Survival Guide to Police Custody in France - Episode 2: Understand why you're here.

March 7, 2024

Author: Alice Ouaknine

3 mn - read time

What is the “garde à vue” for?

The French “garde à vue” is a custodial measure that, pursuant to article 62-2 of the French Code of Criminal Procedure, enables the police to :

  • Carry out investigations while preventing the person in custody from tampering with evidence, putting pressure on witnesses or victims, or colluding with co-perpetrators or accomplices.
  • Investigations can include searches, victim and witness interviews, video surveillance, expert reports, etc.
  • Carry out investigations involving the presence of the detainee: hearings, confrontations, analysis of electronic devices, etc.
  • Ensure that the detainee remains in police custody so that the offence is suspended.

Right to be immediately informed of the reason for the custody

When the detainee is notified of his or her rights – which must take place as soon as the measure begins – he or she must be informed of the purpose and the reason for the custody.

He or she must be informed of:

  • The exact legal qualification of the offence he or she is suspected of having committed,
  • The presumed date of commission of the offence,
  • The presumed place where the offence was committed.

Reading the notification of rights

Information mentioned above must be included in the notification of rights, which is provided to be signed by the detainee at the start of the custody.

If the detainee does not speak French, this document will be translated to him or her by an interpreter.

Signing this document in no way implies that the individual acknowledges having committed the offence.

Notification of the reason for placement is essential, as it enables the detainee to know the reasons for his or her deprivation of liberty and to start preparing for the police interviews to which he or she will be subjected while in police custody.

The rights he or she has requested (lawyer, doctor, call a relative, etc.) must also appear on the notification of rights.

To read more about your rights during police custody, consult the Survival Guide to Police Custody in France - Episode 1: Know your rights.

Practical advice:

Ask for the reasons for your detention

From the beginning of the custody, don't hesitate to ask for the reasons for your detention.

Don't settle for "you know perfectly well why you're here anyway", you have the right to know!

Ask to read your notification of rights

If you can read French, ask to read the notification of rights and only sign it after reading it carefully.

If not, ask for an interpreter.

If there is an error on the notification report, and one of the rights you have requested does not appear, ask for it to be amended and/or do not sign it.

Only focus on the facts that justify your custody

During the police interviews, if you decide to answer the questions or to make a statement, don't talk about facts other than those that justify your custody.