Spain info | What to do if you’re arrested in Spain
Very few set out to break the law, but this article addresses what to do if you’re arrested in Spain. This is not formal advice. It has been collated from a number of reputable sources, but you should always seek formal legal advice.
The main thing you should do is try to keep calm. Becoming agressive or overly distraught isn’t going to help the situation. Of course this is easier said than done… but try to take deep breaths and relax as much as possible.
72 hours or more…
The police are entitled by law to keep you under lock and key for up to 72 hours. Before this time elapses they then either let you go, or put you in front of a judge who may extend the arrest period, or tell the police to let you go. Even if you are released, however, do not assume that this is the end of things. 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. Many have been released and thought everything was done, only to receive formal communication many months later. You must not ignore this documentation. Seek the advice of a lawyer immediately if you had not already done so.
In some more serious cases, for example terrorism offences, the police are permitted to apply extra restrictions to you during the first 13 days after your arrest. This is called detención incomunicada. This means that you will not be permitted any communication with the outside world. You will not be allowed to receive visitors. You will not be allowed to contact a friend or family member and let them know of your arrest and place of detention. You will not be able to choose your own lawyer and will only be given access to 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.
Additionally, you may 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
Bear in mind that, under Spanish law, once you have been formally charged, you could be held in detention for up to four years while the prosecution prepares its case. With that in mind – do not agree to anything or sign anything without the advice of a 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
By law you are entitled to contact a lawyer of your choice. However, not everyone in Spain knows one… so the police can assign one to you. This will usually be the next available lawyer on their list, so they may not speak your language. If this is the case, you are also then entitled to a translator. Be aware that the quality of the translator may vary. When the owners of Spain Buddy attended court in Lanzarote to provide witness statements to a crime, we were assigned a translator so there would be no ambiguity in the courtroom. We were lucky and our translator was excellent.
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 a little inexperienced. It is up to you to decide whether to stick with that lawyer, or to dig deep and pay for a bit 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.
Who can help if I am arrested in Spain?
Please do not contact Spain Buddy – we are not lawyers and can’t provide you with legal advice or assistance. We certainly can’t get you out of prison.
- A lawyer. If you live in Spain, you may already have a friendly lawyer that you use for other matters.
- The British Consulate – they have some detailed information HERE that you may find useful. They should be your first point of contact if you are a British Citizen.
- The US Embassy in Spain also has help for US citizens who have been arrested in Spain – available HERE. Contact them immediately if you are a US citizen under arrest.
Elle, along with Alan, is the owner of Spain Buddy and the busy web design business – Spain Web Design by Gandy-Draper.
Born a “Norverner”, she then spent most of her life “Dann Saff” before moving to Spain in 2006. Elle’s loves are Alan, the internet, dogs, good food, and dry white wine – although not necessarily in that order.
Mary @ Green Global Travel
August 2, 2015 @ 8:19 pm
Oh no, I hope this post doesn’t come from personal experience. Remaining calm is always good advice.
August 3, 2015 @ 10:30 am
No, don’t worry – not from personal experience. We have had a number of dealings with the police here. Most of those were because we used to live in a complex that was inhabited by a number of Guardia Civil… plus we went to court as witnesses too. Never been arrested. xxx
August 7, 2015 @ 6:01 am
Yipes! I hope I never have to use this, but it will likely be useful for some!
July 10, 2016 @ 2:11 am
my frind was arrested in Spain , and he has no bail ! also they are keeping him
in the jail and it is all accusing him with crime , they don’t have any proof or evedince
to charge him with and he is been their for almost five month ,they are saying for investigation, can they keep him in the jail for how long ? with out the charge and court?
and how long can they keep him in the jail until they can come up with proof ?or court date?
July 11, 2016 @ 9:18 am
Hello Michael. Your friend needs to get a lawyer.
The police must feel they have something to have kept him this long – but a lawyer will be able to get more information.
He should also be speaking to his Consulate.
Name removed by site owner for privacy
October 8, 2018 @ 11:31 am
My girlfreind and I went to benidorm for a year we had a great time but one night we had a silly fall out the spainish police took me away from her and charged me with demestic breach of the piece basically how ever my girlfriend is pregnant and we both appoiligised told them sorry yet they told me I wasn’t allowed to see her for 18 months we both fought this desition as she is pregnant and it was a silly argument however 6 months later we were caught together witg our daughter they have told me I’m facing the jail for breaching there law that I wasn’t to see her I have a trial and face jail my girlfriend and I took our baby daughter to Britain and I won’t be back for trail what can happen to me?
