Spain: tachograph manipulation is to be a crime
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The Road Safety Prosecutor issued guidelines for the Spanish services to punish the manipulation of the tachograph as a criminal offence. Until now, such infringement has been treated as an administrative offence. This is a follow-up to a recent judgment in the Spanish Supreme Court.
Bartolomé Vargas, the Road Safety Prosecutor, yesterday sent recommendations to all traffic control services to intensify checks on trucks for manipulation of tachographs and to treat this practice as a crime.
During yesterday’s press conference at the premises of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Vargas pointed to the January ruling of the Supreme Court, according to which the manipulation of tachograph records is tantamount to falsification of official documents. This ruling has opened the way to turning manipulation into a crime where the prosecutor’s office should take appropriate action, the Spanish daily El País reads.
As a result, drivers engaging in this type of activity face the risk of up to 3 years’ imprisonment in Spain and not, as before, a €500 fine and 6 penalty points for the driver and a €4,001 fine for the employer. The prison sentence can be even more severe if a repeated manipulation is involved.
As El País reports, not only drivers guilty of manipulation but also their employers may be punished during the investigation.
According to the instructions, officers may address questions to the operators to determine whether they ‘cooperated in the manipulation’ in order to avoid speeding tickets or expedite transport. If so, the employer may also be liable for violations of employees’ rights.
The judgment of the Spanish Supreme Court
On 22 January this year, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of a driver who manipulated the tachograph with a magnet. The Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, following the acquittal of the trucker, which took place in the Girona District Court.
The Supreme Court considered that the manipulation of the tachograph in order to falsify its records with a view to avoiding police and administrative checks constitutes an offence of falsification of official documents.
In Spain, document forgery is subject to criminal sanctions under Article 392 of the Penal Code in conjunction with Article 390.1.2º of the same Code.
As a result, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court sentenced the truck driver to six months in prison and a fine of €1,080 for the offence of document forgery. The defendant placed a magnet on the metal part of the tachograph motion sensor. This action caused the device to record rest times, although the driver was actually on the road.
By decision of 22 January, the Spanish Supreme Court confirmed the position of the court of the first instance (District Court No 5 in Girona), which sentenced the driver as guilty of fraudulent forgery of documents.