How and where can I report a crime?
If you become a victim of a crime, you can report it to the police and become a witness in the proceedings that follow.
You can also bring a lawsuit against the offender, in which case you will have your own capacity in the proceedings as private (particular) prosecutor with very similar rights to those of the public prosecutor.
Besides the ordinary cases, where the public prosecutor supports the charges against the offender, there are two other types of crimes, where your role at the start of the proceedings is very important:
- the proceedings for semi-public crimes require your report or lawsuit to start, but then the public prosecutor takes on the charges, while
- the actions taken on private crimes (e.g. slander) are entirely dependent on your will; the public prosecutor does not have anything to do with the charges and you can withdraw your complaint at any time, putting an end to the proceedings.
You can submit a report in any language and you have the right to an interpreter free of charge, if you do not speak Spanish or the respective regional language. In practice, if nobody at the police station speaks your language, police officers may:
- give you a reporting form to fill in, if the crime is not serious;
- if the crime is serious, request an interpreter via a telephone service or call one to appear personally.
In some police stations, especially in summer, there are English, French and German interpreters.
There is no specific deadline for you to report a crime, but there are periods after which prosecution will not be possible – 10 to 20 years, depending on the seriousness of the crime. There is no specific form for the report required by the authorities. You can report in writing or orally, in which case the respective authority will take minutes. You have to give your name, address, ID number, telephone number, etc., and you have to sign the report or the authority’s minutes.
How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?
When you submit a report, you receive a copy of it with a reference number, which you can use to check the progress of your case.
How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?
The person in charge of the investigation is the examining magistrate, who directs the actions of the judicial police.
When you make your first statement, the judge, the police or the prosecutor have to inform you about your right to bring a lawsuit against the offender and become a private prosecutor, except in proceedings against minor offenders. As a private prosecutor, you will always need a lawyer to support your case and a solicitor, who is a lawyer working in the court, and who will formally represent you in the trial proceedings.
For you to become a private prosecutor, your lawyer has to present a document expressing your will to become such. In that case you or your lawyer will have a number of specific rights, similar to those of the public prosecutor:
- to get information and access to documents, including the indictment;
- to participate actively in the investigation - propose evidence and investigative actions and assess presented evidence;
- to participate in the adoption of precautionary measures; and
- to propose experts to do reports.
What are my rights as a witness?
You can be heard as a witness at any point during the investigation and you have the right to be interviewed with full respect for your dignity and rights.
You have the right to an interpreter free of charge, if you do not speak Spanish or the respective regional language.
You can also be supported by a lawyer. You will be asked to explain your experience related to the crime and present all the evidence you have. You can refuse to testify in the proceedings if the offender is your close relative.
I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?
If you are a minor, you will be treated in accordance with protocols designed to specifically protect you. Special attention will be given to you, when you are appearing for a statement. The prosecutor, who also has the special task of protecting minors, will always be present. Your visual confrontation with the offender has to be avoided by any possible technical means.
You will be interviewed by a specially trained team in a special room, which will help you to feel comfortable. Your statement may be made in the presence of the examining magistrate, the judicial clerk and all the parties to the proceedings and then you will not need to repeat it during the trial.
What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?
As a victim, you will be able to get information from the police about procedural developments, unless that could damage the investigation. In practice, it is best to call the respective police unit and ask for information.
If you are a victim of a gender-based crime, you will be informed about the procedural situation of the offender and what precautionary measures will be taken. Police Offices of Assistance to Victims of Crime (1) will keep in touch with you and will inform you of any news about the investigation.
If you are a victim of a violent crime or sexual offence, you have the right to receive information about state compensation, if the offender does not pay you compensation or it is not enough.
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 bar association in the area of the respective court or the court at your domicile, if court proceedings have not started yet.
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?
If you are at risk, you will obtain police protection.
Your statement may be obtained through videoconference for reasons of security, public order, utility or preserving your dignity.
If you are a victim of certain crimes (2), one of the following prohibitions may be imposed upon the offender, if that is strictly necessary for your protection: prohibition to reside or go to a place, neighbourhood, city or region; prohibition to approach or communicate with certain persons.
If you are called as a witness and the examining magistrate sees a serious danger for you, your liberty, goods or family, 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 you with transport 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.
If you are a victim of gender-based violence, you can obtain a ‘protection order’, which includes general measures of precaution against the offender (a prohibition on residing or entering certain places, neighbourhoods, cities or regions; and a prohibition on approaching or communicating with certain persons).
What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?
Emergency medical assistance can be provided to you at all times.
As a victim, you can generally obtain assistance from the Offices of Assistance to Victims of Crime (1).
If you are a victim of gender-based violence, you have the right to obtain information, integrated social assistance (psychological consultation, social assistance, labour insertion, etc.) and free legal aid. You also have certain labour rights (change of workplace and work timetable) and right to economic help, if you have a low income.
Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?
There are no specific legal opportunities for you to start mediation with an adult offender, especially in cases of gender-based violence. In practice, however, depending on the will of the public prosecutor and the court, you can attempt some non-legal measures, similar to mediation. This would apply in particular for semi-public crimes (where your crime report starts the proceedings, but the prosecutor supports the charges) and private crimes (where proceedings are entirely dependent on your will). Attempting mediation in this way has been developed in various regions in Spain.
There are specific legal opportunities for mediation if the offender is a minor. Before trial, the prosecutor might not start criminal proceedings, when the crime is not serious, it does not include violence or intimidation and the minor offender has not previously committed other similar crimes. The prosecutor may also 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 to terminate the proceedings.
How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?
After the examining magistrate decides to close the investigation, a special ‘qualification of crime document’ (3) will be drawn up.
You will receive information from the court as to whether a date for the oral trial has been determined, if there is already a firm accusation against the offender, and if the ‘qualification of crime document’ is ready. The Office of Assistance to Victims of Crime will normally advise you, if you have not done so already, to hire a lawyer and become a private prosecutor in order to gain access to the case documents.
The public prosecutor may decide to pursue the charges against the offender or drop proceedings due to lack of sufficient evidence.
Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?
If you are a victim without a special capacity, the judge may, in case of ordinary proceedings, and will, in case of shortened and quick proceedings, inform you about the decision of the public prosecutor to drop proceedings. You will be invited to become a private prosecutor against the offender within fifteen days.
If the prosecutor pursues the charges against the offender, you can do nothing to terminate the proceedings, except in cases of private crimes.
If you are already a private prosecutor, you can ask for the opening of the oral trial and pursue private prosecution. If the judge ultimately decides to drop proceedings, you can submit an appeal.
If the prosecutor pursues the charges, you can ask for proceedings to be dropped or drop your own role as private prosecutor. The prosecutor will continue, if he/she deems fit.
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. The police can offer you a crime report form to fill in, use interpretation via a telephone service or ask for an interpreter to appear. Courts have an interpretation service, which cooperates with the Offices of Assistance to Victims of Crime (1).
- Penal Code (Código penal) – 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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