I've been trying to prepare myself to take a DELE exam and I've been using Baselang, in part, to help me prepare. In one of the materials I was using to study, I was presented with the following choices:

A. Medida cautelar de prisión preventiva.
B. Medida cautelar de detención preventiva.
C. Medida de casa por cárcel.

I may not need to know the precise definitions of "prisión preventiva" and "detención preventiva" in order to answer the question correctly, but still, I am curious. What is the difference between these two? And what is their usual translation into English?

For the sake of time, the majority of the Spanish translation you see below is compliments of Google Translate.

¿Cuál es la diferencia entre "prisión preventiva" y "detención preventiva"?

He estado tratando de prepararme para hacer un examen DELE y he estado usando Baselang, en parte, para ayudarme a preparar. En uno de los materiales que estaba usando para estudiar, se me presentaron las siguientes opciones:

A. Medida cautelar de prisión preventiva.
B. Medida cautelar de detención preventiva.
C. Medida de casa por cárcel.

Puede que no necesite conocer las definiciones precisas de "prisión preventiva" y "detención preventiva" para responder correctamente a la pregunta, pero aún así, tengo curiosidad. ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre estas dos frases? ¿Y cuál es su traducción habitual al inglés?

Por el bien del tiempo, la mayoría de la traducción al español vino de Google Translate.

  • You should not use google translate, especially for legal terms!
    – Lambie
    Nov 13, 2020 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


The explanation on Wikipedia is quite helpful in this case:

  • Detención preventiva is temporary detention done by police for immediate questioning and to prevent escape. Detención preventiva does not require a judge, and is limited to a maximum duration of 72 hours in Spain.

  • Prisión preventiva is temporary detention ordered by a judge before the trial takes place. It is used in cases where there is reasonable fear that the suspect will escape, destroy evidence, or commit other crimes. The law has considerably stricter requirements: for example, in Spain, there must be reasonable evidence that the suspect committed a crime with penalty of more than two years' imprisonment. The maximum duration is also regulated by law, and (in Spain) cannot exceed two years (which can be extended by another two years) in the worst cases.

  • 2
    si bien no es relevante en el ámbito de este sitio, ya que mencionas rangos temporales cabe destacar que en España son más elevados en el caso de aplicarse la ley antiterrorista.
    – fedorqui
    Nov 12, 2020 at 9:11
  • Oddly enough, I did visit the Spanish Wikipedia page, but wasn't sure if "prisión preventiva" and "prisión provisional" were the same thing and at that point, I thought it best if I left it to an expert. Because of your thorough research, I see now that they are, indeed, one and the same. Thank you for your answer. I don't know you that well, but this is the second answer of yours I've encountered and I can readily see that your contributions on this forum are of very high caliber. Glad you joined Spanish Stack Exchange. I can see why you are already a Moderator.
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 13, 2020 at 7:11
  • 1
    @LisaBeck you are right: in Spain, the correct legal term is prisión provisional (see the law here). However, prisión preventiva is often used in the media (and in everyday speech) as a synonym of prisión provisional, see for example these two articles (Ctrl+F "preventiva"). I am happy to help, that is what I am here for :)
    – wimi
    Nov 13, 2020 at 8:13
  • 1
    @wimi Well, you're doing a heckuva job helping people. I'm rather impressed with both your research skills and knowledge of Spanish. Plus, you're respectful, professional, and have a great attitude! Looking forward to more of your contributions in the days, weeks, months, years? ahead.
    – Lisa Beck
    Nov 14, 2020 at 0:08

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