French police fine cyclist €400 for riding while wearing headphones

Fine more than tripled due to late payment but student says he never received a penalty notice

The student originally believed the fine was for riding his bike too fast
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A cyclist in the west of France has received a €400 fine after being stopped by police last year for cycling while wearing headphones.

Martin, 23, a student in La Rochelle, was stopped in August by police in the city.

Originally he thought it was because he was cycling too fast, but the officers said it was because he was riding his bike whilst wearing headphones.

A 2015 law in France’s Highway Code bans the use of headphones for anyone in control of a vehicle in a public space. This includes manual and electric bikes and scooters.

The student told the officers he was unaware of the law and took his headphones off. He thought nothing more of it until finding out that €400 had been ‘blocked’ in his bank account by the La Rochelle fines office (la trésorerie-amende).

He cannot use the money, which is equivalent to two months of rent for some students living in university accommodation in the city, until the fine is cleared or he confirms payment of it to the fines office.

Why was he charged so much?

The usual fine for such an infraction is €135 as it is a class four contravention (minor offence).

If paid within 15 days, this is reduced to €90.

If the fine is not paid within 45 days however it can rise to €375, or in Martin’s case, €400.

The student said he did not receive any prior contact regarding the fine before the sum was frozen in his account.

“They weren't able to find my address [to send a notice] but they did find my bank account very quickly,” he said to news outlet FranceBleu.

It is possible for the student to contest the fine, and a local lawyer believes it is the right course of action.

Jean-François Changeur, who specialises in road cases, was contacted by FranceBleu for comment.

"I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but this is the first time I've heard of a case of this type” he said, adding that contesting a police fine “can be a bit of an obstacle course.”

Read also: Speed camera caught out as driver escapes fine at 179km/h in France

How can you contest a fine?

The first step is to obtain a fine slip (bordereau de situation) which shows the fine increases due to non-payment.

This request is made to your local commune or department’s fines office.

You can then appeal to your local public prosecutor and explain the situation.

They can either choose to exonerate you from the fine, or in a case such as this return it to the original amount (€135).

However, they can also refer the matter to a police court, where a judge will hear the case, and choose whether to reduce or remove the fine.

If all of this fails, the fine must still be paid.

All outstanding amounts left of the fine must still be paid after the judge’s ruling to the fines office in question, or the amount will remain blocked on your account.

Some driving fines can be paid online, using the ANTAI service.

Read more: 10 questions on driving fines in France

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