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Pardon in Spanish Criminal Law

The so-called "Indulto" in Spanish or Pardon (in English) is an extraordinary legal institution. Despite the fact that the legal systems of democratic States contemplate it, it constitutes an exception to the normal functioning of the Administration of Justice, since by its virtue the executive branch can declare the sentence imposed by a judge or court in a judicial ruling extinguished or modified.

The reason to which, in principle, it responds is that the application of criminal law is sometimes excessively rigorous or is unsatisfactory for other reasons. In the case of Spain, pardon is contemplated in the Constitution as a prerogative of the King that must be exercised "according to the law" although the law that specifically regulates it is the old —although modified— “provisional” Law of June 18th, 1870, which establishes rules for the exercise of the Pardon Grace.

Pardon is also contemplated in the Criminal Code, where it appears among the causes that extinguish criminal responsibility (article 130.1.4º) and as a remedy for when "from the rigorous application of the provisions of the Law an action or omission is punishable that, in the opinion of the Judge or Court, it should not be, or when the penalty is notably excessive, given the harm caused by the offense and the personal circumstances of the prisoner” (article 4.3).

Pardons are granted individually by means of royal decrees that are published in the Official State Gazette (the so-called B.O.E. in Spain). But there are no official data accessible to the public that, in an aggregated form, allow us to periodically know the number and scope of those granted and other important circumstances (such as, for example, the type of crimes pardoned, the length of sentences remitted or the conditions imposed on the beneficiaries of the grace), nor is it possible to know what criteria are met to obtain the grace.

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