False Friends in Criminal Procedure: arresto vs. arrest and detención vs. detention

Spanish-English Crimpro Terms

Arresto and “arrest” are often false friends, since in criminal procedure “arrest” is generally rendered in Spanish as detención, and “to arrest” or “to make an arrest” is detener: “the suspect was arrested” (se detuvo al sospechoso). In that regard “arrest warrant” is orden de detención or, perhaps more accurately for Spain, auto de detención (since judges issue arrest warrants in the form of an auto). A person who is “under arrest” (que está detenido) is often known (particularly in AmE) as an “arrestee” (el detenido) and will have an “arrest record” (ficha policial or antecedentes policiales). In that regard, the expression “arrestee rights” (known in the US as “Miranda rights”) denotes los derechos del detenido and include the “right to remain silent” (el derecho de guardar silencio), the “privilege against self-incrimination” (derecho a no declarar contra sí mismo y a no confesarse culpable) and the “right to counsel” (el derecho a la asistencia letrada).

In contrast, in Spain arresto is most often used in military law contexts to denote the arrest of military personnel (arresto en prisión militar), but there are several exceptions. Arresto sustitutorio (por impago de multa) describes a custodial sentence (pena privativa de libertad) to be served for failure to pay a fine imposed as the result of a criminal conviction. And arresto was likewise previously used in expressions such as arresto domiciliario (“house arrest”) and arresto de fin de semana (“weekend arrest”), two former custodial sentences that under the present Spanish Criminal Code are known as pena de localización permanente and generally require the offender to wear some type of electronic monitoring device such as an ankle monitor, known in Spain as a pulsera (or) tobillera telemática.

As for “detention,” the term is used in the common expression “arrest and pretrial detention.” Here “arrest” denotes detención, while “pretrial detention” (also called “pretrial custody”) refers to prisión provisional (or) preventiva. Thus, “arrest and pretrial detention” may be rendered as detención y prisión provisional (or) preventiva. And, in other respects, the Spanish criminal law offense of detención ilegal is akin to the concept of “false imprisonment” of Anglo-American jurisdictions.

Capsule Vocabularies: Basic Labor and Employment Law Terminology in English and Spanish

Labor Law Vocabulary

As everyone is quite aware, here in Madrid and the world over, our daily routines have been interrupted by the closing of our universities and subsequent confinement at home in an attempt to control Covid-19 expansion. And, I’ve been away from this blog for several weeks, learning a new program (Blackboard Collaborate) to be able to teach the remainder of my Legal English course at the Universidad Carlos III online. I’m happy to report that the first 18-hour session on Property Law went well.

Our Labor Law unit was cut short, and I’ll be having a make-up session with my students soon. But to get back to the blog, and in the event this may be of interest to translators or others working from home, I’m sharing here some of the main terms and concepts discussed in class, with Spanish translations.

Note: There may be several other possible translations for this vocabulary and, it goes without saying, there are often no any real equivalents for many legal terms.

employer (empleador)-employee (empleado)

employment contract/agreement (contrato laboral; contrato de empleo)

full-time/part-time contract (contrato a tiempo completo/a tiempo parcial)

self-employment (trabajo autónomo; trabajo por cuenta propia)


conditions of employment (condiciones laborales)

to hire (US)/to engage (UK)/to employ an employee (contratar a un empleado)

probation; probationary period (período de prueba)

probationary employee (empleado en período de prueba)

status employee (empleado que ha superado el período de prueba)

full-time employee (empleado/trabajador a tiempo completo)

part-time employee (empleado/trabajador a tiempo parcial)

seniority (antigüedad)


discharge/dismissal (despido)

to discharge/to dismiss/ “to fire” (US)/ “to sack” (UK) an employee (despedir a un empleado)

wrongful dismissal (despido improcedente)

reinstatement (readmisión de un empleado despedido)


vocational/occupational training (formación profesional)

on-the-job training; onsite training (formación en el lugar de trabajo)

offsite training (formación fuera del lugar de trabajo)

promotion (ascenso, subida de categoría laboral)

demotion (descenso; bajada de categoría laboral)

job mobility (movilidad laboral)


labor/trade union (sindicato)

union dues (cuota sindical)

fair share fee (canon de negociación—cuota que pagan los no afiliados al sindicato beneficiados por un convenio colectivo)

collective bargaining (negociación colectiva)

collective bargaining agreement/contract; labor agreement/contract (convenio colectivo)

no strike-no lockout clause (cláusula de paz social)


labor (US)/industrial (UK) dispute (conflicto laboral)

lockout (cierre patronal)

strike (huelga)

sit-in strike (ocupación de talleres; huelga de brazos caídos)

slowdown/go-slow strike ( huelga de bajo rendimiento; ralentización de producción; “operación tortuga”)

walk-out strike (abandono de talleres)

work-to-rule strike (huelga de celo)

sympathy strike (huelga de solidaridad)

wildcat strike (huelga salvaje)

strikebreaker; “scab” (US); “blackleg” (UK) (“rompehuelgas,” “esquirol”—Spain)

picketing; picket (piquete)


wages (salario)

salary (sueldo)

minimum wage (salario mínimo)

cost-of-living index—COL)

consumer price index (índice de precios al consumo—IPC)

hours of work (horas laborables)

work week (semana laboral)

work schedule (horario de trabajo)

flextime (horario flexible)


shift work (trabajo a turnos; turnicidad)

to work shifts; to do shift work (trabajar a turnos)

work shift (turno de trabajo)

day shift; night shift (turno de día; turno de noche)

shift differential; differential pay (plus de turnicidad; suplemento salarial por trabajo a turnos)


overtime (horas extras; horas extraordinarias)

overtime pay (horas extras remuneradas/retribuidas; horas extraordinarias remuneradas/retribuidas)

compensatory time (compensación [de horas extras] por tiempo equivalente de descanso retribuido)


day off (día libre)

vacation (US)/holiday (UK) pay; paid vacations (US)/holidays (UK) (vacaciones remuneradas/retribuidas)

backpay (salarios atrasados/devengados y no pagados)


leave (permiso; baja; excedencia)

personal leave (permiso por asuntos personales)

sick leave (baja por enfermedad)

maternity leave/paternity leave; parenting leave (baja por maternidad/paternidad)

family leave (permiso por asuntos familiares)

bereavement leave (permiso por defunción)


retirement fund (US)/scheme (UK) (fondo de pensiones)

retirement pension (pensión de jubilación)

unemployment benefits (prestación por desempleo)

workers’ compensation; workers’ comp (US); industrial injury compensation (UK) (prestación por accidente laboral)

occupational (US)/industrial (UK) accident (accidente laboral)

occupational (US)/industrial (UK) disease (enfermedad laboral/profesional)

occupational safety and health; safety and health in the workplace (seguridad y salud laboral; seguridad y salud en el trabajo)

job safety (seguridad en el trabajo) vs. job security (estabilidad laboral)