Making a denuncia is an important part of the law and order system in Spain. In this article, David Ruiz tells us more about them.
Having to report an event (or someone) to the police is something that nearly all of us have to do at some point in our lives. We might even be the ones reported; either fairly or unfairly.
The information you will read in this article is composed in part from my own experience as a translator and interpreter dealing with police reports, or “denuncias” in Spanish.
The other part, more technical details and specific procedures, has been compiled and interpreted by myself from the website of the Spanish “Guardia Civil” (“Civil Guard” in English).
I hope you find this information helpful in understanding the nature of a police report in Spain, as well as knowing what to do in case you have to make one.
What are police reports in Spain?
Police reports or denuncias are statements which anyone can make to law enforcement officers or public officers designated for this task in Spain. They are afterwards transferred to the appropriate agency for processing, investigation or resolution.
In other words, it is a testimony that you provide to the police to report a criminal event such as theft, assault, fraud, threats, etc. or to government officials to denounce administrative matters.
If you are going to make one, it is very important that you know what you are going to report. In particular, information associated with the events or the person you are going to report against. For example you need to know:
- Names and surnames
- The date and time of events
- The names and details of any witnesses
It is very important that you bring your passport with you as your main means of identification in Spain. If you have a NIE number or Spanish residency you will need them too.
How do I know if I can report something?
You don’t have to know Spanish law to report something to the police. Anytime you think you've been a victim or affected by somebody’s actions you can report it.
You can also report if you are a witness to an event that you consider illegal.
My recommendation is to go in person (in case of doubt) to a Spanish police station and ask them. Nobody knows better than the police if something can be reported or not.
What types of reports are there in Spain?
Reports are divided into two categories:
- Criminal complaint (called “denuncias penales” in Spanish): they are reports of allegedly criminal action or a legally established misdemeanour.
- Administrative complaints (called “denuncias administrativas” in Spanish): they are reports of events or actions that go against local or national administrative laws.
However, as I mentioned previously, you have no obligation as a citizen to know the type of report you should do. As long as you identify that there’s an alleged crime or misdemeanour, and report it to the police, that’s enough.
Where do I make them?
Actions that are allegedly a crime or misdemeanour, which would fall into the category of "criminal complaint" (see above), can be reported at:
- The Court.
- Police stations where the alleged crime was committed.
- Police stations based in the area of residence of the person reporting.
If the events were related to an administrative offence, which also would fall under "administrative complaint" as mentioned above, they could be reported at:
- Local / National administration offices.
- Police stations (National Police, Guardia Civil, Local Police or Regional Police).
As always, my recommendation is to go to the nearest Guardia Civil station or Local / National Police station and talk to them so that they can give you advice.
What is the process of reporting something?
The process is very simple. You must go in person to the places I mentioned in the previous point.
The report can be made in two ways:
- Written (in Spanish) - delivering a document with the statement you want to report along with any other evidence.
- Spoken - which is the traditional way to do it, telling the events and addressing questions asked by the police officer
The majority of police stations in Spain do not have interpreters, so you will need one if you do not speak Spanish.
And, again, it is very important to bring your passport for identification. If you have a NIE number or Spanish residency you must supply them too.
What happens afterwards?
The next step after reporting something at the police station depends on each case.
For certain alleged crimes or misdemeanours the police have enough authority to identify, or even arrest, those who are involved in the events.
Where there is not a clear offender or criminal, reports are sent to the judicial authority (court). From there, a judicial process begins to determine whether the reported events constitute a crime or misdemeanour legally established by Spanish law.
The judge ultimately determines whether there should be a court hearing to clarify or convict someone if necessary.
Administrative complaints may end up in economic fines or penalties.
In Spain, those who report false statements can be punished with fines or even prison.
False statements when reporting something or someone to the police is considered a crime under “Article 456” of the Spanish “Criminal Law” (Código Penal).
It is also possible to make a legal slander claim against a person who falsely reported another person.
You should not tolerate any situations you think that could be illegal. The Spanish legal system exists to protect people and sentence actions reflected in the Spanish criminal / administrative law.
If you do not really know whether something is illegal or not, you should check it out at the nearest police station or through a certified lawyer.
You should report whatever you think is wrong, illegal, or of a criminal nature, regardless of where you are from. Being another nationality does not put you at any disadvantage in Spain.
You will not be treated in a different way neither by the police nor at the court because of your nationality.
About the author
David Ruiz is a professional and registered interpreter / translator and founder of Torrevieja Translation http://torreviejatranslation.com/