Latinismos: vacatio legis

Vacatio legis, literally the “absence of law,” refers to the postponement of the entry into force of a law and denotes the period between the promulgation and publication of a piece of legislation and its actual taking effect.

The Spanish Civil Code (article 2) initially provides that laws shall enter into force 20 days after their publication in the Boletín Oficial del Estado (or in the boletines oficiales of the autonomous communities), unless the text of the law states otherwise. Some laws may be designated as entering into force immediately upon their official publication. And others may require a longer period of preparation and adjustment. Such was the case with Spain’s new (at that time) Ley 1/2000 de Enjuiciamiento Civil, which replaced the former Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil de 1881 and radically changed Spanish civil procedure. In that instance a year-long vacatio legis was deemed warranted to allow judges, lawyers and other legal professionals sufficient time in which to learn and implement the new rules.

Un caso aparte is Ley 20/2011 de Registro Civil, which seeks to completely overhaul Spain’s civil register system and was initially designated to enter into force three years after its publication in the BOE. After successive extensions (prórrogas) of this initial vacatio legis, the law is now scheduled to completely enter into force on June 30, 2018. Its current “Entrada en vigor” article (Disposición final décima) is worth reproducing to underscore just how complicated a vacatio legis provision can become, since parts of the law enter (or have already entered) into force on four different dates:

La presente Ley entrará en vigor el 30 de junio de 2018, excepto las disposiciones adicionales séptima y octava y las disposiciones finales tercera y sexta, que entrarán en vigor el día siguiente al de su publicación en el “Boletín Oficial del Estado”, y excepto los artículos 49.2 y 53 del mismo texto legal, que entrarán en vigor el día 30 de junio de 2017.

Lo dispuesto en el párrafo anterior se entiende sin perjuicio de la entrada en vigor el 15 de octubre de 2015 de los artículos 44, 45, 46, 47, 49.1 y 4, 64, 66, 67.3 y disposición adicional novena, en la redacción dada por el artículo segundo de la Ley 19/2015, de 13 de julio, de medidas de reforma administrativa en el ámbito de la Administración de Justicia y del Registro Civil.

Hasta la completa entrada en vigor de esta Ley, el Gobierno adoptará las medidas y los cambios normativos necesarios que afecten a la organización y funcionamiento de los Registros Civiles.

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