October 8, 2018 @ 12:43 pm
The Spanish police take incidents of this type very seriously – operating almost zero tolerance – so I wouldn’t underestimate the court process. I would strongly advise that you get a solicitor quickly. At the very least, speak to the British Consulate in Madrid and tell them you’re back in the UK. They will no doubt have handled situations like this before so should be better placed to help you. The court will probably ask your girlfriend to make a statement too, so ensure she’s happy to do that.
At the very least you’d be facing arrest at the airport if you tried to enter Spain again without attending the court.
Good luck and let us know how you get on (via email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer.
January 9, 2019 @ 12:52 pm
Hi so in 2012 I was arrested in spain along with my partner at the time. Held for 72 hours then released but the court date was the week after and we was back in the UK. We was having a domestic and police intervened. It was nothing serious But the local police turned up. I’m no longer with that person and am wondering if in was to go to drain on holiday would they still have that file open?
January 12, 2019 @ 10:34 am
Hi Selina. Yes it would still be on file… along with your passport numbr. I would recommend you speak to a Spanish lawyer who can look into things andsee about getting it dealt with.
January 16, 2019 @ 7:33 pm
Hi I was supposed to attend court in Barcelona in November for an incident which happened in the summer last year. I fell asleep in a bakery in the morning, drunk, admittedly, they physically ejected me and threw me onto the pavement, I went back in because this pissed me off and grabbed the guy by the shirt but it was absolutely not a fight, no punches etc. Anyway this soon ended, I walked out and stood outside. Next thing the Mossos turn up and arrest me for attacking this guy. They totally lied, saying I was punching this guy etc, but I did not have any way to object and was thrown into the slammer for the day. I was due in court in November but returned to the UK before that and never went back. I missed the court date but I don’t know what to do. I have emailed a lawyer…..no reply. I have called the Mossos…..no answer. What should I do? I have no money for anything, let alone a lawyer.
January 19, 2019 @ 2:34 pm
Try chatting to your local Citizens Advice – they may know of free or cheap ways to do this.
In the meantime, don’t risk a trip to Spain.
February 10, 2019 @ 7:18 am
i was arrested following a domestic and refusal of arrest in november 2008, i was due to attend court in february 2009 but had to return before this,,i rang the court but they offered no advice..my x partner attended the hearing but wasnt clear on the outcome as the police didnt attend…reading the above i dare say i shouldnt return to spain at the moment?
February 11, 2019 @ 12:39 pm
Yeah – I’d avoid it… unless you come into some money and can pay a lawyer to do some digging for you. It may also be worth you chatting to your local Citizens Advice Bureau in case they can do something on your behalf.
July 1, 2019 @ 3:23 pm
Hi my partner was arrested in Benidorm in 2016 after the bouncers attacked him. He was kept in custody for 72 hours then let go, he did receive a letter to attend court a year letter but he didn’t realise until after the court date. What would happen if he was to return to Spain, also do you think it would be fine to visit other countries which are not Spain?
I have tried embassy but no response, also citizens advice have no idea either.
July 2, 2019 @ 10:48 am
He would likely be arrested when returning to Spain – we’ve seen others arrested for less. It is best to hire a Spanish lawyer who can check it for you.
He should be fine going to other countries though – he’s not a mass murderer so it’s unlikely that a European arrest warrant has been issued.
It is rather unusual for the Embassy not to respond though – do give them another try. xx
July 11, 2019 @ 6:00 pm
I was detained in magaluf for 72 hours in magaluf for fighting in a group of friends however I was the only person picked up by the guardia and was taken into custody. The final day of me being detained I was taken to court in Palma to sit in front of a judge but it wasn’t like a large room it was just on a small desk next to my lawyer and the judge said that the person who had reportedly been hit by myself had dropped charges against me, I was therefore released and flew home the next day, uncharged and wasn’t fined. I have had no further communication from anyone and have not received any letters regarding a court date, the main question is whether or not I can return to Spain, will they allow me entry?
July 12, 2019 @ 11:33 am
From your info – I’d say you’ll be fine.
The informal court setting is normal when they’re going to drop charges. They won’t want to tie up a courtroom.
If still in doubt though – contact the lawyer you used.
