Extradition in Spain - Defence Strategies

You can be arrested in Spain as a request from your home state, with extradition in Spain experience says you strongly need lawyer help.
Article Last Updated: 12 Dec, 2023 under Extradition Proceedings


An individual may be arrested in Spain, not because of any local problems with the Spanish police, but as a result of requests from other countries that wish to initiate extradition proceedings.

It is for example quite common for British nationals who have left the UK because of problems with the law to be arrested in Spain at the request of the British authorities. 

In fact, currently, citizens from countries around the world are detained by the Spanish authorities because they are allegedly connected with events that took place abroad and at the petition of countries as diverse as the US, China, Turkey or Guatemala.

Typically, extradition requests are made by countries in which the authorities are investigating serious offences.

1. Extradition Process and Time Frame

When a formal request to extradite a resident of Spain is received by the Spanish government, the extradition procedure begins.

In Spain, extradition proceedings are heard by the Spanish national court - the Audiencia Nacional - based in Madrid - that deals with extradition matters. 

Normally, upon arrest, the person accused is sent to a prison in the Madrid area, under provisional arrest whereupon, they will be asked if they agree or not to be sent to appear before a local Court in the requesting state. If they refuse, an extradition process begins, and will last from only a couple of weeks to many months or even a year or longer. There are two basic extradition procedures in Spain:

2. The European Arrest warrant

The so-called fast track European system based on the “European Arrest Warrant” procedure results from a general extradition treaty signed by European Union countries. It results in a very fast court procedure that ends almost always with the detained individual being sent to the EU country that made the request.

This procedure is only for countries of the EU area and is based on EU cooperation.

The formal request from the other EU country is reviewed by the

In these cases, being able to coordinate with the family and the authorities of the EU country that issued the arrest order is extremely beneficial.

This is because sometimes the same criminal offence does not exist under Spanish domestic law, or is prohibited by the Spanish Constitution, or the affected person may have a trial in Spain regarding the matter, they could be resident in Spain or there may be other reasons which would render the arrest warrant ‘not applicable’ and mean that the person accused may not be extradited and does not have to stand trial in the requesting country.

3. Non-European Extradition Warrants

Rather more dramatic, on the other hand, are extradition requests to non-EU countries.

When the extradition request is made by a non-EU country, the extradition hearing will take place in the Audiencia Nacional as well, but the procedure is much slower.

Sometimes these cases are really a matter of life and death for the individual who has been detained. Spending any time at all in a prison in Honduras, China, Russia, Turkey or Thailand would be a real nightmare and conditions in those places are usually terrible.

In those cases we have seen quite often that the judge decides to not grant extradition when the requesting country asking for the extradition is not a democratic state, human rights are not respected or if the case in the country of origin has not respected international human rights standards.   

In those cases, we have noticed in our 20 years of experience that our clients have only real chances to avoid this extradition if they are appropriately assisted and their case is vigorously fought for. 

Normally to avoid an extradition to a non-EU country you will need a Spanish lawyer able to communicate in English with the authorities of the country requesting your presence, be able to coordinate your defence with a lawyer from that country and try to find loopholes in the case against you to avoid having to stand trial there.

Only with a lawyer experienced enough in such matters will have a real chance. Unfortunately, regular criminal lawyers with no practical experience in extradition cases will definitely not have the experience required.

5. Appeals: Supreme Court

There are a number of grounds that may form the basis of appealing the sentence of a Spanish court in an extradition hearing.

6. Deficiency in Document Submission:

If the documents provided by the requesting State are insufficient and not in compliance with the legal requirements of the Extradition Law and the European Extradition Convention, lacking essential details such as the formal processing of the criminal case that is the subject of the extradition process.

7. Principle of Reciprocity

If there is a failure to receive official assurance from the requesting state that unconstitutional penalties, such as the death penalty or life imprisonment, will not be imposed or enforced.

8. Errors in Procedure

Procedural errors may include discrepancies in the identification of the criminal procedure, and the issuance of international arrest warrants without legal support, violating the principles of legality and reciprocity.

9. Ideological Motives

Should it be possible to identify an underlying motive for the extradition request, for example, if the appellant has religious, racial or sexual characteristics that would make them a target for the requesting State.

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