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What is the Principle of Minimum Intervention in Spanish Criminal Law?

The minimum intervention principle of criminal law, also known as the last ratio principle, is a basic legal criterion that indicates that criminal law should only be used when there is no other remedy, that is, when there is no other less invasive mode of protection.

In addition, it also implies that criminal sanctions are to be applied only to the most serious offences.

Therefore, behaviors that are relevant only to morality or do not affect specially protected legal rights are outside the scope of criminal law.

In other words, the principle of minimal intervention has a double meaning:

  • Criminal sanctions must be limited to the sphere of the essential. This does not mean that the rest of the behaviors necessarily go unpunished, but that other less serious sanctions should be applied and even the milder behaviors should be tolerated.

  • Criminal law should only be applied as a last resort in the absence of other less harmful means, since punishment is considered to be an imperfect and irreversible solution that should only be imposed when there is no other remedy.

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