out just fine in the end, too.)

    • Absolutely privilege. That’s why I believe it’s critical for me to live the life that millions have died for (and many millions more that would die for it now).

      So you better believe I’ll keep doing everything I can to take full advantage of this privilege we all have.

  4. Getting Arrested in Tijuana « Almost Bohemian | Journeys Through Life |

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  5. My ‘ol man tells me this story of when he rode his motorbike from Davis through TJ and into the desert near Ensenada. He and his friend were going go surfing at K-55 (I think). They decided to go for a joyride through some agave and chaparral forests and got chased by (he claims) 10 banditos in one El Camino. Eventually they stopped, gave the guys tequila money and were about to be off…when…his friend (Eric T), decided to rev his tire, tossing desert sand all over the hombres. My dad? Immediate cactus dodging and headed to the beach. He got up to a precipice and could see Eric’s headlight; then the two headlights of the El Camino. He watched what he thought may be the death chase of his friend for a while, then decided to go to the camp. There was nothing he could do on his bike except shine his headlight toward them. He woke up at the camp. Eric was there, barely. Bruised, spire-pricked, and hungover. And smiling.

    You’ll be a better dad for having a Mexican jail story David :D.

    • It’s funny to think that hearing a story like this sounds crazy to me. Your pops was a wild dude, but then again, maybe my kids will think the same of me one day.

      I sure hope so. In the meantime, I better keep having bad things happen to me so I get good wild stories.

  6. The blood in the photo just makes it badass and nice candid shot! Definitely a photo that tells a tale!! Would be a great creative writing challenge. πŸ™‚ You’re fluent in Spanish?? I think that makes you more than almost bohemian!! πŸ˜‰ + points for bilingual-ness. I am still trying to get there.. I love how you were enjoying it and didn’t seem to be too worried. I think you got lucky though!!

    • Right Janet?! That blood is the perfect touch. I forgot to mention that in the back of the truck, while we were all handcuffed to each other, the guy who was cuffed to the broken nose guy was getting sprayed with his blood. It was everywhere. I couldn’t believe he didn’t run out of the stuff!

  7. I love Mark’s comment that you will be a better dad for having a Mexican jail story! So true!

    There is something about leaning into chaos and fear instead of cowering from it that is empowering…

    I think that is the lesson…when faced with danger and fear, lean into the experience and trust…

    • Liane, you’re right about leaning into chaos. It seems even more romantic the way you worded it. πŸ™‚

  8. What a story! Glad that it worked out fine in the end.

  9. Hi David,
    Ha, ha, great story.
    Were you gang raped in that jail cell and too shy to talk about it? LOL .
    Well, what am I supposed to learn from the story?
    Maybe … To learn the damn Spanish? Or…To stay calm when in handcuffs…or learn to carry razors in my ass:)
    Entertaining story;) Glad about happy ending.

    • Learn Spanish, of course. And maybe to keep a cheerful spirit when sitting in a dingy jail cell.

  10. That was scary. The thought of being locked up in a foreign place give me the creeps. I have watched many episodes of locked up abroad series in the national geographic channel and I’m overwhelmed about the sufferings the victims got from being locked. πŸ™‚

    • I guess I should check those shows out… though it may force a stiffer reality upon my travel dreams.

  11. David Krug

    I did ten days in La Mesa, the State Pen in Tijuana. You got off lucky my friend. Try doing ten days not in the small city jail system but getting tossed into the State system and they forget about you till trial (3+ years later).

    Knifes and weapons could be felonies in Mexico. So thank your guardian angels you got off without much of a hitch.

  12. You’ve some tale their to tell your grand kids right there gringo πŸ™‚ Lucky you, you weren’t driving. You would’ve gotten DUI or something worse.

    • No DUI’s for me, I’ll walk home before that. But yes, walking and drinking can be trouble too! πŸ™‚

  13. Ha! Great story David. I don’t know if I would have kept my composure like you (I freaked out when I was arrested and banned from the Tropicana, and that was in the states) but stories on the other side of the border are well worth the adventure.

    Make sure you don’t loose that picture either…that’s one for the kids one day!

    • I’m thankful this photo exists. Not many folks get a locked up story and a photo! πŸ™‚

      I was lucky though, that much is certain!

  14. I was just re-reading this post and can’t believe I didn’t comment the first time. I must have been drunk.

    This terrifies me, but makes for killer content. I really felt a little panicky reading it. If this were me, I would have had to significantly alter the story. Otherwise readers would be treated to a story of me pooping myself in a jail cell, screaming for Kent and crying uncontrollably for hours on end. That is not good content.

    Poor Meg.

    • Caanan, I’m glad you are drunk blog reading. πŸ™‚

      Also, you may be surprised how cool you can act when everything seems to be going wrong. I’m sure your first jail time will be a great story in hindsight!

      • Hey,

        My boyfriend jut got arrested yesterday for cutting the line going back to the US.( is that really a good enough reason ??) he is in Jail in TJ and they own’t let him use him use the ATM to pay.

        I am not sure what to do. I can’t even go there he took my car with.

        Can someone reply to this ASAP

        Thank You much

        • Lina, I emailed you already but my quick advice is to contact the embassy or consulate. Do your best not to stress too hard. It won’t help, and it’s quite unlikely this will be drawn out if he didn’t do much wrong.

  15. haha, this is awesome! Unlucky regarding the sun glasses, but it’s well worth the tale! Just don’t get caught by that magistrate too many times πŸ˜‰

    • Rob, you’re right about that. Lessons learned all around. No more knives in Mexico. πŸ™‚

  16. I just saw this and must say…I have comments, but will save them for another time. πŸ™‚

  17. What s the small holding jail called? My friend just got locked up today and we want to find out where he is…

    • Unfortunately I never knew the name of it as I managed to get processed without paperwork. I’ll message my friend and see what info he has on the place. Let me know if you’re still in a pinch.

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