Participation in road traffic, especially driving motor vehicles or mopeds, can be considered a dangerous activity as it leads to a high number of deaths and injuries every year. In 2022 alone, 1,746 people died and 8,503 were seriously injured in accidents on Spanish roads in Spain.
Therefore, since it is a practice that involves a certain risk, it is permitted provided that its implementation respects the rules expressly established by the Law on Traffic, Traffic in Motor Vehicles and Road Safety. Violations are primarily punished with fines, the amount of which depends on the severity of the violation.
In the case of regulations and sanctions of an administrative nature, non-payment of these fines may result in the imposition of surcharges and even confiscation by the tax office. However, a mere fine cannot in any case lead to the imposition of a prison sentence.
The criminal sanction
Given the high number of dangerous behaviors while driving that pose a threat to fundamental rights – such as life or the physical integrity of people – it was decided to punish these in the Criminal Code and to convert certain behaviors that could pose a threat into criminal offenses. Danger to other road users.
In this way, Articles 379 to 385 ter of the Spanish Penal Code (in Chapter IV of Title
- Driving at excessive speed, more than 60 km/h or more than 80 km/h compared to the maximum permitted speed on urban and interurban roads.
- Driving a motor vehicle or moped under the influence of toxic drugs, narcotics, psychotropic substances or alcoholic beverages and in any case as long as the alcohol content exceeds 0.60 mg/l in the exhaled air or 1.2 mg/l in the blood.
- Reckless driving, which in particular endangers the life or physical integrity of people or shows blatant disregard for the lives of other road users.
- Leaving the scene of an accident without endangering yourself or others after causing an accident that resulted in fatalities or serious injuries.
- Refusing to submit to an alcohol or drug test when requested by an officer.
- Driving a motor vehicle or moped without a valid driving license (either because all legally assigned points have been lost or because it was never obtained).
- The safety of road infrastructure is compromised and other users are put at risk when unpredictable obstacles are placed on the road or are not removed, slippery or flammable substances are spilled, or traffic signs are removed or cancelled.
So do I always have to go to jail if I commit one of these traffic crimes?
Possibility of a prison sentence
Although it is true that all of these road safety crimes are punishable by a prison sentence, their commission does not mean that deprivation of liberty must be imposed as a mandatory punishment. This has two reasons:
- The fact that prison time is in some cases provided as an alternative to a fine or community service means that the judge can choose which of these three sanctions to impose. In these cases, a prison sentence is usually requested and imposed on those individuals who exhibit habitual behavior.
- The possibility of the prison sentence being suspended on probation, as in the case of other crimes, provided that the conditions for the ordinary suspension are met (the duration is not longer than two years, it is the first offense committed and the civil liability is met ): Articles 80.1 and 2 of the Penal Code) or extraordinary (if the prisoner is not an ordinary prisoner, the sentence is not more than two years and the damage has been repaired, the loss compensated or the agreement has been reached in mediation: Article 80.3 of the Penal Code) . ).
Fine or prison or fine and prison?
And if I am fined for a traffic offense, will I definitely not have to go to prison?
It’s not that easy. It should be borne in mind that failure to pay a fine imposed as a punitive measure may ultimately result in a prison sentence, since the Criminal Code, in its Articles 35 and 53, expressly provides for subsidiary criminal liability for non-payment of a fine.
Therefore, if a traffic violation punishable as a criminal offense under Articles 379 to 385 ter of the Penal Code is punishable by a fine and the same is not paid, the offender may be deprived of one day’s imprisonment for every two daily installments of the unpaid fine.