Comparative law and justice/Spain

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Scale of justice 2 new.jpeg Subject classification: this is a comparative law and justice resource .

Mbrum2646 19:31, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

Basic Information[edit]

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Flag of Spain

Demographics/Geographical Information

Spain is a country in Europe that shares borders with Portugal and France. It is also surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Bay of Biscay, and the Balearic and Mediterranean seas. Its land area covers 192,819 sq. miles and it is populated by 40,525,0020 people. Those 0-14 years old make up about 14.1% of the population and 16.5% of people on Spain are 65 or older. the remaining 69.1% are between the ages of 15 and 64 (Wikipedia 2010) [1]. Its largest and capital city is Madrid populated by 5,130,000. Other large ctities in Spain include Barcelona (1,528,000), Valencia (741,000), and Seville (679,100) (Spain-info)[2].

Spain is generally thought of as a warm climate. It experiences heavy rainfalls along the Atlantic coast and it is usually cooler than the rest of the country year round. Areas of Spain inland experience colder winters and extremely hot summers. Warmer waters can be found in the areas of the Mediterranean (ThinkSpain,2003-2010) [3].

Health and Education

The overall sex ratio in Spain as of 2006 was .96 male to female (Wikipedia 2010) [4]. Life expectancy for men is 79 and 82 for women. Spain has a 97% literacy rate for those 15 years old and over (ThinkSpain 2003-2010) [5]. The infant mortality rate is 4.21 for every 1,000 live births (Indexmundi 2010) [6].

Ethnic Groups/Religions

The official language of Spain is Spanish, with a variety of accents and dialects among the 50 provinces and 17 regions. Catalan is spoken in Catalonia, Balearic Islands and the Valencia region; Gallego is spoken in Galicia; and Basque is spoken in the Basque Country (Spanish Fiestas 1998-2010) [7]. Catalans make up about 16% of the population and generally live in the Northeast and on the eastern islands. Galicians make up approximately 7% of the population and live in Northwestern Spain. Basques and Gitanos are other ethnic groups found in Spain (Spanish Fiesta 1998-2010) [8]. The majority of Spaniards identify as Roman Catholic. Other religious groups include Jewish and Islamic (Wikipedia 2010) [9].

Economic Development

Spain's GDP in 2004 was $995 billion and the GDP per capita was approximately $22,421 with agriculture making up 4% of the GDP and Industry making up 17% (ThinkSpain 2003-2010) [10].

Brief History[edit]

Spain was ruled by many different groups and countries over time. Iberians settled in Spain around 4000 BC. Trading colonies were set up by Phoenicians, but after their fall Carthage took rule. Romans took rule of the peninsula after the Punic wars. After the Muslims invaded the Straight of Gibraltar, they took over most of the land for about 7 centuries until the Christians from the north began pushing them out. In the 19th century, Spain was divided among conservatives and liberals and experienced many changes in government. King Afonso XIII declared Spain a republic in 1931 until the Spanish Civil War that left Spain under the dictatorship of General Franco. Franco was succeeded by King Juan Carlos after his death in 1975, and Spain became a Constitutional Monarchy with a democratic government (Spainview 2006) [11].


Spain is a social democratic state that is governed under a Parliamentary Monarchy (Interpol 2009) [12]. The head of state is the hereditary monarch (the king) who holds the power to ratify laws, dissolve the legislature, elect prime ministers and heads the armed forces. The king selects a prime minister, head of government, who must then be approved by the legislature (Inforplease 2005) [13]. Spain has a 350 member National Assembly, "Las Cortes Generales", whom are elected by popular vote. The Senate is comprised of 259 members; 208 members are directly elected while the remaining 51 are appointed by legislators. Legislators in Spain serve four year terms (Info please 2005)[14]. Each of the 17 regions and the 2 autonomous cities have their own parliament and regional government [15]. The current king of Spain is Juan Carlos I, and the prime minister or President of Government is Jose Luiz Rodriquez Zapatero (Wikipedia 2010) [16]. The Spanish constitution became the supreme law of the legal system in 1978. Spain has 3 levels of government: Central, Autonomous Communities, and Municipal governments. Specific rights and guidelines are outlined in the Constitution (NYU Globalex 2010) [17]. Spain has a civil law legal system that contains civil, criminal, and commercial codes (NYU Globalex 2010) [18].

Judicial Review[edit]

The Supreme Court of Spain has full jurisdiction and is the highest of the courts except in cases involving questions of the constitution, in which the Constitutional Court has jurisdiction. Judges are guided by the constitution and have a responsibility to rule based on written law and treaties. Interpol describes the individual courts of Spain, "The General Council of the Judicial Power is the independent Government body responsible for the judicial power and has jurisdiction over the whole country. It is, however, the Government body responsible for all the courts which make up the Judicial Power. Subordinate to it are the Government Chambers of the Supreme Court, the National High Court (Audiencia Nacional), the High Courts of Justice, and the other jurisdictional bodies with government attributions in their respective areas (Presidents of the Courts, senior judges, committees of judges, and judges) (Interpol 2009) [19]."

