As foreigners living in Spain it is easy to forget that we are entitled to the same rights as Spanish Citizens, and this includes entitlement to Legal Aid.
Lawyers working within the Spanish Legal Aid system are known as “Abogados de Turno de Oficio”. Entitlement to a Legal Aid lawyer is normally dependent on satisfying certain financial qualifications, and on being present in Spain legally, except in the case of deportation proceedings or claims for asylum.
For people below the retiring age of 65 or who are not disabled or incapacitated in some way, the income limit for entitlement to Legal Aid is either a maximum household income of €14.473,20 or for an individual no more than €7.236,60. Pensioners, the disabled, and victims of domestic violence can take advantage of more liberal financial qualifications. Their household income can in certain circumstances be up to 4 times this figure.
Victims of domestic violence are not required to prove their financial entitlement when applying for legal aid.
Lawyers working within the system are divided into various panels – criminal, civil, administrative, employment, domestic violence, juvenile etc.
To apply, your application form, or on-line application, is sent first to your provincial Colegio de Abogados. In the Comunidad Valenciana the Consejeria de Justicia, Interior y Administraciones Publicas (Board for Justice, Interior and Public Administration) oversees the system. The Colegio must respond to each correctly completed application within 15 days of receiving it. If the application is rejected or the Colegio does not respond within this period then you can apply directly to the Consejeria to resolve the matter, which in its turn has a further 30 days in which to give its decision.
The appointment of an Abogado de Turno de Oficio also carries with it the appointment of a Procurador, which the Abogado must use in their administrative dealings with the Court.
A successful applicant has the right to reject the Abogado and Procurador appointed by the Colegio or the Consejeria and nominate an Abogado and Procurador of their own choice, subject to them being on the official panel.
Being granted Legal Aid also carries with it certain other important benefits including complete exemption from charges for obtaining copies of witness statements, and a discount of 80% of the cost of notarization of other documents. Also, If you need to appeal a decision made against you then you cannot be required to provide a sum of money as security while your appeal is being dealt with.
The right to Legal Aid is enshrined in Article 119 in the Spanish Constitution and is regulated by laws 1/1996 and 16/2005. The administration of the system in the Comunidad Valenciana is regulated by the decrees 29/2001 and 28/2003.