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The Different Courts in Spain
The Spanish legal system operates with a number of different courts. Each court has a distinct role and handles a specific type of legal case.
Tribunal Supremo (Supreme Court)
This is the highest level in the Spanish justice system. The court is based in Madrid and has national jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court is subdivided into 5 different chambers, each dealing with an element of Spanish law; Civil, Criminal, Labour, Public Affairs & Military.
The court hears appeals against sentences handed down by the national and provincial courts.
The Supreme Court is also responsible for cases involving government and public officials.
Audiencia Nacional (National Court)
As the name suggests, this court has national jurisdiction and deals with serious crimes against the state with potential sentences in excess of 5 years.
The National Court also passes judgement on extradition requests from other countries.
Juzgados Centrales de Instrucción (Central Instruction Court)
The role of this court is to examine and investigate possible cases to be heard in either the Audiencia Nacional or the Juzgados Centrales de lo Penal.
Juzgados Centrales de lo Penal (Central Criminal Court)
This court in Madrid has national jurisdiction and hears crimes against the state with a potential imprisonment term of less than 5 years.
The court also deals with European Arrest Warrants.
Audiencia Provincial (Provincial Court)
Spain is divided into Autonomous Communities comprising of 50 provinces. There is a provincial court in each province.
These courts have jurisdiction solely within their province. The court hears civil and criminal cases with potential sentence in excess of 5 years.
The Provincial Courts also judge on appeals from lesser courts.
Juzgados de violencia contra la mujer (Court for violence against women)
Each province now has a dedicated court dealing with cases of violence against women.
Juzgados de Primera Instancia (Court of First Instance)
These courts are found in every large town and cover all manner of civil cases.
Juzgados de Instrucción (Court of Instruction)
These courts are also located in large towns. The role of these courts is to examine and investigate possible cases to be heard in other courts.
Juzgados de lo Penal (Criminal Courts)
These courts handle criminal cases with a potential custodial sentence of up to 5 years.
Juzgados de lo Social (Employment Court)
This specialist court hears cases involving employment issues.
Juzgados de Menores (Court for Minors)
These courts hear cases involving individuals below the age of 18.
Juzgados de lo Mercantil (Commercial Courts)
These courts deal with company related cases such as insolvency, intellectual property, trade disputes etc.
Juzgados de Vigilancia Penitenciaria (Courts of Prison Vigilance)
These courts deal with all matters relating to prison inmates, this includes parole applications and prisoner rights.