La palabra del día: Tipo

If you check in the dictionary, tipo in English is translated into ‘type’, ‘emblem’, ‘chap’, ‘bloke’, ‘rate’; but, in Legal Spanish it is a completely different story.
A masculine noun (el/un tipo), it comes from the Latin typus, and this last one from the Greek τυπος (typos), model, engraving. It referred to engraved characters on stone.
The English word prototype can be linked directly to the Greek τυπος.
In Legal Spanish, the word tipo refers to the model, the description and definition of a specific conduct for the purposes of imposing the corresponding sanction or consequence (entry 9).
In our legal systems, establishing tipos is very important in criminal law and sometimes in commercial, civil, and tax law. E.g: Article 79 of the Argentine Criminal Code states: Se aplicará reclusión o prisión de ocho a veinticinco años, al que matare a otro siempre que en este código no se estableciere otra pena; Incarceration or imprisonment will be applied from eight to twenty-five years, to the one who will kill another as long as this code does not establish another penalty. The Spanish Criminal Code states in its article 138: El que matare a otro será castigado, como reo de homicidio, con la pena de prisión de diez a quince años; He who kills another will be punished, as a criminal for murder, with a prison sentence of ten to fifteen years. Both articles define manslaughter.
As you can guess, in our system, a code is nothing else than a list of tipos. And this leads us to the word tipificar, a verb that means ‘making up a tipo out of a specific conduct in order to impose a sanction or a consequence’. We call it reducir a un tipo ( and no, reducir does not mean ‘to reduce’). If the conduct is not tipificada (an adjective), then, we do not have a crime and there is no sanction. For someone to commit manslaughter in Spain, their conduct must fall (caer) in the tipo described above; like water in a stone engraving.
All our legal systems are systems of tipos, which pretty much prevent judges to punish conducts which have not been tipificadas. This is particularly relevant today, when cyber-crimes sometimes cannot be punished because of the lack of a tipo.
A real case: On 24th August 1881 a gang called the Night Knights ‘kidnapped’ the corpse of Doña Felisa Dorrego Indart from La Recoleta cemetery, Buenos Aires, and sent a ransom letter (5 million pesos) to her daughter Doña Felisa Dorrego de Miró. The gang was easily caught and prosecuted for robbery and sentenced to prison for 6 years. It could not be considered a kidnapping because a corpse is not a person but a thing. The sentence was appealed because, to be a robbery, the thing must be under the custody of the owner, which was not the case; and besides: who is the owner of a corpse? The higher court revoked the sentence and freed the Night Knights because they had not committed any crime. Soon after the conduct was tipificada, the tipo created and the crime called Secuestro de Cadáver now exists in article 195 of the Criminal Code, best known as article Dorrego. dc

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