The day-to-day experience of many trial courts shows that a large number of matters where apparent criminal behaviour could be subject to a relatively simple enquiry, and when this happens there are trials which aim to speed up the process. These are called Juicio Rapido or Fast-Track Trials.
Basically they are aimed at avoiding delays in processing cases for minor offenses providing faster and more direct protection for victims. These procedures are a concentration of proceedings presented before the magistrate’s court, meaning that in a short period of time misdemeanours and crimes can be prepared and the trial can take place within a maximum of fifteen days.
The kinds of crime where the prosecution can be a rapid process or in some cases immediate, are blatant theft or robbery, burglary and theft of vehicles, crimes against traffic safety, flagrant crimes regarding copyright, public health, injury, coercion, harassment, threats or physical violence or repeated psychological violence committed against persons referred to in art.153 of the penal code.
Article 153.1 states that whoever causes psychological harm or an undefined lesion, by hitting or maltreating without causing lesions, where the victim is or has been the wife or partner in a similar emotional relationship without living together, family member, or any especially vulnerable person who lives with the perpetrator, shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to a year or work for the community from thirty-one to eighty days plus the deprivation of the right to possession and carrying of weapons for a year and a day to three years, and if the judge or court deems appropriate for the interests of the minor or disabled, unfit for the exercise of parental authority, guardianship, ward-ship, or foster care for up to five years.
2. If the victim of the crime is one of those referred to in article 173.2, except for those mentioned above, the perpetrator will be punished with imprisonment from three months to one year, or community work from thirty one days to eighty days plus the deprivation of the right to possession and carrying of weapons for a year and a day to three years, and if the judge or court deems appropriate for the interests of the minor or disabled, unfit for the exercise of parental authority, guardianship, ward-ship, or foster care for up to five years.
The perpetrator will receive a sentence within the upper half of the above mentioned penalties where the crime occurs in the presence of children, where weapons are used or when they occur in the home or in the home of the victim, or where other injunctions have been breached. The judge or court can also impose a lesser sentence taking into consideration the perpetrator’s personal circumstances.
This acceleration of the process is not only for the investigation and prosecution of crimes but also the immediate prosecution of misdemeanours. In cases where these Speedy Trials are applied, the police and the legal administration work has to be speeded up also. This means that gathering evidence has to be done quickly making sure that the defendant is at all times aware of his rights and has legal representation.
The rapid prosecutions can only be brought when the crime is punishable by a prison sentence not exceeding five years or any other punishment whether single, joint or alternative where the duration does not exceed ten years, whatever the magnitude; or where the process is initiated when the defendant is identified and arrested, has been cited before the magistrates court and also when any of the following apply: When they are flagrant crimes, that is when the perpetrator is caught in the act and this can mean when he is pursued immediately after committing the crime or when he is surprised after a crime with effects that presume his involvement in it. When they are one of the crimes mentioned in the penal code as above, or when it is a presumably simple case. Rapid prosecutions cannot be used when the investigation and prosecution are not associated with those mentioned above or when the proceedings are confidential.
The immediate prosecution of offenses are when there are misdemeanours where the lesions are not considered to be a crime or alleged assaults or maltreatment where there are no lesions. Minor threats, coercion, harassment or unfair abuse, as long as the victim is one of the following: spouse (present or previous), partner (present or previous) with or without living together, blood relations or those adopted or affinitive, either his own or that of his spouse/partner, minors or disabled people who live with him or have been subject to his custody, or anyone integrated in the nuclear of the family or those especially vulnerable people who are in public or private institutions; or when there is flagrant theft which corresponds to the trial court. These matters can also be reported directly to the magistrate’s court where they will be evaluated to see whether an immediate misdemeanour prosecution can take place.
Presumably simple matters are those that are mentioned in the Reform of the Criminal Law especially after the approval of the Law 38/2002 (official State Bulletin of 23rd November) where the abbreviated procedures have been approved to ease the penal system for specific infractions so that the Judicial Police have more functions regarding the material used in legal proceedings and informing those concerned. In the cases where acts are considered a crime they inform the accused of their rights to legal representation. In some cases of rapid prosecutions where the accused is called to appear before the magistrates court, if he does not appear he can be arrested and if the witnesses do not appear and do not have any just causes for not appearing then they can be fined between 200 to 5,000 euros.
If you care called to appear at a rapid prosecution case for matters regarding objective misdemeanours, then those who do not appear can be fined between 200 to 2,000 euros, in these cases the trial can take place without you being present. Some cases that might be excluded for immediate trial are those where the defendant is given legal aid, when laboratory analysis has to be obtained and the results are not ready for the time of the trial, when an expert is needed to assess an object and cannot do so in time for the rapid prosecution, when a Forensic Doctor is required and he cannot attend.