What to do if you are arrested in Spain
Hopefully no one comes to Benidorm to break the law but sometimes things can take an unexpected turn. Whether the problem has been of your own making or some other incident or accident. This page is to help you know what to do in the event of being arrested here in Spain. This is just general information and you should always seek proper legal advice.
The most important thing you should do is try and keep calm, do NOT become aggressive or overly distraught this will not help the situation, although this is easier said than done… take deep breaths, relax and stay calm.
1) I’ve been arrested by the Spanish Police. What are my rights?
The police are entitled by law to keep you detained for up to 72 hours. Before this time expires they either have to release you, or put you in front of a judge who may extend the arrest period, or they may also tell the police to let you go.
Even if you are released, you may breathe a sigh of relief when told you can go only to find many months later a Spanish post-marked communication delivered to your home address. These communications should not be ignored and you should seek legal advice immediately if you have not already done so. Even if you’re granted a provisional release, it is possible that the criminal investigation will carry on and you may have to appear at court again, or for the first time.
In more serious cases, (terrorism offences), the police are permitted to apply extra restrictions to you during the first 13 days after your arrest. This is called detenciónincomunicada, in this case you will not be permitted any communication with the outside world. You will not be allowed visitors. You will not be allowed contact with friends or family members and let them know of your arrest and place of detention. You will not be able to choose your own lawyer you will be given a state appointed lawyer. They will not be able to visit you privately, or be permitted to speak to you directly, to ask you questions, or to give you any legal advice but they will be alongside you during any interviews.
You may also be kept in detention until your case goes to trial. Often these reasons include:
- Failing to attend a previous court appearance
- Tampering with evidence
- Interfering with witnesses
- Committing another alleged crime
- Being a danger to yourself or to others
Under Spanish law, once you have been formally charged, you may be held in detention for up to four years while the prosecution prepares its case, so do not agree to anything or sign anything without taking legal advice from lawyer or the Consulate.
What you are entitled to if arrested in Spain
If arrested, the police will make you aware of certain rights. These include (but are not limited to)
- medical assistance should you need it
- freedom to contact a lawyer of your choice (see below for further lawyer information)
- you may ask for a translator
- to telephone a person of your choice – perhaps a relative or friend
- you are not obligated to make a statement, although you can agree to do so
- you may refuse to answer any and all questions put to you by the police
- you may refuse to make a statement until court
- you are entitled to contact your consulate.
Legal aid when arrested in Spain
Spanish lawyers are under no obligation to work on legal aid cases. So you may be allocated a new or young lawyer who may be inexperienced. It is up to you to decide whether to use that lawyer, or to pay for someone with more experience.
You do not have to stick with the same lawyer throughout your case – which may buy you a little time
Can I go back to my home country?
Usually there won’t be a problem, although you may be required to return at a later date for court etc. However, in some cases you will not be able to return because the police will have your passport, or because you are asked to present yourself to the police station on a regular basis.
I have been convicted – can I appeal?
Usually yes, although the timescale is often quite short – between five and 15 days. You should speak to your lawyer immediately. Bear in mind that appeal costs are not always covered under legal aid.
How the Foreign and Commonwealth or Embassy can help.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) or the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate can give advice on local laws and procedures, contact friends and family and help find a lawyer.
The person arrested or detained should contact the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate as soon as possible – the police might also do this on their behalf.
The FCO and British consulate can offer help to arrested persons or prisoners. This includes:
- providing general information about the country, prison conditions and the local legal system (including if legal aid is available)
- providing a list of local lawyers and interpreters
- telling the police or prison doctor about any medical or dental problems with the arrested person’s permission
- helping with complaints about the police or prison (eg, ill treatment, personal safety, discrimination) with the arrested person or prisoner’s permission
- sending money to the arrested person from their family
- sending messages between the arrested person and their family
- putting the prisoners in touch with the charity Prisoners Abroad
- helping British prisoners apply for a transfer to UK where possible
- visiting prisoners when needed
Download prisoner packs and other helpful information
The FCO has produced guides explaining the legal and prison system in different countries for British nationals arrested abroad.