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Spain: Government Amends Citizens Safety Bill

(June 6, 2014) Spain’s government has decided to make changes to controversial legislation that amends the Citizen Safety Law. The amending legislation was subjected to intense criticism from the opposition and members of civil society groups. (Anteproyecto de Ley Orgánica para la Protección de la Seguridad Ciudadana, Ministry of the Interior website (Nov. 2013) [the proposed changes are indicated in the text of the Citizen Safety Law]; Jesús Duva, El Gobierno Rectifica y Suaviza la Polémica Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana, EL PAÍS (May 28, 2014).) According to its critics, the legislation appears to be a tool for the government to suppress public dissent over its handling of the economic crisis and recently revealed corruption cases. (Duva, supra.)

The legislation, as originally written, imposes fines of up to €30,000 (about US$40,800) for shouting slogans or carrying signs in marches that are deemed harmful to Spain or to any Spanish region or autonomous community. By granting private security personnel the authority to assist the police in this matter, the draft law is designed to break up street demonstrations,. (Duva, supra.) Some other features of the amending legislation are discussed below.


The new draft has abandoned the emphasis on broad police powers found in previous versions of the legislation and concentrates more on home searches, suspect identification, street checks, frisking, and penalties for violations of the law subject to judicial authorizations and controls on police power. Under the revised version, private security personnel will no longer have the authority to carry out law enforcement operations. (Id.)

While the original draft allowed warrantless searches if the homeowner so permitted, the new draft would leave the current law unchanged, meaning that the police would only be authorized to search a house with a warrant or when a crime is being committed in flagranti. (Id.)

Novel Provisions on Body Searches

The novelty of this draft law is the adoption of guidelines applicable to body searches. The searches may only be conducted when there are reasons to suspect that such searches could prevent or discover crimes. Only a police officer of the same sex as the person subjected to the body search may perform this type of search, and if the suspect is forced to partially undress, it will have to be done in a private room. (Id.)


Requesting identification from individuals will only be allowed when the police consider it a reasonable measure to prevent a crime; it may not be done in connection with an administrative infraction. Individuals who are not able to be properly identified on the spot may not be held where they have been detained or stopped. They will have to be taken to the nearest police station until their identity can be confirmed. Under the new legislation, the time the suspect is held in custody must be noted for the official record. (Id.)

Street Control

Imposition of street controls will be subject to strict limitations and be allowed only to find a dangerous criminal or a criminal who causes public alarm, but not to identify individuals who have merely incurred administrative infractions. (Id.)


The amended version of the legislation removes the responsibility of organizers of marches for actions carried out by third parties participating in the marches. In addition, the new legislation states that using images or information related to police officers may violate the law if the images endanger the personal safety of the officer or that of his or her family or if their use hinders the success of a police operation. (Id.)

One of the most controversial provisions of the original version of the legislation made protesting in front of the Congress, the Senate, or a regional legislative body a serious crime. In the revised version, such protests would only be serious crimes if they seriously put citizen safety at risk. (Id.)

Other Measures

While the original version of the draft law imposed a fine on prostitutes and their clients carrying out their business near schools, the revised legislation only applies the fine to the clients. (Id.)

Minors penalized for consuming or possessing illegal drugs will be allowed to have their fine commuted if they complete rehabilitation treatment. (Id.)

The provision establishing a central register of repeat offenders of violators of the Citizen Security Law remains unchanged in the revised legislation. (Id.)

Next Steps

In considering the objections raised by the General Council of the Judiciary and the Council of Attorneys, who have warned that the draft law might be partially unconstitutional, the Ministry of Interior has sent a revised text to the State Council advisory body for review prior to submission to the legislature for debate. (Id.)