Court Action
Court Action

Getting out of trouble - what to do if you’re  
arrested by the Spanish police!

Warning: The information set out below is a general guideline provided by DOMENECH ABOGADOS. Specific advice should be sought before any action in reliance on it is taken, as explained more fully in this website's legal notice.
Even if a criminal career isn’t your aim, a trip to Spain can take unexpected turns. Whether the problem has been of your own making or an accident, cautious holidaymakers and foreigners in trouble will find it useful to know the following.

1) I’ve been arrested by the Spanish Police. What are my rights?

If you’re arrested, the Police can detain you for a maximum of 72 hours. Before that time expires, the Police must bring you before a Judge who’ll provisionally decide if you’ll be set free or sent to jail.
Even if you’re granted provisional freedom, it’s most likely that the criminal investigation will continue and that you may have to appear before a Court in future. Those detained, having been brought before a Judge initially, may breathe a sigh of relief when told they can go only to find many months later a Spanish post-marked communication landing on their mat at home. These communications should not be ignored.
As soon as you can, send whatever document the Police/Court give or send you to DOMENECH ABOGADOS for clarification.

2) Will I be invariably be taken before a Judge after being detained?

If the Police don’t consider the matter serious, you may not, and you may just be set free before the 72 hour time limit. This means that the Police will send the file to the Judge and the Judge will then decide whether any course of action can be brought against you or whether the matter should be dismissed.
But, again, any papers handed to you - and any papers later sent to you at home – should not be ignored, and it’s best to let DOMENECH ABOGADOS’s criminal law team examine them.

3) What should I expect if I’m arrested?

From the moment you’re arrested, the Police will inform you of the following rights:
-          to get medical assistance;
-          to call a relative or friend;
-          to call a lawyer of your choice (if you don’t know a Spanish lawyer, the legal aid system assigns you one automatically – see below);
-          not to make any statement and not to acknowledge guilt.

4) What happens next?

Your chosen lawyer will be called or, as often happens with foreigners who are not acquainted with Spanish lawyers, a legal aid lawyer will be assigned to your case.
When the lawyer arrives at the police station, you’ll be required to make a statement in front of her/him (assuming you want to make such a statement, which you can choose not to do). The Police will then decide whether you’re to be brought before a Judge or released.
It’s not possible to advise generally whether it’s in your best interests to make a statement or refuse to do so. It depends on circumstances and it is, finally, your decision. Sometimes it can be risky, since your lawyer may not have had sufficient time to study the case and ascertain precisely the level of evidence stacked against you. And sometimes it can be beneficial, so as to show your willingness to cooperate with the Police.
The experience of a good criminal lawyer is paramount, in order to persuade the Police to release you - and perhaps also to help prevent the Police becoming exasperated with you! Sleeping in a cell for one or two nights is not a pleasant experience, and certainly puts a damper on holiday spirits.

5) What is to be expected from the legal aid system?

It’s not compulsory for Spanish lawyers to undertake legal aid work. Generally speaking (although there are always exceptions), those undertaking legal aid work are usually young lawyers in their first years of practice. They may still have relevant expertise, but - then again - they may not. The legal aid system doesn’t allow you to choose: you’ll be assigned the next available lawyer on the legal aid list. 
And if your Spanish isn’t up to much more than ordering a coffee or beer, you may find your legal aid lawyer’s English is no better. If that’s the case, an interpreter should be provided. But, again, the quality of interpretation may be good, bad or very bad indeed and the correct “feedback” between client and lawyer may be adversely affected.

6) So what’s best?

If you’re arrested, get us at DOMENECH ABOGADOS phoned from the Police Station (tel. 93 415 06 77). Otherwise, phone a relative or friend and get them to call us (from outside Spain they should phone + 34 93 415 06 77). 
If you’d rather not incur uncertainties with the legal aid system or if, having met the legal aid lawyer assigned to you, you’d prefer one of DOMENECH ABOGADOS’s English-speaking criminal lawyers to advise you, get us phoned as soon as possible.
Even if you use the services of a legal aid lawyer initially at the Police Station or in Court, you’re allowed to switch lawyers afterwards – and DOMENECH ABOGADOS can arrange that switch for you. 
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