Penal Orders for Misdemeanours and Felonies in France: A Procedural Economy at the Expense of the Defence?



Published 07-03-2022
Raluca Enescu


The French Code of Criminal Procedure allows misdemeanours and felonies to be tried under a simplified procedure called penal orders. This entirely written procedure is directed by the prosecution with the support of the police. Once their decision is taken, prosecutors send their file to a judge who would then issue the penal order. If the defendant does not object, the conviction equals a judgment rendered by a court at the end of a trial. The lack of hearing of the defendant and the rights of the defence being reduced to their minimal expression might produce erroneous convictions. Although this procedural economy succeeds in unburdening the courts, it comes at the cost of defendants. This contribution discusses the procedure and the rights of the defence in France. It also proposes solutions that could address the shortcomings of penal orders.

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