False Friends 101: sentencia ; sentence

This pair of legal false cognates definitely belongs in the False Friends 101 category, terms that translators and legal professionals must avoid confusing. Sentencia denotes a court’s final disposition of a matter: decisión formulada por el juez o tribunal que resuelve definitivamente todas las cuestiones planteadas en el proceso.* In English, this is a court’s “judgment,” its “final determination of the rights and obligations of the parties in a case.”**

Previous blog posts have examined in detail the terminology of Spanish sentencias,*** but what about the legal meanings of “sentence”? The term generally denotes the punishment (condena or pena) imposed on a criminal defendant found guilty, and is used as both a noun and a verb: He served a 10-year sentence (Cumplió una condena/pena de 10 años); He was sentenced to 10 years in prison (Fue condenado a 10 años de prisión).

To look at some of the related terminology, under Spanish criminal law sentences are divided into penas privativas de libertad (custodial sentences), i.e., some form of incarceration, and penas no privativas de libertad (noncustodial sentences). Several types of alternative sentence (pena sustitutiva de la pena privativa de libertad) exist. Penas privativas de derechos entail the forfeiture of certain rights including, for example, several types of inhabilitación (disqualification from holding certain offices, exercising certain professions, etc.) or privación del derecho a conducir vehículos a motor (loss of the right to drive; suspension of driver’s license).

Mandatory community service (trabajos en beneficio de la comunidad) and fines (multas) are also often imposed. The most common fines are day fines (penas de días-multa) that take into account the offender’s financial situation based on his assets, income and family obligations and other circumstances (situación económica del reo deducida de su patrimonio, obligaciones y cargas familiares y demás circunstancias). Less common are proportional fines (penas de multa proporcional) expressed as an amount proportional to the damage caused or injury inflicted, the value of the object of the offense or the proceeds obtained from the crime (cuantía del daño causado, el valor del objeto del delito o el beneficio reportado por el delito) (arts. 50-51 CP).

Judges likewise sometimes place offenders on a type of probation, referred to in the Spanish Criminal Code as suspensión de la execución de la pena privativa de libertad (literally, “suspension of the execution of custodial sentences”) (art. 80 CP). Also sometimes called “condena condicional” or “remisión condicional,” this type of probation or suspended sentence may be granted first time offenders (delincuentes primarios) sentenced to less than two year’s incarceration (condena no superior a dos años de privación de libertad).

*F. Gómez de Liaño. Diccionario jurídico. Salamanca, 1979.

**Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., 2004.

***  https://rebeccajowers.com/2016/07/07/espanol-juridico-7/ https://rebeccajowers.com/2016/07/06/confusing-terms-10/ https://rebeccajowers.com/2016/11/03/capsule-vocabularies-terminology-of-spanish-judicial-decisions-2/

2 thoughts on “False Friends 101: sentencia ; sentence

  1. Rebecca,
    Very good article; however, another related word is “sentencing”, as in “federal sentencing guidelines” o “sentencing hearing”, which in both cases may be translated as “individualización de la pena”, after the accused has been found guilty of the offense(s) committed.

    Like

    • Hi Javier,
      Thanks for your comment. The expression for “sentencing” that I’ve seen in Spanish texts is “determinación/aplicación de la pena”, while “sentencing guidelines” are “reglas para la determinación/aplicación de la pena”. What is known in the US as “sentencing range” is “marco penal” described as the “intervalo entre la pena mínima y máxima”. “Individualized sentencing” is “individualización de la pena.”

      Like

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