Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish -12

January 29, 2015

sentencia absolutoria, sentencia condenatoria


In our post on the legal Spanish of Chile, we saw two terms that are typical of criminal procedure (querella and denuncia) being used in a civil context. That was the tip that they must have a different meaning.


Two other terms whose meaning varies depending on whether they are used in a civil context or a criminal context are sentencia absolutoria and sentencia condenatoria.


The first thing to remember that sentencia is a false friend and does not mean "sentence" (which is condena or pena in Spanish) but rather "judgment."


A sentencia condenatoria in a civil lawsuit is a "judgment for the plaintiff," while a sentencia absolutoria is a "judgment for the defendant."


In a criminal context, on the other hand, a sentencia condenatoria is a
"conviction" (the defendant is convicted), whereas a sentencia absolutoria is an "acquittal" (the defendant is acquitted).


The moral of the story is that it is impossible to translate terms without knowing the context.

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