Legal Spanish of Chile

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Article 549 of the Chilean Código de Procedimiento Civil (Code of Civil Procedure) provides for four figuras jurídicas (legal concepts) whose names are likely to confuse translators who are only familiar with the legal Spanish of countries other than Chile: querella de amparo, querella de restitución, denuncia de obra nueva and denuncia de obra ruinosa.

The first two of these figuras use the term querella, which in other countries is solely a criminal procedure term and refers to the criminal complaint filed by the victim of a crime that can only be prosecuted at the victim's request. Examples of these crimes, which are also called delitos de acción privada, include adultery and defamation (and note that defamation is a tort rather than a crime in the common law system). Obviously, querella cannot possibly refer to a "criminal complaint" in this section of the Code of Civil Procedure in Chile precisely because the code refers to civil procedure, and "criminal complaint" is clearly a criminal term. Instead, a querella de amparo in Chilean civil procedure is defined as follows: Es el interdicto o juicio posesorio que se intenta para conservar la posesión de bienes raíces. In other Spanish-speaking countries, this is the definition of the term interdicto de retener la posesión. Both querella de amparo and interdicto de retener la posesión can be translated as "action to retain possession (by someone whose possession has been disturbed).

It is also important to note that querella de amparo has nothing to do with the term amparo as used in Mexican law. It is the equivalent of a Mexican interdicto de retener la posesión. Chilean law does provide for a recurso de amparo, but it is specifically a writ of habeas corpus, and is known in other countries as a recurso de habeas corpus. The Chilean equivalent of the petition for constitutional relief that is known in most countries as amparo is recurso de protección.

The other querella term in Chilean civil procedure is querella de restitución, which is defined as follows: Es el interdicto o juicio posesorio que se intenta para recuperar la posesión de bienes raíces. The more common term for this—the one used in other countries—is interdicto de recobrar la posesión (or interdicto de recuperar la posesión). All three of these terms (querella de restitución, interdicto de recobrar la posesión and interdicto de recuperar la posesión) can be translated as an action to recover possession (by someone who has been wrongfully dispossessed).

Then there are two civil procedure terms in Chile that begin with denuncia. In other countries, denuncia is used solely in the criminal context and means a criminal complaint. Again, it is obvious that this criminal term cannot possibly be the translation of a term from civil procedure. The first of the terms, denuncia de obra nueva, is defined as follows: Es el interdicto posesorio sumario que se intenta para impedir la ejecución de semejante naturaleza. This term goes by the name interdicto de obra nueva in other countries and can be translated as "petition for an order to stop new construction." The definition of the other term, denuncia de obra ruinosa, is the following: Acción posesoria a que tiene derecho el que teme la ruina de un edificio vecino le depare perjuicio. In other countries this is called an interdicto de obra ruinosa or interdicto de obra peligrosa and can be translated as a petition for have an order to have a dangerous old building repaired or demolished.

If you find these explanations helpful, check out our Spanish-English Dictionary of Law and Business, where you will find these terms and many more.

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