Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish -12

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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