(Name removed for privacy)
February 10, 2020 @ 4:57 am
Hi, I was arrested by Guardia Civil during a random stop and search, while in ibiza summer 2019 for being in possession of 28grams (all in one bag) of Ketamine and 300 Euro’s.
I was taken to court the next day, seen a Judge with my legal aid solicitor and an interpreter. I was bailed for free, with a drogas trafico charge, but told I will have a second court date that I will need to attend or I will be guilty for not turning up.
Whilst still in ibiza, I had a consultation with a solicitor I was recommended too, I told him that I wanted to try and beat the case as it was genuinely possession, I love Spain, and taking in all the circumstances of the arrest, I felt there was simply not enough evidence to prosecute as ‘drogas trafico’.
My solicitor at this point made it clear to me how serious the charge was, in the next court date they would be trying to prosecute me for roughly 3-6 years & a €8000 fine. He told me he would try and defend me and get this down to about 1-2 years & no fine.
I was about to pay the solicitor about €1700 in legal fee’s before he told me the above and the following. He was Spanish and basically said to me that no matter how much he loves Spain, he loves his family/friends/freedom more and would just move to another country and never go back to Spain.
At the time I just thought it was best to take it on the chin and never go back to Spain, rather then risk even getting the lesser charge of 1-2 years.
I have still not received anything from the Spanish courts in the post or via email, so I am unaware to when the next court date should even be.
This has been on my mind since the arrest in September 2019, I really want to resolve the issue but don’t know who to turn to for guidance. I also do not want this to go on to my UK record and so I am trying to find help on the what I should do next? I also have a Friend getting married in ibiza next year and want to attend, but I am worried I will get arrested when entering the country.
Any help would be much appreciated.
February 10, 2020 @ 10:18 am
Yes, you would almost certainly be arrested when entering Spain again. With regard to it appearing on your UK criminal record – that will depend on what deals are agreed as part of the Brexit process. It’s a serious charge as you know – so it could happen if the UK and EU decide to exchange details of crimes of particular types in the future.
I would contact a solicitor as soon as possible, so that you can get things started. They can take quite a while to sort out. Or try speaking to the British Consulate. I don’t know your personal financial situation (nobody’s business but your own) but maybe some legal aid would be available.
Aside from that – we can’t really advise. Just do get things rolling as soon as you can if you want to be able to enter Spain again.
August 8, 2020 @ 4:23 am
Hi , my son inlaw go into a bit of bother in spain last year and my son inlaw brother inlaw has persued the case cause of the things he was accused of were not true. They all paid 900 to get bail and now they have to pay 5000 up front before going to court.
The uncle hit a police office and his brother inlaw is accused of hitting a bounce with a bottle. Which is not true. My son inlaw did get punched and he punch back some bouncer.
What I’d like to know will he end up serving time in spain for fighting and will the others also end up serving time if found guilty. Even though some of it is a pack of lies.
Mrs H Cameron
August 18, 2020 @ 10:22 am
They take fighting very seriously here in Spain – so he is definitely at risk. I would strongly recommend that he speaks to a lawyer as soon as possible.
August 18, 2022 @ 12:31 pm
My son was arrested in Magaluf approx. 4-5 years ago and he was asked to pay a fine. He was assaulted with blood coming out of his ear, he had to have a brain scan, but the bar owner said he assaulted him which wasnt true. I have a receipt to prove I paid this but the courts didn’t give us a reference number so they payment was stuck in the banks system and was eventually returned to me months later. I have all the paperwork and the receipt to prove I did pay this, he’s not allowed to enter Spain and we really want to resolve this issue can you help ? Will he
January 2, 2023 @ 9:00 pm
Hi, I was arrested in Benidorm back in 2011 after a fracas with another group, i was very drunk and the police interviened and i fell down and broke one of the coppers arms, i was taken to the cells and released about 36 hours later with some paperwork i signed without knowing what it said. The police let me go and basically said not to come back. I wasnt fined , but i havent been back to Spain but would like to visit again in the future, but dont want to be arrested on arrival. Do you think i would be ok?
January 3, 2023 @ 10:58 am
I’m afraid that you would likely be rejected at the airport because they almost certainly took your passport information at the time.
You could try using a Spanish lawyer to see if they can apply to the courts on your behalf, but that could be pricey. They would almost certainly need to see any associated paperwork too. If you do still have that paperwork… have a look to see if it contains any kind of expiry date. I appreciate that it’s in Spanish… but you should still be able to work out any dates on it.