Q&A: How to appeal or claim back fines issued during Spain’s state of alarm 

Q&A: How to appeal or claim back fines issued during Spain's state of alarm 
Photo: RAYMOND ROIG / AFP
A Spanish court’s recent ruling that the country’s strict Covid lockdown and state of alarm was unconstitutional means around a million fines issued during that period can now be claimed back. Here’s what you need to know. 

In early July 2021, Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled that the state of emergency that was declared on March 14th 2020 was unconstitutional. 

The emergency measures which were implemented as Covid infections took hold of Spain for the first time resulted in the country’s 47 million inhabitants being confined to their homes, which according to magistrates suspended fundamental rights. 

More than a million fines were handed out by Spanish police during this two-month period to people who were out in the street or travelling somewhere without a justified reason.  

The penalty for breaking Covid restrictions during the first lockdown went from €600 for minor offences to €30,000 for very serious offences.

READ MORE: ‘Spain’s stay-at-home lockdown in March 2020 was unconstitutional’, top court rules

These were in fact proposed fines (propuestas de sanción), which don’t always result in the person having to pay, with the determining factor being whether police officers decide to convert it into an actual fine. 

By May 2021, the Spanish government had processed around 20 percent of these 1.14 million fines. 

However, with the decision by Spain’s Constitutional Court the possibility of claiming back the money or annulling the fine is a possibility for hundreds of thousands of citizens. 

What should I do if I receive a fine from Spain’s first state of alarm?

As the Spanish government has only processed just over 200,000 sanctions so far, thousands of people are still receiving the fines now, more than a year after they were initially recorded.

If you receive one, it’s important to remember that the Constitutional Court’s decision means you can appeal, but you have to do it within a month.   

The fine itself should include instructions on how to complete the appeal process. 

The unconstitutionality of the restrictions of the first state of alarm are what you should use as your argument to appeal. 

In Madrid, city councillors have decided that all proposed fines – the sanctions that were not processed by police and sent to the people in question – would be shelved.

A municipal police officer on patrol for face mask warnings hands out a fine. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

There are other factors to keep in mind such as the fact that not all restrictions from the first lockdown have been considered unconstitutional.

For example, fining people for breaking house lockdown without a justified reason has been deemed unconstitutional by Spanish judges, but handing someone a fine for not wearing a mask has been considered constitutional.

Therefore, not all appeals have the same prospects or result in annulment or reimbursement.

You may prefer to pay the fine within the first 20 days of having received it in order to get a 50 percent discount for early payment, and then claim the money back, meaning that if your appeal was turned down the sum to pay would at least be lower. 

Can I claim any money back if I already paid a fine?

Yes, although this depends on whether you appealed within a month.

This was the case for the fine cancelled recently by a court in Pontevedra (Galicia), which ordered the Spanish government to pay back the €300 fine (early payment) to a man sanctioned for going out during the hard lockdown. As he also appealed, the fine was not fully confirmed and could be revoked. 

What about if I was fined during Spain’s second state of alarm?

Spain’s Constitutional Court  has not yet ruled whether it considers the measures of Spain’s second state of alarm to be unconstitutional.

This second estado de alarma, which ran from October 2020 to May 2021,  had eased Covid restrictions compared to the first, so the constitutional judges’ decision may well be different. 


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