Nicolas Michon
Topic Author
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun 06 Sep 2020, 21:18

French law enforcement

Sun 06 Sep 2020, 22:58

French law enforcement and criminal procedure (cross-posted from the other TW:2000 FB group)
So .... your PC's thought it was a good idea to try and break into that warehouse on the outskirts of Paris to steal some state of the art, possibly dual-use, electronics gear. But now sirens are blaring, and they will have to contend with Da Law - French style.
France has two distinct main police forces (and a third one smuggler PCs will have to deal with: la Douane - Customs), la Gendarmerie and la Police Nationale.
La Gendarmerie is technically a part of the military, even to this day: its members cannot, for instance, unionize, and their culture puts a greater emphasis on discipline and doing things by the book. The gendarmerie is also in charge of protecting sensitive sites (this, from the mid-1980's onwards). Recruitment is, like almost everything in France, by competitive examination. The Gendarmerie is responsible for rural areas (there are normally no areas of overlap between the Police Nationale and the Gendarmerie). The basic unit is the Brigade Territoriale ("Brigade" is 5 to 10 gendarmes ....), with barracks (Gendarmes live in appartment buildings next to the Gendarmerie station) next to it. Then you will find Brigades de Recherches and, above, Sections de Recherche in charge of more complex investigations. The Gendarmerie also has Riot police units, the Gendarmerie Mobile, and SWAT teams, the most elite being the GIGN. Gendarmes almost always wear uniforms, even when conducting investigations. A branch of the gendarmerie (prévôté) serves as the military police.
The Police Nationale (note that this is a National Force - a word below on the Polices Municipales) is a civilian organization. They do have unions (and fairly powerful ones at that) but don't have some of the perks the Gendarmes do (like cheap housing). Recruitment is also by civil service exam, with increasing difficulty depending on the rank you want to enter the force at. Line uniformed officers are called Gardiens de la Paix (guardians of the peace), then you will find Brigadiers, Majors - and then Lieutenants (former Inspecteurs - since 1995), Capitaines (former Inspecteurs chef) and above that, the Commissaire (or commissaire divisionnaire). Like the gendarmerie, the police has riot police units (the C.R.S. - Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité), SWAT teams (the BRI in Paris, the RAID - equivalent of the GIGN). PCs could also very well run into the Brigades Anti Criminalité (BAC) - specialized plainclothes units that target street crime (and are seen as a bit cowboyish). There is a strong interservice rivalry with the gendarmerie: the cliché, on the police side, is that gendarmes are unimaginative sticklers, with a privileged "statut"; conversely the cliché on the gendarmes' side is that the police are somewhat cowboy-ish, tend to play fast & loose with the rules and, therefore, more ethically challenged and more likely to screw up a case. The reality is, of course, a lot more complex and nuanced but the difference in culture between both forces is real. Both report to the préfet for the maintenance of order (the préfet is a civil servant, very much a political appointee) and the prosecutor for investigation. The former has, for a variety of reasons, typically more weight than the latter.
One point both have in common is that, especially compared to US police forces, ordinary French police officers are supposed to use their guns as an absolute last resort, and don't get a lot of training using them (at least for regular units - the GIGN / RAID and specialized units are a completely different matter). A French police or gendarmerie patrol will never have less than three officers (none of that solo patrol at night), and, usually, first contact will be less confrontational. Things will change radically if someone produces a firearm (more on that below).
Both police officers and gendarmes can conduct stops on the authorization of the prosecutor or if there is suspicion of illegal activity. Using that power, they can only hold someone long enough to check their identity. Then, if there is evidence a crime has been committed, they can make an arrest, like any other citizen, but only an Officier de Police Judiciaire (who is a policeman / gendarme who has taken an internal exam) can decide to hold the person for up to 24 hours if there is reasonable suspicion a crime has been committed. The prosecutor gets notified. The suspect also gets notified of his rights : calling a family member or employer (except if said could be an accomplice), and requesting to see a doctor. At the time, there was no notification of the right to remain silent, and a lawyer was available, for 30 minutes only, after 20 hours in lock up. This changed in 2010. An important point: suspects in France are not under oath, and can't be prosecuted just for lying to investigators or the court (it can however be taken into account for sentencing). The prosecutor can extend detention for an extra 24 hours, and then, with a judge's agreement, for two extra 24 hours period but only in organized crime or terrorism cases. Then, the prosecutor needs to either have the suspect brought to him for immediate trial before the court, or to open an investigation with a juge d'instruction (investigating magistrate), or to have him released - possibly for further investigation. Note that all suspects will be fingerprinted, and, after 1998, have their DNA profile logged into a database (FNAEG) - refusing is a criminal offense (and kinda useless because this is the best way to land in jail, where fingerprinting occurs with or without consent).
Investigators have very broad powers when a crime has been committed (enquête de flagrance), notably the authorization to conduct searches without a warrant from 6 am to 9 pm. This stops after 7 days - and the investigation needs to either continue with much lesser powers or the prosecutor needs to call in a juge d'instruction, who will have very broad powers to authorize the police to wiretap, search, and could (at the time) order than the suspect be held in detention - for a period depending on the seriousness of the alleged offense and whether the suspect had a criminal record. The juge d'instruction will then conduct his investigation - and the suspect's lawyer will have access to the file - and, finally, determine, whether there are enough charges to have the suspect stand trial.
Trials are very different depending on whether this is for a minor or medium offense (délit - up to ten years' imprisonment) or major crime (crime - rape, murder, armed robbery ... but also forgeries by public servants. Maximum penalty was life in prison for the most serious crimes). In the former, the suspect will be brought before a court of 1 or 3 professional judges (typically three), and questioned on the evidence gathered by the police. The defendant can call witnesses but this is, in practice, rare. Of course, the defendant has the right to a lawyer and is to be given the benefit of the doubt - and cannot be prosecuted for lying. For the more serious offences, there will be a compulsory information judiciaire (the process with a juge d'instruction), and trial will be before a court of 6 lay jurors and 3 professional judges known as the Cour d'Assises. There will also be questioning of the accused but, there, witnesses, experts, cops ... will be called as a matter of course. Appeal is a right, and will lead to everything being examined anew - even in front of the Cour d'assises (a Cour d'assises d'appel with 3 extra jurors will be summoned).
French lawyers wear robes in the court, prosecutors and judges wear identical robes (a heavier version of the lawyer's robe). The presiding judge is addressed as "Mr - or Ms - President" - not "YOur Honor." Prosecutors and judges go to the same civil service school and can go back & forth. Especially in 2000, judges or prosecutors could be as young as 23 or 24. The judicial system is independent ... but attempts at influence (esp. on the prosecutor''s side) were not unknown. This is the reason why the victim of an alleged offense can force the designation of a juge d'instruction (which has more protections than a prosecutor).
A word on weapons: firearms (except shotguns for hunting) are very heavily regulated in France - and PCs carrying firearms without permits will be high priority targets for law enforcement.
I hope this was helpful.
 
