Another Pair of Legal False Friends: distracción and “distraction”

false friends fridays

distracción; distraction

There are legal contexts in which these terms may indeed be cognates when they denote a “loss of focus, attention or interest,” as in distracción del conductor al volante, referring to a driver becoming distracted while driving (“distraction at the wheel”).

But in Spanish criminal law distracción is also used in academic writing to denote the fraudulent taking of money or property, often as a synonym for malversación or appropiación indebida (“embezzlement” or “misappropriation”). Thus, as examples, the offense of malversación (or) distracción de caudales públicos on the part of a civil servant (funcionario) may perhaps be rendered as “embezzlement of public monies (or) funds,” while a company director’s distraccion de dinero o activo patrimonial may describe the “misappropriation of corporate monies or assets.”

In other respects, in the offense of distracción del curso de las aguas, the term distracción refers to the “unlawful diversion of water from its natural course.” This has been described variously in English as “water theft” or “illegal tapping of water supplies,” and in US state criminal codes often falls under the offense of “defrauding (or) unlawfully interfering with a public utility.”

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