Of how crimes expire in Spain
As the doctrine and jurisprudence (legal/judicial precedents in Spain) indicate, the lapse of a reasonable period of time since the criminal act was committed without the culprit having been punished, leads to the penalties to be imposed to no longer fulfill their function, therefore the criminal responsibility is to be extinguished.
On the other hand, the complaint (the so called "denuncia" or "querella") does not interrupt the period of expiration of crimes. In this regard, the deadlines for the expiration of crimes are depending on the severity of the penalty indicated for the crime. If the penalty to be imposed is higher, the deadline for the expiration of the crime is also longer according to Article 131 of the Spanish Penal Code, which establishes:
1. Crimes prescribe:
At the period of twenty years, when the maximum penalty for the crime is imprisonment of fifteen or more years.
At fifteen, when the maximum penalty indicated by law is disqualification for more than ten years, or imprisonment for more than ten and less than fifteen years.
At ten, when the maximum penalty indicated by law is imprisonment or disqualification for more than five years and does not exceed ten.
At five, other crimes, except minor crimes and crimes of libel and slander, which prescribe within a year.
2. When the penalty indicated by the law is compounded, it will be, for the application of the rules included in this article, the one that requires more time for expiration.
3. Crimes against humanity and genocide and crimes against persons and property protected in the event of armed conflict, except for those punished in article 614, shall not expire in any case.
Nor will they prescribe the crimes of terrorism, if they have caused the death of a person.
4. In the event of competition for penalties or related infractions, the deadlines for expiration of crimes will be the one corresponding to the most serious crime.
On the other hand, these deadlines expirations are interrupted when the procedure is directed against the person who is incidentally responsible for the crime (art. 132.2 Penal Code).