Survival Guide to Police Custody in France - Episode 5: Know the possible outcomes of police custody

April 15, 2024

Author: Alice Ouaknine

5 mn - read time

At the end of police custody, the detainee may be released or detained.

1- If he or she is released, he or she may:

  • Be informed that his or her case has been closed, i.e. that no further proceedings have been taken against him or her,

  • Be informed that he or she will be subject to an alternative measure to prosecution, such as:
    • A probationary criminal warning,
    • An obligation to participate in a course: to raise awareness of the dangers of drug use, or to prevent domestic violence for instance,
    • A ban on residence, appearance or contact,
    • A criminal composition or “composition pénale”,

  • Receive a summons informing him or her that proceedings have been initiated against him or her i.e. that he or she is being prosecuted:

  • The prosecution may take the form of:
    • a fine, or other penalty, ordered by the prosecutor in the form of “une ordonnance pénale”,
    • a summons to appear in Court for a guilty plea,
    • a summons to appear in Court for trial,
  • Be informed that the investigation is to continue, without any action being taken to prosecute him or her or close the case.

2- If he or she is detained, he or she may:

  • Be presented to the public prosecutor as part of a "défèrement".

  • The défèrement is an interview with the public prosecutor, during which the presence of a lawyer is possible and strongly recommended.

  • During this interview, the public prosecutor may decide to:
    • Immediate prosecution:
      • The accused can then be judged immediately by a Criminal Court called “Tribunal Correctionnel”. It is called a “comparution immediate”.
    • The accused can also be offered a guilty plea. The procedure is called “Comparution sur reconnaissance préalable de culpabilité” or "CRPC".
  • The accused must be assisted by a lawyer for both these procedures.

  • Subsequent prosecutions:
    • The prosecutor can also give the accused a summons to appear in Court for a guilty plea, at a later date. The presence of a lawyer is also mandatory for this procedure.
    • The prosecutor may also give the accused a summons to appear for a hearing in Criminal Court, called “Tribunal Correctionnel”, for a future date.
    • The public prosecutor can then refer the case to the judge for liberty and detention for the purpose of placing the person concerned under judicial supervision pending the hearing.

  • Be presented to an investigating judge for the opening of an investigation called "information judiciaire".
  • The investigation starts with a first official interview before the investigating judge during which the presence of a lawyer is mandatory.
  • During this initial interview, the suspect has the right to answer the magistrate's questions, make spontaneous statements, or remain silent.
  • At the end of the interview, if the judge considers that preventive detention is necessary, he or she may refer the matter to the judge for liberty and detention.
  • A hearing will then be held immediately before the judge for liberty and detention, who will decide whether to place the accused under judicial supervision or in pre-trial detention.
  • The assistance of a lawyer is also mandatory before judge for liberty and detention.

In practice :

Understand the outcome of your police custody

People are sometimes released from police custody without really understanding the outcome.

Don't hesitate to consult a lawyer as soon as you are released so that he or she can explain the outcome and help you decide how best to defend your interests.

Beware of the criminal record

Some prosecutions can result in a conviction being recorded on your criminal record.

For example, this is the case for the “ordonnances pénales”, as well as guilty pleas, and hearings before the Criminal Courts.

If this registration is likely to prevent you from carrying out your professional activity, you should request exemption from registration.

Beware of registration of your data in fingerprint and genetic files, and in the file for prior arrests

Even if you have not been prosecuted, your placement in police custody may have led to your personal data, fingerprints and DNA being recorded in three files:

- The “FAED”: the automated fingerprint file ;

- The “FNAEG”: the national automated genetic fingerprint file;

- The “TAJ”: processing of prior arrests.

Under certain conditions, you can request deletion from these files. Don't hesitate to contact a lawyer on this matter.