Are citizens arrests legal in France?

We explain whether a citizen is legally allowed to arrest someone in France is they see a crime happening

12 November 2021

What are you allowed to do as a member of the public in France if you witness a crime playing out? Pic: BABAROGA / Shutterstock

By Liv Rowland

Reader question: Are you able to make a citizen’s arrest in France and, if so, under what circumstances?

Yes, a citizen’s arrest is allowed under French law.

This comes under article 73 of the Code de procédure pénale, which gives rules on criminal law.

It says that in the case of “flagrant serious crimes that would be punished by a prison sentence”, if you see this happening, “anybody is allowed to apprehend the person responsible and bring them before the nearest police officer”.

This is actually a rather wide definition and could technically, according to the definition, range from someone smoking a joint or driving without a licence to snatching a bag, or murder or armed robbery.

The key point is that the crime must be happening, ie. you must catch them red-handed.

It does not apply if you merely suspect someone of having committed a crime.

Read more: Passing drivers stop man as he tries to start a new fire in Var forest

A recent example happened when passers-by in the Var stopped a man trying to start a forest fire.

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