arprest
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed 02 Sep 2020, 05:03
Location: Upstate New York, United States of America

Re: French law enforcement

Mon 07 Sep 2020, 21:58

Thank you for the professional and expert but compact and simple layout of France's legal and law enforcement systems.

I was not aware of most of that, and I was an intel geek in the US Army, paid to know things like what you just laid out.

You also just gave me some ideas for non-Twilight:2000 games (I run several different systems) and some insight into why Louisiana is so damn ODD in their legal dealings if they have anything like a common legal basis as modern France.
The peace of sleep brings only the pain of memory.
 
Nicolas Michon
Topic Author
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun 06 Sep 2020, 21:18

Re: French law enforcement

Mon 07 Sep 2020, 22:58

Thank you for your kind words - Louisiana has a variant of the Civil Code, but, to my knowledge, their criminal procedure is based on the usual Common law regime. Do let me know if you want more info for another campaign - you may want to find the "Spiral" [Engrenages]TV series, which is a dark but pretty realistic view of the way the French criminal justice system works (or does not .......). You should be able to find it in English as it was co-produced with the BBC. Season 2 is REALLY good.
 
arprest
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed 02 Sep 2020, 05:03
Location: Upstate New York, United States of America

Re: French law enforcement

Mon 07 Sep 2020, 23:38

Thank you for the recommendation and the education. Once this is out, I need to convince you to play on Myth-Weavers.com, an RPG Play-by-Post website...if you aren't already there.

I'm slowly cooking up a...DIFFERENT...Twilight 2000 campaign, I'd love input on it from a different point of view, on that sight. It was going to be 2.2 drawing from the lore of 1st Edition, but this new edition came out at the right time for me to decide to use that.

If you're interested, PM me. Otherwise, thank you again.
The peace of sleep brings only the pain of memory.
 
Nicolas Michon
Topic Author
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun 06 Sep 2020, 21:18

Re: French law enforcement

Wed 09 Sep 2020, 16:18

Hello, I have PM'd you, but the message is in my Outbox and I have had no response yet. I am interested ...
 
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Richardse
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Joined: Sat 03 Apr 2021, 17:35

Re: French law enforcement

Sat 03 Apr 2021, 17:38

Well dude, thank you very much for this great post! That is a really great post, with a great proffesional and simple explanation of the French law enforcement. Honestly, at the first sight it sounds like somthing normal and really similar to what we are having on a federal level. However they are quite different, the French law gives you more space of interpretation. My brother was sued for something similar back in 2016. We had to look for the best lawyers firm online, they helped us a lot actually. Due to them, my brother did not get to jail.
 
Nicolas Michon
Topic Author
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun 06 Sep 2020, 21:18

Re: French law enforcement

Mon 12 Apr 2021, 23:41

You are welcome. As it turns out, I have been in touch with the team who did the French background, we tweaked it for the beta.... and we have lots of ideas to torture... errr, provide interesting, yet different, experiences for the PCs.

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