The legislative powers of the police to stop individuals
In France, we rather speak of “identity checks”, i.e. the act of an agent of the public authority consisting of asking an individual, under conditions imposed by the law, to justify his or her identity. Identity checks are mainly governed by the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CPP, Code de procedure pénale) headed “Identity inspections and identity checks” (Art. 78-1 to 78-6 CPP). These measures can be either repressive, targeting people suspected of having committed an offence, or preventive, when used to stop people who are suspected of planning to commit an offence. Under Article 78-2, a prosecutor can authorise the police to conduct a time-limited search in a specific area (known for being vulnerable to crime). Under these conditions, the identity of any person can be checked.
The obligation to register stops
There is no obligation to register stop and search.
Legislation procedures which protect citizens from police offences
There is a body of laws and regulations (criminal code, administrative law, internal regulations) which constrain de jure the activities of police officers. Since 2014, a code of ethics has been enacted. Individuals can complain to:
- The Défenseur des droits (an independent institution created in 2008): individuals (victims or witnesses) may file a complaint by meeting a delegate of the Défenseur des droits, calling the institution or posting a report on a dedicated website (https://formulaire.defenseurdesdroits.fr/code/afficher.php?ETAPE=accueil_2016).
- The prosecutor: individuals (victims or witnesses) may file a complaint with the public prosecutor.
- The National inspectorates (Inspection générale de la police nationale, inspection générale de la gendarmerie nationale): individuals (victims or witnesses) may file a complaint by phone or mail or file a complaint at the police station. Since 2013, they may also post a report on a dedicated platform (3661 reports in 2017): https://www.police-nationale.interieur.gouv.fr/Organisation/Inspection-Generale-de-la-Police-Nationale/Signalement-IGPN.
Blog Understanding the Practice of Police Stops in Europe – ID checks in France