What to do when stopped by the police for a routine check
The security services throughout the world i.e. in Spain the Guardia Civil, Policía Local and Policía Canaria have to as part of their day to day duties, and in order to combat acts of terrorism, theft, driving offences, alcohol or substance abuse and vehicle inspections, stop drivers at various places or checkpoints. Sometimes these checks can be because of increased security and occasionally, although rarely, with regards to a specific threat they may have been made aware of.
We often feel daunted and frightened, although we have nothing to fear as everything is in order it is natural that an element of fear will be present at these times. The first thing you should do is to remember that these checks are primarily for your safety. Such road checks do however sometimes catch criminals, those drivers risking their own road safety or that of others, but in the majority of cases most people are permitted to go on their way without any fuss.
You should remain calm and respond to any instructions given to you, if they are given in Spanish and you do not understand calmly state clearly that you do not speak Spanish and you will normally find that most officers speak some English, hand signals often come in handy at this time although not rude ones! You may be asked to exit your vehicle at a designated point as they may wish to check the contents of your car as well as both the documentation for the car and its driver. It is easier and simpler to let the officers to get on with their job and they will normally allow you to continue your journey as quickly as possible.
Whilst we all like to warn other people of impending checkpoints it is not advisable to post such things on Facebook or Twitter as you may potentially be alerting criminals or those who have done wrong of the police’s presence, thus permitting them to take an alternative route. It is also illegal to warm other drivers of a police spot check location.
Do not be over alarmed if you notice more police presence on the roads and streets, this is not necessarily an indication of an increased threat level nor indeed any specific information held by the police. The Spanish Interior Ministry publish details of the current threat level of the country on their web site , www.interior.gob.es If you visit this site, you will find on the right hand side a green box marked NAA or Nivel de Alerta Antiterrorista i.e. levels of terrorist threats. If you then click on this you will see the level shown. The level has been at stage 4 high for some considerable time, since June 2015 to be precise, and all of this information is listed on the page for your information and peace of mind. Whilst all the information is in Spanish you can always use google translate if you wish to read it in full.
You should always stay calm act politely, follow the instructions and remember that provided you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. If you are unfortunate enough to receive a fine (multa) for an offence committed or missing paperwork etc., make sure that you act on this at the earliest convenient date, as often there is a reduction in the amounts payable within a certain time limit, although if there are points involved these cannot be altered.
In brief, drive safely, within speed limits, adhere to road markings, traffic lights and the rules of the highway code etc. and always ensure you have the correct paperwork for the car and for yourself with you at all times. Residents and Non-residents fall into different categories for personal paperwork, as do hire cars and personal or professional vehicles.