LAWS TOURISTS SHOULD KNOW
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Sex and prostitution
Age of consent is 16.
Prostitution is not ilegal in Brazil; persons over 18 may exercize prostitution. However, profiting from prostitution, or inducing someone into prostitution, are crimes. Night clubs are also legal (as long as the prostitutes freely choose to be there).
Prostitution involving persons under 18 is a serious crime, and the authorities of Natal and Rio Grande do Norte fiercely enforce the law.
Natal and Rio Grande do Norte ARE NOT places for sexual tourism. The government campaigns are aimed at family tourists. Most people in the tourism business (hotel attendants, taxi drivers, waiters) are conscious that this such kind of tourism is not good for the city.
Drugs: legal and ilegal
Tobacco and alcohol can be purchased and consumed by people older than 18. Marijuana, cocaine and heavier drugs are illegal; carrying for personal use is a minor demeanor, one can pay a bail and walk out; carrying drugs for distribution (however small the amount, however the price) qualifies you as a trafficant, there's no bail out in this case, you go straight to prison.
There's no 'free zones' in Natal. Police has higher priorities other than go after quiet pot smokers, but they won't let you go if they catch you (for example, if your car is stopped by one of the several blitzen that happen all around).
Very rarely do Brazilians go to jail for carrying a few joints of pot; however, if you don't speak the language and don't know the country very well, you will save a lot of headache by staying away from drugs.
Environment protecting laws
Brazil has very strict laws protecting environment and wild life.
People can neither keep nor trade wild animals withouth authorization; do not buy turtles, monkeys or birds that natives try to sell you.
If you want to buy protected wild life, there are legal means to do so. Check out IBAMA, the federal agency in charge of environmental issues in Brazil.
Different policies for different situations
Brazil has several polices, the functions of each are defined by the laws.
The Federal Police, besides investigating federal crimes, is also the border police. They check out Visas at borders, grant Visa extensions, investigate foreigners in illegal activities. Because Brazil is very peaceful, blitzen agains foreigners are unheard of.
The Civil Police investigates common crimes (thefts, agressions, etc). If you are robbed and need some official paper to register it, you will have to go to a Police Department (Delegacia de Policia).
The Military Police (the cops in uniforms you see everywhere), grossly speaking, is responsible for keeping law and order; they will be the first ones to show when you call (Emergency Phone: 190) or cry for help. Military and Civil polices often work together, the militaries will help you but eventually will lead you to the Civil to register the ocurrence.
Some situations when you will need the police Ideally, the only occasion when you will see any police is when arriving and leaving the country (the federals will check out your passport). However, in some occasions you may need to talk to the police. It will be very unlikely you will find any officer who speaks English; so, if possible, have the phone number of someone who speaks Portuguese and may help you.
If you are robbed or assaulted and need an official statement about that (some credit card and traveller checks companies require that), go to the nearest Delegacia; you can go at any time, but the sooner the better; someone will ask for details of the occurrence, and at the end will give you a copy of a document (called 'boletim de ocorrencia') which testifies that you declared you were robbed, and will be used to support the policial investigations (don't count on any fast results, though).
If you are driving a rented car, if you paid for insurance, and if you get envolved in an accident (be it your fault or not), then the insurance company will ask also for a written police record to pay you the coverage (if the other driver is to blame for the accident, then either he or his insurance will be responsible for the bills, but you will need a police statement anyway).
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