What you need to know about hiring a private detective in Spain

The number of private detectives in Spain has increased by a whopping 80 per cent in the past decade. Here's what you need to know about hiring one.

What you need to know about hiring a private detective in Spain
The number of private detectives in Spain has increased by 80 per cent in the past decade. Photo: Pixabay

How many private detectives are there in Spain?

The number of private detectives has increased by 80 per cent in the past decade, from 2.452 in 2010 to 4.391 in 2020, according to data from the Interior Ministry.

The number of private detective offices, however, has decreased since 2015. There are currently 1.238 across the country.

How does someone become a private detective?

The Interior Ministry keeps a census of private detectives, who must possess a Professional Identity Card which is issued by the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía, Spain’s national police force. This is the official document that allows them to work as private detectives.

In order to get one of these cards, they need to have passed private investigation training course recognised by the Ministry of Interior.

There are also several other requirements. Applicants must not have been sanctioned in the previous two years for a serious or very serious infraction in matters of private security, or been sentenced for illegitimate interference in the right of honour, personal and family privacy or violated the secrecy of communications or other fundamental rights in the five years.

What can they investigate?

Although the investigations carried out by private detectives range from private parties to personal relationships, certain limits are established in article 48 of the private security law. 

For example, they cannot investigate crimes that can be prosecuted by the authorities. They have the obligation of reporting anything that could be considered illegal, and must prove any information or material that they may have obtained up to that point.

All investigations carried out by private detectives must appear in the official register of the Central Unit of Private Security of the Police (Central de Seguridad Privada de la Policía), which is available to the judicial authorities.

Are they required to collaborate with the police?

Private detectives have the obligation of collaborating with the security forces. Judicial authorities can request reports, and any documents, graphic and bibliographic evidence.

If detectives discover crimes that could be prosecuted, they must immediately make any information available to the authorities.

What kinds of things do they usually investigate?

Aside from occasionally being hired by politicians, private detectives have been busy in the past couple of years investigating issues related to the pandemic: from illegal parties in Ibiza to employees lying about getting Covid-19 in order to take sick leave.

In 2019, a town near Salamanca even hired private detectives to punish those who failed to clean up after their dogs on the street.

How much does it cost?

Private detectives tend to charge per hour. Rates vary between €30 and €60 per hour on a working day. Weekends or out of work hours can go up to €50 or €80 per hour. You will also have to take into account any expenses required during the investigation.

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What happens when a foreigner gets arrested in Spain?

It’s a situation nobody ever wants to be in, but what happens if you’re arrested in Spain? What should you do, and what are your rights?

What happens when a foreigner gets arrested in Spain?

Most people come to Spain to enjoy the weather, food, and relaxed lifestyle. Very few come to break the law, but occasionally people can find themselves in trouble with Spanish police whether through misunderstanding or misdemeanour. 

Pray it never happens but if you are arrested in Spain, what are your rights? What happens next, and who can help you? The Local looks into what happens when foreigners get arrested in Spain…

Whether it’s a traffic accident, misunderstanding, or murder charge, Spanish law follows certain processes upon arrest. 

READ ALSO: The laws foreigners in Spain are bound to break

The Spanish system

Spanish legal processes are likely different from those in your home country, but like in many countries, the Spanish judiciary is independent from the government and all foreigners, just like native Spaniards, have their rights guaranteed under article 17 of the Spanish Constitution.

First steps – arriving at the station

If you are arrested, Spanish police will take you to a police station and should explain to you in a language you understand (via a translator, if necessary) why exactly you have been arrested. You can be held for up to 72 hours maximum (it’s up to 24 hours for under 18’s) before you must, by law, appear before a judge or be released. 

Arrests for terrorism, however, can be held for up to 5 days.

Legal representation

A lawyer should be present when you make a statement to the police or before a judge. If you’ve been arrested for a traffic offence, you can choose not to have legal representation.

Abogado de oficio

You can appoint a private lawyer if you want, or ask for a court-appointed lawyer (known as an “abogado de oficio”). If you go for a court-appointed lawyer, you will have to apply for legal aid. 

In Spain legal aid is means tested, and if you do not qualify you may have to pay for court-appointed legal representation at a later date. Note that, in Spain, court-appointed lawyers are not required to speak English but you are able to request a translator.

Legal aid

Fortunately, as many foreigners arrested in Spain are able to access free legal aid, costs can be nothing or minimal. According to Spanish law, Article 22 of the Organic Law 4/2000 outlines that:

Foreigners who are in Spain have the right to free legal assistance in the proceedings to which they are party, regardless of the jurisdiction in which they are followed, under the same conditions as Spanish citizens.”

Rights in police custody

Once in police custody, you have several rights outlined in the Spanish constitution regardless of where you’re from, whether you’re Spanish or not, and your residency status in Spain.

  • You have a right to see a doctor, if you wish.
  • You have the right for your local consulate to be informed of your arrest and to speak with a consular officer from your home country, if you wish to. 
  • Note that you have the right under Spanish law not to make a statement if you don’t want to.
  • At the time of your arrest, your personal belongings will be held by the police and you should, by law, be given a receipt with an inventory of all items. The police should bring your belongings to the court appearance if you are to appear in court. If, hopefully when, you are released by the judge they will be returned to you.

READ MORE: Spanish police arrest one of Britain’s most wanted fugitives


Like in many countries, you can apply to be released on bail depending on the severity of your charges. Provisional release may be granted with bail (libertad provisional bajo fianza in Spanish) or without bail. 

Libertad provisional is the temporary release from police custody or from prison of the accused awaiting trial. You may be made to pay a deposit of sorts (a fianza in Spanish) as a condition for release. 

If you want to apply for bail, talk with your lawyer as they are the ones who can submit an application on your behalf.

Legal fees – who pays what?

Legal aid aside, being arrested in Spain and, in particular, going to court, can incur some legal fees. You could have to pay:

  • Lawyer’s fees
  • Translation and interpretation costs
  • Deposits needed for making appeals
  • Court fees, which depend on the size and type of case needed for the alleged crime
  • Expert fees, depending on the severity of the crime and type of case.

Spanish law operates on a “condena en costas” (that one party pays the other party’s costs) and runs on a “loser pays” principle.

At the end of the trial the judge decides which party must pay the costs in criminal cases. 

In civil courts however, the claimant or defendant has to be 100 percent successful in their claim in order to be awarded costs in their favour, otherwise no costs order is made. 

Fortunately, the final amount is usually subject to a procedure called tasación which often works out significantly less than the actual legal costs.