There are many different courts in Spain which all serve different purposes. The legal system and court structure is far more complex than most countries. This is due to the Spanish Constitution which dates back to 1978.
Each nationality or region of Spain has the right to self-governance. Territory is one of the fundamental aspects of the Spanish legal system. Below are the three main aspects which form the structure of the courts in Spain. We will include a little information about the functions of each court.
The state is divided into municipalities, districts, provinces and autonomous communities. Most courts fall into this category in some way but only the higher courts have national jurisdiction. We talk more about these below under court types.
Single Or Bench of Judges
All courts in Spain will have at least one judge but some will have a bench of judges. These are the most powerful courts such as the Supreme Court and the Provincial Court. National Criminal and Administrative Court and Autonomous Communities High Court are others.
This category contains four different types of court which deal with different issues. These consist of Criminal Courts, Civil Courts, Administrative Courts and Labour Tribunals.
Types Of Spanish Courts With Their Powers
Below is an introduction into all the different types of courts in Spain with their powers.
The Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo)
As in many countries, The Supreme Court is the highest in the land. In this case, the most powerful court in the Kingdom of Spain which lies in the Capital Madrid. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all national matters. This court contains 5 chambers which each deal with different aspects of Spanish Law. It's also the responsible court for trying government officials. Below are the areas of law each chamber specialises in.
- Spanish Law
- Labour Law
- Civil Law
- Public Affairs
- Military Matters
National Court (Audiencia Nacional)
The National Court as the name implies also has jurisdiction over national matters. This court deals with some of the most serious crimes including those against the Crown. Terrorism, fraud and drug trafficking are among the serious crimes. Appeals will go to the Supreme Court, both courts are in Madrid.
Provincial Court (Audiencia Provincial)
Forming the Kingdom of Spain are 17 regions and 50 provinces. Each province has a Provincial Court which has jurisdiction over their own area only. This court can also hear appeals from courts lower in the hierarchy. Usually the sentence for any crime will be more than 5 years in prison.
Central Criminal Court (Juzgados Centrales de lo Penal)
The Central Criminal Court is also in Madrid and has national jurisdiction. This court deals with crimes which carry a sentence of less than 5 years. European arrest warrants are also dealt with by the Central Criminal Court.
Central Instruction Court (Juzgados Centrales de Instrucción)
This body investigates and refers cases to the two courts above. Both the Central Criminal Court and the National Court hear cases from the Central Instruction Court.
Court For Violence Against Women (Juzgados de Violencia Contra La Mujer)
Like the Provincial Court, there is now a court in each province which deals with violence against women. This is one of the newer courts which came into force in 2004.
Criminal Courts (Juzgados de lo Penal)
This is a standard court which you will find in large towns across the country. Usually this court will hand out a sentence of up to 5 years.
Other Courts & Legal Entities
Above are the main courts in Spain but there are many more that deal with specific issues. Some relate to employment law while others specialise in minors. Below is a short list with their translation.
- Employment Court (Juzgados de lo Social)
- Court for Minors (Juzgados de Menores)
- Commercial Courts (Juzgados de lo Mercantil)
- Courts of Prison Vigilance (Juzgados de Vigilancia Penitenciaria)