When an audiencia isn’t an “audience”

Audiencia has at least three meanings in legal contexts in which the term cannot be translated as “audience.” First, when audiencia is a synonym for tribunal it may be translated simply as “court.” (In Spain two types of courts are referred to as “audiencias,” the Audiencias Provinciales located in each province that hear civil and criminal cases, and the Audiencia Nacional, which has nationwide jurisdiction over certain types of criminal, administrative and labor proceedings and is located in Madrid). Audiencia may also mean “hearing,” being generally synonymous in that sense with vista. Thus, audiencia pública is a “hearing in open court,” while audiencia a puerta cerrada refers to a “closed hearing” or an “in camera hearing” (now referred to as a “hearing in private” in England and Wales). In other respects, for example, when a judge issues a ruling previa audiencia de las partes, this indicates that he has considered their opinions before taking his decision. As such the expression may be translated as “having previously heard (or considered the opinions of) the parties… .”

In Spanish civil procedure audiencia previa denotes a “pretrial hearing,” a specific stage in ordinary civil proceedings (juicio ordinario) that plays a role in case management, similar to the “pretrial conference” in US practice. And, in other respects, audiencia al demandado rebelde refers to a special procedure allowing a defendant to appeal a default judgment (sentencia dictada en rebeldía) rendered in his absence when his nonappearance proved to be involuntary.

And, finally, in the context of juvenile justice, audiencia designates the trial of a minor on criminal charges that is held in a juvenile court (Juzgado de Menores). In this sense, audiencia is the juvenile justice equivalent of the trial of an adult criminal defendant (juicio oral) under the Criminal Procedure Act (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Criminal). (For additional peculiarities of Spanish juvenile justice terminology, see https://rebeccajowers.com/2016/05/19/espanol-juridico-3/ )

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