Annulment of fines from the first state of emergency in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
The first state of emergency was unconstitutional -

MADRID – The Spanish Constitutional Court in Madrid has declared the first state of emergency in Spain unconstitutional. This began on 14 March 2020 and lasted until 21 June that year. Therefore, that could affect sanctions imposed during the first state of emergency. 

The Spanish government committed an illegality after the advent of the pandemic by approving a state of emergency and restricting the freedom of movement and residence of the Spanish people. This was confirmed on Wednesday in a ruling by the Constitutional Court. Furthermore, the decision directly affects the millions of fines and penalties handed out during the period in which the government restricted the mobility of all Spaniards. The right-wing party Vox had filed the case with the court.  

Suspension of fundamental rights 

The Court held that the general detention between March and June 2020 was not a restriction but a suspension of fundamental rights, which did not fall within the legal framework of the state of emergency. The decision was supported by a narrow majority. Six judges held the declaration of the state of emergency was unconstitutional and five others supported the exceptional measure. If the state of emergency is unlawful, the sanctions for failure to comply are also unlawful, and therefore invalid.  

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What happens to the fines already issued after this ruling?  

Therefore, fines that have not yet been paid do not have to. This is the case even if they were imposed in a previous judgment by another court. Furthermore, those who have already paid the fine can decide whether to reclaim the money from the government. Although, the extent of the consequences will depend on the specific wording of the Court’s decision. As yet, this is unknown. It will also look at procedures to be put in place by the government for the repayment of these amounts. 

No possibility of claim for companies 

However, the ruling of the Constitutional Court does not take into account the possible claim for damages suffered by companies due to the approval of the first state of emergency. In concrete terms, this means, despite the fact that the measure has been declared illegal, the owner of, for example, a bar cannot claim compensation from the state for the damage caused by the political decision. 

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