Contraventional Law in Colombia

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Contraventional law is regulated by the National Code of Police and Coexistence and is a set of rules that regulate minor infractions or contraventions.


The term contravention refers to those unlawful actions that do not constitute crimes but may represent dangers both for those who carry them out and for third parties.

Contraventional law deals with issues in several areas such as:

  • Citizen coexistence: excessive noise, obscene acts in public spaces, consumption of psychoactive substances in public spaces, among others.
  • Mobility: violation of traffic regulations.
  • Environmental: noise pollution, air pollution, inadequate waste management, among others.
  • Trade: unauthorized street vending, misleading advertising, among others.
  • Public safety: illegal possession of weapons, vandalism, petty theft, among others.

Article 25 of the National Code of Police and Coexistence establishes that those who incur in behaviors contrary to the law will be sanctioned with corrective measures. The penalties imposed for a violation are administrative and not criminal in nature and are aimed at preventing and correcting behavior that may affect the peaceful coexistence of citizens. Some particular contraventional conducts may in turn constitute crimes but not all of them do, some are only minor misdemeanors.

Contraventional Proceedings in Colombia

The contravention process is carried out as follows:

  1. The competent authority in the specific case identifies the contravention and notifies the person who allegedly infringed the rule about the offense committed.
  1. The alleged offender is summoned to a hearing to demonstrate that he/she did not commit the infraction or that there were extenuating circumstances.
  1. At the end of the hearing, the competent authority establishes whether the offense was proven or not and, if so, the corresponding sanction is imposed.

In cases where the alleged offender does not agree with the decision made at the hearing, he/she may appeal to a higher authority to review the case. In some cases the authorities may impose sanctions without requiring a prior hearing, generally this situation occurs in cases where the infraction is evident and there are no appropriate circumstances.

For these processes the offender does not require a lawyer, he may represent himself or may be represented by a person he trusts (relative, friend or any other person). However, it is advisable to have legal advice from a lawyer, especially in cases involving serious offenses, as it may help to present a solid defense and help the offender have a better understanding of his or her rights and obligations.

The most frequent contraventions vary according to the area of the national territory, but in general, the most frequent in the national territory are:

  • Excessive noise: this is more frequent in urban areas and includes loud music at parties, noise produced by construction, noise produced by vehicles, among others.
  • Consumption of psychoactive substances in public places: it is more frequent in urban areas, mainly in parks and open recreation areas.
  • Unauthorized street vending: this occurs most frequently in commercial areas and mass events.
  • Parking in prohibited places: In general, there is parking in prohibited places such as pedestrian zones, spaces reserved for people with disabilities, loading and unloading zones, among others.
  • Violation of traffic signals: usually occurs with stop signs, red lights and maximum speed signs.
  • Illegal carrying and use of weapons: this occurs more frequently in rural areas but is also common in urban areas.
  • Animal abuse: includes the abandonment of animals, negligence in their care, and their use for illegal fights or mass reproduction, among others.