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Differences between Public, Private and Semi-public Crimes in Spain

In order to make the differentiation between public, private and semi-public crimes clearer, we establish the following differences based on three factors:

1.- Pursuitability is one of the clear differences between the three types of crime:

  • Public Crime: Ex officio and also any person or institution that has knowledge can denounce.

  • Private Crime: The authorities do not promote this criminal proceedings. A complaint from the affected person signed by a lawyer and solicitor is required.

  • Semi-public crime: To start the criminal procedure, a complaint from the victim is required. The Public Prosecutor's Office can act ex officio when the victim is a minor or a person with a disability who needs protection.

2.- The affected legal right is another element that facilitates the distinction between them:

  • In public crimes, a legal right of general interest is violated. It not only affects the victim, but the system.

  • However, in private crime it is absolutely particular. It is only the person the one directly affected by the crime. It has no general interest.

  • In the semi-public, the intimacy or autonomy of the victim is involved but there are social repercussions.

3.- The possibility of paralyzing the procedure is also a divergence between the three. When the affected person regrets filing the complaint or criminal claim against the alleged offender, the process will not always stop:

  • Public: The Public Prosecutor's Office does not paralyze the criminal procedure due to the forgiveness of the victim.

  • Private: It is possible to end the criminal procedure with the forgiveness of the victim.

  • Semi-public: Once the complaint is filed, the procedure will continue its course beyond the victim's pardon.

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