Learn These 40 Spanish Legal Terms to Totally Rule in the Courtroom

No matter what part of the legal arena you favor, learning Spanish will help you.

Sure, you might also need years of schooling in law, paralegal studies or a related field, but Spanish can be that extra skill that sets you apart—sort of like the cherry on top of your legal sundae.

But let’s get started the right way with 40 common terms every legal professional needs to know!


Why Learn Spanish Legal Terms?

If you’re looking for a career as a legal secretary, paralegal, translator or lawyer, knowing Spanish legal terms will increase your job prospects. Whether you want to work with Spanish-speaking clients or work in international law, your knowledge of Spanish will come in handy. Even if a job doesn’t require it, it’s still a skill that many employers covet.

Learning Spanish legal terms will also increase the number of people you can serve. Even if a client speaks fluent English, he/she may be more comfortable communicating in Spanish. After all, legal proceedings are always stressful, and in times of stress, it’s easiest to speak in the language you’re most comfortable with. Therefore, many clients may seek out legal professionals who can speak their language. If your firm doesn’t offer services in Spanish, these clients may seek out another that does. However, if you’re willing to learn, your law firm can start marketing to Spanish-speaking customers, who make up a sizable chunk of the population. This can massively increase the number of clients who may be interested in your services.

Additionally, learning Spanish legal terms will allow you to help people that many other legal professionals cannot help. Clear communication is important, so clients who do not speak English fluently will need someone who can communicate with them in order to navigate through the criminal justice process.

Finally, learning Spanish legal terms is useful for anyone learning Spanish. After all, you’re likely to hear these terms if you watch Spanish-language news. Plus, if you ever find yourself in legal trouble while abroad, even if it’s just a parking ticket, you’ll be super relieved you took the time to learn a little legal Spanish.

40 Common Words and Phrases Every Legal Professional Should Know

1. Demandante 

petitioner, complainant or plaintiff

2. Acusado/a

state of being accused or the person who is accused

3. Abogado/a


4. Juez

judge (noun)

5. Policía

the police force as a group or individual officers

6. Jurado

jury or individual jurors

It can also act as an adjective, meaning “sworn” when referring to things like statements or testimony.

7. Tribunal/juzgado


Tribunal can also refer to a jury or panel, but this meaning is rarely used in a legal context—jurado is the more common word for a legal jury. Juzgado can also mean “courthouse.”

8. Palacio de justicia


It literally means “palace/center of justice” (which really has more of a ring to it).

9. Sala de justicia/tribunal

These can both be used to mean “courtroom.”

You can also just use the word sala (room), but this could also be misinterpreted, so you might want to play it safe.

10. Crimen/delito

legal violation or crime

11. Infracción

infraction or offense

This is used when referring to things like traffic violations or other non-violent crimes.

12. Arrestar/detener

to arrest/detain

13. Arresto/detención

(an) arrest/detention

14. Juicio


(It can also be used to mean “opinion.”)

15. Pedimento


16. Mandato/mandato judicial


17. Afidávit


18. Multa


19. Ley


(It can refer to specific laws or the law in general.)

20. Juramento


Bajo juramento therefore means “under oath” or “sworn statement.”

21. Investigar

to investigate

22. Acusar

to accuse

In a legal context, acusar can also mean “to charge.” The reflexive, acusarse, can also mean “to confess.”

23. Apelar

to appeal

24. Absolver

to acquit

(In other contexts, it means “to absolve.”)

25. Alegar

to allege/claim

26. Fianza


27. Prueba


(It can also mean “proof” or “test.”)

28. Admisible


It’s often used in phrases like ser admisible (“to be admissible”) and prueba admisible (“admissible evidence”).

29. Carga de la prueba

burden of proof

30. Causa/proceso judicial/pleito/acción judicial/caso

court case

Context is really important because these terms have more than one meaning. Proceso judicial and pleito are the least likely to be misinterpreted, though, because they have fewer meanings. Acción judicial means “legal action.” Pleito usually means “lawsuit” or “action.”

All the other words for “court case” have additional meanings. For instance, causa can also mean “cause,” proceso also means “process” and caso can mean “case” or “fact.”

Still, all these terms are frequently used interchangeably to refer to a “court case.”

31. Delictivo

criminal (adjective)

It’s usually used to describe various acts. For instance, acto delictivo means “criminal act.”

32. Daños y perjuicios


Both daños and perjuicios mean “damages,” but perjuicios can mean “losses,” so daños y perjuicios can more literally translate to “damages and losses.”

33. Revelar

to reveal

(In a legal context, its meaning is closer to “to disclose.”)

34. Sobreseer

to dismiss

35. Entrar en vigor

to take effect

Literally translates as “to enter in vigor/force.”

36. Testigo


37. Hecho


(However, it can also mean “incident,” “event,” “made” or “done,” so always pay attention to context.)

38. Archivo/expediente

archive, file or record

39. Determinación/sentencia/decisión/fallo


Fallo most literally means “ruling.” Determinación more literally equates to “determination.” Sentencia means” sentence” and decisión means “decision.” Still, all of these terms can be used to mean “ruling.”

40. Aconsejar

to advise


As you become more proficient, try to use these words every chance you get.

Your understanding of the word will increase as you utilize it in context and your fluency will increase as you use complete sentences. See example sentences with these words using online tools like Linguee or 123 Teach Me and their “Spanish Sentence Maker.” These websites collect sentences from all over the internet that contain your keyword and are invaluable as you continue on your journey to learning Spanish legal terminology.

For a better grasp on general Spanish, consider a virtual immersion program, which will help you get acclimated to the rapid speech that natives often use (particularly when in stressful situations, like…needing your services!). FluentU, for example, sorts its video lessons by subject matter, which can make efficient targeted practice easier.


So if you’re looking to enter the legal field or just become fully fluent in Spanish, remember these legal terms. They certainly do have some appeal.

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