If your vehicle (car, motorbike, bicycle, trailer, etc.) has been stolen, you should immediately report it to the police or gendarmerie.
You should also state whether any of the vehicle’s papers (registration documents, insurance, etc.) were also taken in the theft.
If the theft has just occurred (within the past hour or so), you should phone the police on the number 17, and a patrol car may be sent to the scene.
Otherwise, you need to report it to the police and then to your vehicle insurer (see later in the article).
If your vehicle has an anti-theft GPS tracker, you must include it in your report to the police.
If your vehicle has been stolen from your garage, do not touch anything until the police arrive to make an assessment.
If the theft has not just taken place, you can report it to the police in two ways:
If you know the identity of the person who stole your vehicle, you can go straight to the nearest police station or gendarmerie to report it.
You can find your station at this link. Click on the arrow beside ‘Dépôt de plainte.’ Then scroll down until you see the search box that allows you to look for the nearest gendarmerie or police station (as shown in the picture below).
If you do not know the identity of the perpetrator, you can fill out a pre-complaint form online before going to the police station. You will then be given an appointment and the process will be sped up as the police will already have details of your complaint.
You can fill out a pre-complaint form here.
You must still go to the police station to sign your declaration reporting the theft, filling out the online form is not enough in itself.
You can file a complaint directly with the public prosecutor. You must send a letter on plain paper to the judicial court in the place where the offence took place or where the offender lives.
The letter should include the following information:
Civil status and full contact details (address and telephone number) of the complainant
Detailed account of the facts, date and place of the offence
Name of the alleged perpetrator if known (if not, the complaint will be filed against X)
Names and addresses of any witnesses to the crime
Description and provisional or final estimate of the damage
Documents of proof: medical certificates, work stoppages, various invoices, reports
Willingness to act as a civil party (in any eventual lawsuit)
You can find a template for the letter here.
To find the address of your local public prosecutor’s office, you can search Tribunal judiciaire de [insert commune name] on the internet, and it should provide the relevant information.
Report the theft to your insurance company
By reporting the theft to your insurance company, you can avoid liability if the thief causes an accident or damages property with your vehicle.
The insurer will pay for the damage caused and will defend you in court if you are personally accused.
If you have taken out theft cover, your insurance company can compensate you for damage caused by the theft or attempted theft.
You must report the theft within the period specified in your contract – insurers cannot legally make this period less than two working days.
The insurer may ask you for a copy of your police report.
If the theft occurred on your property, with a break-in, you will also have to report this to your home insurance company.
Why report the theft?
Apart from the obvious hope that your report may lead to you getting your vehicle returned and the perpetrator caught, there are other uses.
One is that it allows police to log details of the theft in the database of ‘reported vehicles and objects’ (fichier des objets et véhicules signalés) and the vehicle registration system (système d'immatriculation des véhicules).
It means that the vehicle will not be able to be registered to anyone else.
Another advantage is that it allows the police to check the impound register, to ensure the vehicle has not just been removed due to being parked illegally.
For more information on vehicle theft in France, see the government’s Service-Public website here.
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