Individual Rights and Guarantees

Title IV Individual Rights and Guarantees

Article 20

All men are free within the Republic; no one under the protection of its laws can be a slave.

Article 21

Human life is inviolable.

Article 22

Every Costa Rican may move about and stay anywhere within the Republic or abroad, provided he is free from any liability, and return whenever it may be convenient to him. No requirements can be demanded to Costa Ricans in order to prevent their entrance into the country.

Article 23

The domicile and any other private premises of the inhabitants of the Republic are inviolable. However, they may be searched with a written warrant issued by a competent Judge, either to prevent the commission of crimes or their impunity, or to prevent serious damages to persons or property, subject to the appropriate provisions of law.

Article 24

The right to intimacy, freedom and secret of communications is guaranteed.

Private documents and written, verbal or other communications of the inhabitants of the Republic are inviolable. However, a law, which enactment and amendment shall require the vote of at least two thirds of the entire membership of the Legislative Assembly, shall determine those cases in which Courts of Justice may order the seizure, search, or examination of private documents, whenever this is absolutely necessary to clarify matters submitted to their cognizance.

Likewise, this law shall determine the cases in which Courts of Justice can order the intervention of any communication and indicate the offenses in which investigation the exercise of this exceptional investigatory power can be authorized, and the period of time during which such an intervention shall be permitted.

The law shall also determine the responsibilities and penalties of any officials who apply illegally this exception. Any judicial resolution under this provision shall be duly reasoned and can be immediately enforced. Its application and control shall be the responsibility of judicial authorities and cannot be delegated.

The law shall also determine in what instances competent officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic may examine accounting books and related documents for fiscal purposes as well as to control the correct use of public funds.

A special law, passed by two thirds of the entire membership of the Legislative Assembly, shall determine which other bodies of the Public Administration shall be authorized to examine the documents established by said law in the performance of their duties of regulation and control for public ends. This law shall also provide the cases when such an examination is appropriate.

Any correspondence seized or information obtained as a result of the illegal intervention of any communication shall have no legal effect.
(As amended by Law No. 7607, May 29, 1996.)

Article 25

The inhabitants of the Republic have the right of association for lawful purposes. No one may be compelled to form a part of any association whatsoever.

Article 26

Everyone has the right to meet peacefully and unarmed, whether it is for private business or to discuss political affairs and examine the public conduct of officials.

Meetings on private premises do not need prior authorization. Those held in public places shall be regulated by law.

Article 27

The right to petition any public official or State entity, either individually or collectively and the right to obtain prompt resolution are guaranteed.

Article 28

No one may be disturbed or persecuted for the expression of his opinions or for any act which does not infringe the law.

Private actions which do not harm the morals or public order, or which do not cause any damages to third parties are outside the scope of the law.

However, clergymen or secular individuals cannot make political propaganda in any way invoking religious motives or making use of religious beliefs.

Article 29

Every person may communicate his thoughts verbally or in writing and publish them without previous censorship; but he shall be liable for any abuses committed in the exercise of this right, in such cases and in the manner established by law.

Article 30

Free access to administrative departments for purposes of information on matters of public interest is guaranteed.
State secrets are excluded from this provision.

Article 31

The territory of Costa Rica shall be a shelter for all those persecuted for political reasons. If their expulsion is decreed on legal grounds, they can never be sent back to the country where they were persecuted.

Extradition shall be regulated by law or by international treaties and shall never be granted in case of political or related offenses, as they are defined by Costa Rica.

Article 32

No Costa Rican may be compelled to abandon the national territory.

Article 33

All persons are equal before the law and there shall be no discrimination against human dignity.
(As amended by Law No. 4123, May 31, 1968.)

Article 34

No law shall have retroactive effects to the detriment of any person whatsoever or his acquired property rights, or to the detriment of any consolidated legal situations.

Article 35

No one may be tried by a commission, a court or a judge specially appointed for the case, but exclusively by the courts established in accordance with this Constitution.