Courts and Criminal Law[edit]


Spain abolished the use of Capital Punishment for all crimes in 1978 (1995 for crimes on wartime)[20]. As in most countries, Spain considers the seriousness of the crime before sentencing. The most serious offences (known as Delitos) such as murder, manslaughter, and serious property offences may receive jail sentences of more than three years. Other severe sentences may also be imposed such as, loss of license for more than 6 years, termination of a job for more than 3 years, and banned from certain areas for a period of 3 or more years. Less serious offences including involuntary manslaughter and DUI could result in jail time from 6 months to 3 years, loss of job less than 3 years, and loss of license for 1 to 6 years. Other punishments may include fines, house arrest, and community service. Lesser offences may receive the same punishments for lesser periods of time ( 2006) [21].

Legal Personnel[edit]

In addition to judges and magistrates, there are several other important positions that make up the Spanish legal system. As in most countries, Spain requires the completion of law school and passing a bar examination to earn a law degree. After a law degree, one may go onto a doctorate degree to specialize in certain areas of law. Procuradores is another legal profession in Spain whom stand in on behalf of the parties as power of attorney. Other legal personnel include: notaries, public prosecutors and law professors who also require law degrees (NYU Globalex 2010)[22].

Law Enforcement[edit]

The responsibility of security and law enforcement in Spain belongs to the national government, but the various communities may help with their own law enforcement. The large urban areas are mostly patrolled by the National Police, and the rural areas are patrolled by the Guardia Civil. Only a few of the autonomous communities of Spain have their own police forces including Basque Country and Catalonia. There are over 50,000 officers throughout 1,700 forces in Spain (Interpol 2009) [23].

Crime Rates and Public Opinion[edit]

Along with Portugal and Ireland, Spain has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. They have approximately 50 crimes per 1000 people, most of them occuring in the larger cities like Barcelona and Madrid. The most common crime is theft (pocketbooks, items from cars, etc.) (Just Landed 2003-2010) [24]. Rates for crimes involving firearms are very low as well as those rates of rape and sexual assault (SpainforVisitors 2009)[25].


Family Law[edit]

Marriage is a more complicated process in Spain than in the United States. It may take 30-45 days for a marriage application to be approved. Spain does allow foreigners who are not residents of Spain to wed, however the laws vary among the autonomous communities. Spain recognizes civil and religious marriages. Civil marriages require an application form, birth certificates, proof of freedom to marry, certificate of residence, posting of banns (a public declaration of intent to marry), and a certificate of consular inscription. If someone was previously married, they must provide proof that the marriage no longer exists. Religious marriages require the same documents and may have some additional requirements depending on the religion. Catholic marriages require Baptismal certificates and proof that both parties can marry (U.S. Dept of State) [26]. Divorce can be granted at the request of one spouse, the request of one spouse with the consent of the other, and the request of both spouses. Three months from the marriage must have passed before divorce is granted unless there is evidence of some type of abuse. The courts that grant the divorce also decide on divisions of property and custody/visitation where children are involved. Spain also has legal separations (European Judicial Network) [27].

Social Inequality[edit]

Jewish and Muslim groups in Spain have reported isolation, vandalism and discrimination (U.S. Dept. of State) [28].

Human Rights[edit]

Spanish government believes in preserving many of the same human rights as the U.S. government. These include the right to life (which includes freedom from unlawful taking of life), freedom from excessive punishments and unlawful arrests, and the right to fair trials. Spain also repects human rights to free speech and religion as well as political freedoms. The rights and well being of children is also protected by Spanish government. Children are mandated to attend school until they turn 16 and are provided with a free education until they are 18. There are government groups and officials that deal with issues of child abuse and neglect. Minorities and those with disabilites are also protected. Spanish government provides guidelines for other human rights such as employment (US Dept of State 2010) [29].

Works Cited[edit]

  1. Wikipedia, "Spain"
  2. Tourism in Spain
  3. Facts about Spain
  4. Wikipedia, "Spain"
  5. Facts about Spain
  6. Spain infant mortality rate
  7. Spanish Tourist Information
  8. Spanish Tourist Information
  9. Wikipedia, "Spain"
  10. Facts about Spain
  11. Little, Mark "A Brief History of Spain"
  12. Interpol "Spain"
  13. "Spain"
  14. "Spain"
  16. Wikipedia, "Spain"
  17. NYU Globalex, "Guide to Legal Research in Spain"
  18. NYU Globalex, "Guide to Legal Reserch in Spain"
  19. Interpol
  20. Wikipedia, "Spain" Capital punishment in Spain
  21. "Criminal Penalties in Spain"
  22. NYU Globalex, "Guide to Legal Research in Spain"
  23. Interpol, "Spain"
  24. JustLanded, "Crime in Spain"
  25. Ross, John, "Crime and safety in Spain"
  29. U.S. Dept. of State, "Spain"