TS of Spain establishes that civil liability derived from a firm criminal conviction does not prescribe.

December 23 , 2020 // Legal Reforms and Debate

Published in Diario Constitucional

The highest Spanish Court argued that the execution of civil pronouncements should not be constrained by limits that are not expressly determined in the law and those limits should be interpreted restrictively. The Highest Spanish Court has established that compensation and other civil liabilities derived from a final criminal judgment do not prescribe. The plenary session establishes this criterion when analyzing the appeal of a man who had been convicted in 2001 by a court of the Jury of the Provincial Court of Barcelona to, among other pronouncements, pay compensation for civil liability of 22,301,372 pesetas in damages. and damages derived from a crime of forest fire. Once the 15-year period had elapsed without the convicted person paying compensation, the Barcelona Provincial Court declared the prescription of civil liability. That order of the Provincial Court was appealed before the Civil and Criminal Chamber of the TSJ of Catalonia, which revoked it by estimating the imprescriptibility of the civil action. The convicted person appealed in cassation before the Supreme Court that now confirms the thesis that the civil responsibility derived from a criminal sentence does not prescribe. First, the plenary session explains that it had been an undisputed jurisprudential criterion that, if an enforcement action was paralyzed for 15 years, the action to demand compliance with the civil pronouncements of the sentence prescribed, by application of articles 1964 and 1971 of the Code Civil and that the TS's own doctrine had collected it that way. However, the court highlights that the legislative framework has changed in recent years with two legislative modifications (Law 1/2000 of January 7, Civil Procedure, which introduced a new expiration period of 5 years in the execution process and the Law 42/2015 that shortens the general statute of limitations from 15 to 5 years) that force to rethink this issue and review the doctrine, in light of the new precepts and also of the principles of the criminal process and of the legal assets subject to protection. Immediately, the Spanish Magistracy argued that, given the situation created and the difficulties of interpretation, the courts and tribunals have issued contradictory resolutions. Some, maintaining the limitation period of 15 years, others reducing it to 5 years and others understanding that the right to claim the civil pronouncement declared in the criminal sentence does not prescribe, nor does it expire. The sentence opts for this last position. Subsequently, the ruling argues that in criminal sentences, the protection of the crime victim determines a very unique demand for protection, which explains why the judicial body is attributed the impulse and initiative in the execution, even of their civil pronouncements. This need for reinforced judicial protection justifies that the interpretation of the rules of the execution process should be carried out in the most favorable sense to its full effectiveness. Then, the court explains that also for that reason the execution of civil pronouncements should not be constrained by limits that are not expressly determined in the law and those limits should be interpreted restrictively. In this direction, it is a constant doctrine - argued by the court - that both expiration and prescription are not based on reasons of strict justice, but on criteria of legal certainty anchored in the presumption of abandonment of a right by its holder, which requires to a restrictive interpretation. The Supreme Court concludes by recalling that in criminal proceedings the execution of civil pronouncements is carried out ex officio and not at the request of a party. Therefore, there is no reason to be that an expiration period is recognized for the exercise of the executive action because the right declared in the sentence does not require that action. And therefore it is not necessary to file a lawsuit to enforce the sentence.

TS de España establece que responsabilidad civil derivada de una condena penal firme no prescribe.

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