Article 36

In criminal matters, no one is obligated to testify against himself or against a spouse, ascendants, descendants or collateral relatives within the third degree inclusive of consanguinity or affinity.

Article 37

No one may be detained without substantiated evidence of having committed an offense or without a written order issued by the judge or the authority in charge of maintaining public order, unless the person concerned is a fugitive from justice or is caught in the act; but in all cases, he shall be placed at the disposition of a competent judge within a peremptory period of twenty-four hours.

Article 38

No person may be imprisoned for debt.

Article 39

No one shall be made to suffer a penalty except for crime, unintentional tort or misdemeanor punishable by previous law, and in virtue of final judgment entered by competent authority, after opportunity has been given to the defendant to plead his defense, and upon the necessary proof of guilt.

Judicial compulsion in civil or labor matters or detentions ordered in cases of insolvency, bankruptcy or bankruptcy involuntary proceedings are not violations of this Article or of the two preceding articles.

Article 40

No one may be subjected to cruel or degrading treatment or to life imprisonment, or to the penalty of confiscation. Any statement obtained by violent means shall be null and void.

Article 41

Everyone shall receive reparation for injuries or damages to himself or his property, or moral interests, through recourse to the laws. Justice must be prompt, enforced, not denied, and in strict accordance with the laws.

Article 42

The same judge may not serve in various stages of a case for resolutions addressing the same issue. No one may be tried more than once for the same punishable offense.

Reopening of closed criminal cases and judgments which are res judicata is prohibited, except upon a motion to reopen the case for review.
(Interpreted by resolution of the Constitutional Chamber, No. 353-91, 16:30 hours, February 12, 1991).

Article 43

Everyone has the right to settle his differences in civil matters by means of arbitrators, even if there is a pending lawsuit.

Article 44

A court order is necessary for a person to be held incommunicado for more than forty-eight hours. It may be extended only for ten consecutive days, and in no case shall it prevent judicial inspection.

Article 45

Property is inviolable; no one may be deprived of his property except for legally proven public interest upon prior compensation in accordance with the law. In case of war or internal disorders, it is not necessary that such compensation be made in advance. However, payment shall be made no later than two years after the situation of emergency has ended.

For reasons of public necessity, the Legislative Assembly, by a vote of two-thirds of its full membership, may impose limitations of social interest on property.

Article 46

Private monopolies, as well as any act, even if originated by virtue of law, which may threaten or restrict freedom of trade, agriculture or industry, are prohibited.

Action by the State directed to prevent any monopolistic practices or tendencies is in the public interest.

The companies organized as de facto monopolies shall be governed by special legislation.

Establishment of new monopolies in favor of the State or the Municipal Governments shall require the approval of two-thirds of the full membership of the Legislative Assembly.

Consumers and users are entitled to the protection of their health, environment, safety and financial interests, to receive adequate and truthful information, to freedom of election and to equal treatment. The State shall support any bodies established for the defense of their rights. The law shall regulate those matters.
(As amended by Law No. 7607, May 29, 1996.)

Article 47

Every author, inventor, producer, or merchant shall temporarily enjoy exclusive ownership of his work, invention, trademark or trade name, in accordance with the law.

Article 48

Every person has the right to present writs of habeas corpus to guarantee his freedom and personal integrity and writs of amparo to maintain or reestablish the enjoyment of other rights conferred by this Constitution as well as those of fundamental nature established in international instruments on human rights, enforceable in the Republic. Both writs shall be within the jurisdiction of the Chamber indicated in Article 10.
(As amended by Law No. 7128 of August 18, 1989).

Article 49

A contentious-administrative jurisdiction is established as a function of the Judicial Branch for purposes of guaranteeing the legality of the administrative function of the State, its institutions and any other entity of public law.

The misuse of power shall be grounds to challenge administrative acts.

The law shall protect, at least, the personal rights and legitimate interests of those governed.
(As amended by Law No. 3124, June 25, 1963).