Known as Spain's new cycling law, the bill was approved last month and is already in force. This reform of the Penal Code aims end impunity for driving offenders who cause death or serious injury and thus reinforce protection for victims.
Under the new law, all carelessness on the road that leads to loss of life or serious injury will be considered a crime and will be prosecuted under criminal law. The new regulation corrects the defencelessness in which pedestrians or cyclists have found themselves as victims of traffic accidents when, despite indications of serious negligence, cases are dismissed because the courts consider them to be minor and, therefore, lacking in criminal liability.
From now on, it will be compulsory for a report to be drawn up and sent to the judicial authority so that the judge can use it to assess whether crimes of injury or homicide have been committed. The aim is to prevent judges from subjectively assessing the non-existence of a crime and closing the case without a minimum investigation.
Likewise, as the text published in Spain's Official State Gazette (BOE) states, if the judge or court determines that there was recklessness causing a serious offence (for example, exceeding the speed limit or running a stop sign) and, as a consequence, death or serious injury is caused, the recklessness "must be classified, at the very least, as less serious recklessness, but never as minor".
Prison sentences are reserved for serious cases, with those of "one or two months" reduced to a fine for "less serious" cases causing injuries that require medical or surgical treatment "that are not disabling, but are relevant".
In addition, in the case of less serious negligence, the penalty of deprivation of the right to drive, which was previously "optional", is established as mandatory in all road safety offences.
The reform also establishes that "if the homicide was committed using a motor vehicle or moped, the penalty of deprivation of the right to drive motor vehicles and mopeds will also be imposed for a period of three to eighteen months".
In those cases in which a death occurs, the requirement of a complaint by the injured party or his or her legal representative is eliminated, so that judges may proceed to investigate the facts directly.
The reform also includes changes to those drivers who cause accidents and flee the scene. Regardless of the injuries committed this now becomes an offence, with no room for interpretation. If the accident involves a death, or deaths, the perpetrator will be charged with the crime of abandonment.