How can I be involved in the trial?
Regardless of your legal capacity in the proceedings, you can generally be present at the hearings, even if they are non-public. You are only obliged to be present if you are testifying as a witness.
You can continue benefiting from the services of the Offices of Assistance to Victims of Crime (1).
If you are a victim without specific legal capacity in the proceedings, you will be informed about the date and place of the trial. Your main role will be to testify as a witness. In order to be properly called to testify, you have to communicate any changes in your address during the proceedings.
You can join the proceedings as a private prosecutor before the preparation of the ‘qualification of crime document’ (2), i.e. before the beginning of the oral trial, except in criminal proceedings against a minor. You will be represented by your lawyer, who will support your case, and your solicitor, who will formally represent you in the proceedings.
If you are already a private prosecutor, your lawyer will have access to the indictment and the other case documents, as well as rights, similar to those of the public prosecutor:
- to request new pieces of evidence;
- to call witnesses and experts to support your case; and
- to propose face-to-face confrontations, etc.
If the defendant is convicted, the court can order him/her to pay your costs as follows: fees of lawyers and experts, proclamations during the proceedings, certificates from public registers and notaries, etc.
What are my rights as a witness?
You have the right to interpretation free of charge, if you do not speak Spanish or the respective regional language, but no opportunity for translation of documents.
Although there is no specific provision enabling you to avoid visual contact with the defendant, and court buildings do not have separate waiting rooms for witnesses, you can, if you are a victim of a sexual offence:
- benefit from a special partition in the court room; or
- testify via videoconference.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are testifying, visual contact between you and the offender will be avoided by any technical means possible. Face to face statements are also restricted.
Can I receive legal aid?
You can benefit from the legal orientation services, which offer information about law to all citizens. Those services are organised by the bar associations in each judicial area.
If your income is lower than the double guaranteed minimum wage, you have the right to free legal aid. You have to fill in an application, which can be found at the courts, at the Ministry of Justice or other state offices, and prove that you have insufficient means. You have to present the application at the respective bar association. If you are a private prosecutor and you have applied earlier, you can already have a lawyer and a solicitor, paid for by the state.
If you are a victim of a gender-based crime, you do not have to prove insufficient means in order to obtain legal aid.
If you are a victim of terrorism, you can also obtain free legal aid in accordance with an agreement between the Minister of Justice and the Foundation of Victims of Terrorism.
How can I get protection, if I am in danger?
The court president can order a non-public hearing to protect morality, public order, yourself as victim and/or your family. As private prosecutor, you can ask for a non-public hearing.
If you are called as a witness and the judge sees a serious danger for you, your liberty, family or possessions, he/she can take the following actions:
- preserve your identity, address, profession and work place by not using them in the proceedings;
- avoid you being seen in court and use the address of the court as your address for notifications;
- avoid your image being registered by any means;
- order police protection during and after the proceedings;
- provide transport for you to court by official cars;
- place you in court in a waiting room guarded by police; and
- in exceptional circumstances, provide you with a new identity and economic help to change your place of residence or workplace.
How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the State?
As a private prosecutor, you can claim damages from the offender by engaging his/her ‘civil responsibility’ within the criminal proceedings or postpone your claim until they are finished. If both actions go separately, the civil action must wait until criminal proceedings are closed.
You can also join the proceedings as a civil claimant without a specific legal capacity. If you do not join the proceedings at all, the prosecutor can support your civil claim. If the court declares the defendant not guilty or does not award you compensation, you can always claim before the civil court.
The defendant’s civil responsibility covers restitution, redress of damages and indemnification of prejudices, including those to your partner and children.
You can also obtain compensation from the State. Please consult the factsheet on compensation to crime victims in Spain (available in Spanish, English and other languages) of the European Judicial Network.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
You, as a private prosecutor, can reach an ‘agreement’ with the prosecutor and the defence lawyer – it allows the defendant to accept his/her guilt before the oral trial and the punishment, contained in the agreement. Afterwards, the judge can accept the agreement and pass a sentence without a trial.
There are specific legal opportunities for mediation, if the offender is a minor. The prosecutor may terminate the proceedings under the following conditions:
- if the crime is not serious;
- in view of the personal circumstances of the minor offender;
- if the offender has reconciled with you by admitting the damage caused and you have accepted his/her apologies; and
- if he/she committed to restore your damage or follow a special educational activity.
If the minor offender follows the conditions, the ‘technique team’ implementing the mediation, will notify the prosecutor and he/she will ask the judge to terminate the proceedings.
Mediation is also possible during the execution of the minor’s sentence. The judge has to hear the technique team and the institution, where the minor serves his/her penalty. The reconciliation between you and the minor is taken into account, as well as the period of time the minor has spent in the institution, in order to assess his/her remorse.
I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?
If you are a foreigner, you can have an interpreter free of charge, if you do not speak Spanish or the respective regional language, but no specific possibility for translation of documents. Courts have an interpretation service, which cooperates with the Offices of Assistance to Victims of Crime (1).
- Penal Code (Código penal) – in Spanish
- Civil Code (Código Civil) – in Spanish
- Criminal Procedure Law (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Criminal) – in Spanish
- Law 35/1995, 11 December, about Help and Assistance to Victims of Violent Crimes and against Sexual Liberty (Ley de Ayuda y Asistencia a las Víctimas de Delitos Violentos y contra la Libertad Sexual) – in Spanish
- Organic Law 19/1994, 23 December, on Protection of Witnesses and Experts in Criminal Procedures (Ley de Protección a Testigos y Peritos en Causas Criminales) – in Spanish
- Organic Law 1/2004, 28 December, on Measures of Integral Protection against Gender-Based Violence (Ley de Medidas de Protección Integral contra la Violencia de Género) – in Spanish
- Law 1/1996, 10 January, on Free Legal Aid (Ley de asistencia juridical gratuita) – in Spanish
- · Organic Law 5/2000, 12 January, on Penal Responsibility of Minors (Ley reguladora de la responsabilidad penal de los menores.) – in Spanish
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