IMPORTANT NOTE: New laws and
regulations may be introduced before we can update this website, and
therefore we give no guarantee that the information mentioned below is 100%
correct. If in doubt, please consult a professional lawyer.
Most people don't bother to check out the local laws when they visit Madrid, especially if they are only going for a couple of weeks. However, it is important that you know at least a basic amount of laws before you visit any city or country, as they can stop you from falling foul of the local police force. Think of how many people unwittingly end up spending their last night in the country inside a smelly, cramped, jail cell. It couldn't happen to you? It could, if you don't know which laws you might or might not be breaking. At the end of the day, it's better to be safe than sorry.
One of the most important things to know is the law on alcohol. In Spain, the minimum purchasing and drinking age for alcohol is 16. However, those under the age of 16 may purchase beer or wine if accompanied by their parents. You might be surprised to know that national laws typically make no reference to drinking inside the home, referring instead to external premises such as bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and off-licenses. This generally means that a child may drink an alcoholic beverage, at the discretion of the parents, inside the home.
If you want to drive in Madrid (or anywhere is Spain for that matter) then the law states that your BAC (blood alcohol content) limit has to be under 0.05. However, it is very strongly advised that you don't drink and drive under any circumstances. Also, if you're driving a passenger vehicle, or a vehicle over 3,500 weights, the limit is 0.03. Watch out, as this limit can be easily overstepped with as little as one drink, depending on your body weight, level of fatigue, gender, and food consumption, amongst a whole host of other factors.
Another common law you should be aware of - especially if you plan on meeting lots of women and men on holiday, or want to have a holiday romance - is the sexual legal age of consent, which is only thirteen. However, seduction through deception is illegal if the victim is under the age of sixteen. If you meet someone, and want to get together, make sure they are old enough. If you're unsure in any way, err on the side of caution. Sometimes, young girls or boys can look older than you think, so it's important to be careful, conscious, and, above all, responsible. Also, you should know that it is illegal for someone to pay for sex with a person under the age of eighteen. These laws apply for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.
Finally, you need to know the Spanish laws concerning drugs. In Spain, the law puts individual privacy rights over drug control concerns. That means people can grow and smoke whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes, and other privately owned spaces. However, this could be set to change in the near future.
If you're caught with drugs in a public area however (such as being caught with possession of under fifty grams of cannabis or its derivatives), you will be subject to an administrative fine (from $500 to $50,000). Amounts under fifty grams are considered to be for "personal use" and there are no criminal penalties. Should you be caught with a larger amount, which is divvied up into separate pieces or bags (indicating intent to sell), they will be deemed to constitute an "attempt against public health" and can carry prison terms along with the corresponding fine.
So, whether you're going for a long weekend, two weeks, or are planning to move to Spain for good, it's important that you know where you stand as far as the law is concerned. Get it right from the start, and you could save yourself a lot of hassle and expense in the long run.
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