More than 900,000 fines from the first State of Alarm in Spain seem to be cancelled

by Lorraine Williamson
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MADRID – The first State of Alarm in Spain lasted nearly 100 days (March 14 to June 21, 2020). During that time, more than 1.1 million fines were handed out to citizens who did not comply with the corona restrictions. 

Ten months later, the Spanish government confirms 20% of the fines have been processed or are now being processed. According to a parliamentary response from the Ministry of Territorial Policy to the party EH Bildu, dated March 24, 2021, 67,292 fines are still pending. However 161,702 have already been completed. This makes a total of 228,994. 

The Spanish news website 20Minutos has data that almost 60,000 fines have already been handled in the autonomous community of Andalucia. The Canary Islands (34,828) and Castile and León (24,732) follow. The Madrid sub-government delegation processed 5,614 fines. 

And the remaining 913,133 fines? 

Little is known about the remaining 80%. This accounts for 913,133 fines that fall under the responsibility of other authorities. It is also unclear whether the fines that are not processed will expire and be declared null and void. Lawyers are already warning that for much of it, this may the case.

20minutes asked the autonomous communities about the handling of these sanctions, but only three replied. Madrid points out the sanctions of the first state of alert were imposed by the municipalities and are still pending. However, it does not provide specific data. The Government of Navarre states it has imposed 3,565 sanctions but does not say how many sanctions have been processed. La Rioja refers to a website that only provides data for the month of April. 

Penalties imposed may expire 

All fines imposed in the first alert state appear to be legally invalid, said president of the administrative law department of the Madrid lawyers’ association, Alberto Dorrego. The main problem is that sanctions were “not well defined.” As such, those assumptions could not be considered disobedience to authority or a health law violation. That makes criminalisation complicated.

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Dorrego is referring to a case about a man who was fined for walking his dog further than allowed. “That is not disobedience to authority and the mistake does not fit in with the public health law of 2011,” he said. “All this apart from the fact that some courts have already lifted a number of sanctions on the basis of this legal conflict. This problem was solved with the decree of the New Normality, after the end of the first alert, “said the lawyer who also warns of the lack of knowledge in the processing of the fines. 

By law, sanctions expire one year after they are imposed. This period was suspended during the alert, yet sub-governments are allowing “many fines”. 

10,000 fines per day 

During the first alert, the National Police imposed up to 10,000 proposed sanctions per day. This enormous amount of work has resulted in delays in processing fines and in some of them not being collected, something he takes for granted. According to a spokesman for the police union SUP, “government delegations, municipalities and autonomous regions were overloaded with work”. 

Fine depending on risk of contamination 

The fines for violating any of the restrictions under the alert state range from €600 to €600,000. Furthermore, they are divided into mild, severe and very serious: 

  • The mild violations (€600 – €3,000) can result in up to 15 infections. This concerns, for example, exceeding the capacity of 50% in shops and catering establishments. As well as meetings of more than 6 people or non-compliance with the closing time of 10 pm. 
  • The serious violations (€3,000 to €15,000) can infect between 16 and 150 people. Examples are travelling between two places for no good reason. 
  • The very serious violations (€15,000 to €600,000), such as going to a party. Violations like this can lead to the contamination of more than 150 people. 

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