The years 2020 and 2021 have been crazy to say the least, and almost everyone across Spain (myself included) have been the receiving end of some very strict and complicated rules put into place since the 1st official state of emergency declared in March 2020. With all the free time I now had, I still wasn’t completely as well-read as I am now about my rights, and what I could do in case something was to happen related to being fined. Unfortunately, I was one of many people hard-done by police very happy to stamp their authority and slap me with a fine for breaking COVID protocols.
What happened to me?
Basically it was the 21st of May. Córdoba was on Phase 1, about to transition to Phase 2 of the relaxation of confinement. Phase 1 was probably the most controversial of the 4 phases that the government introduced. Adults, elderly and children still had specific times on when they were allowed out for exercise, but at any time of the day could go out for lunch or a beer at any bar with a terrace, or go shopping for non- essential items, which is where the shadiness of most of the fines occurred. As a 30-year-old adult, I was only allowed out between 6-10am and 8-11pm. I was walking back home from doing some exercise and lost track of time, and was just 10 minutes from home, when the police stopped me, it was 10:10, my details were logged. They understood my confusion and I thought that was the end of it.
WRONG. A year later and I sign for a letter and couldn’t believe it when I saw it, those officers rolled us over and slapped us with 2 fines of 601€. The legal questions were flooding my brain for several days trying to work out if we could get out of paying this. Here’s what I discovered:
- The fine could be cut by half (300.50€) if paid within 15 days of signing for it, and this applies to almost all the fines issued by the Junta.
- It could be paid almost anywhere, certain government buildings, any public bank, online via the Agencia Tributaria or other permitted organisation online as stated on the document.
- You have a year to pay the full fine should you decide to pay after the original 15 days. This does depend on how much you have to pay though.
- You can present a case to the Subdelegación to prove that you are unable to pay the fine in one go, and arrange with the Hacienda (tax office) to make monthly payments.
- Most importantly, if you know that this is a mistake of some kind, you might be able to get the fine overturned (recurrido), so it’s worth checking with a solicitor before paying it.
I decided to seek legal advice over this, If you work in Spain, it’s good to check with your employer’s legal representative to start with and offer any suggestion as to how to recurrir it. if you have any evidence to show that you hadn’t committed the crime and it was a mistake, the solicitor will draft a letter to be presented to the Fiscalia to show that it should be recurrido.
In my case we found issues with the dates of the incident and when they issued it to us. By law, the subdelegación has to send all fines within a year of the incident and processed paperwork. if they issue a fine a year and a day after the incident, it is officially null and void. If you physically receive the paperwork after that year, but the document is dated within a year of the incident, the odds are in your favour though it is harder to win that case, but I know people who have appealed and won, so it might be worth a shot.
The big problem with anything being issued in 2020-2021, is the state of emergency (Estado de Alarma) that was implemented twice over that time. Basically the government have leeway into issuing fines on time, and subsequently apply to the first day after the end of the Estado de Alarma. it means if you committed a crime during the first Estado de Alarma between the 14th of March and 1st of June 2020, you can only overturn the fine if you receive the document after the 1st. Technically you still have to pay if the incident took place on the 20th May 2020 and the dreaded letter goes through your door on the 31st of May 2021, which was what happened to me.
Another thing to note, if you pay the fine but want to contest it, you won’t be able to, because that suggests that you have accepted the charge. Also if you lose the case of overturning the fine, you would pay the full amount of the fine, and possible additional fees depending on the case. In the end after thoroughly exhausting my options, I ended up paying the 300€ at my local bank. And the ordeal was over.
All I can say is I hope you never have to go through this, and that police in Spain like to pick on easy targets and you just might be incredibly unlucky. I for example have never been stopped by them for not wearing my facemask while doing exercise outdoors (I’m federado so I can legally do that.), and I have heard lots of stories of people being stopped and punished. I for one can’t wait for the restrictions to end completely. So take care and be keep your eyes peeled for them.