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DRIVING

Second home owners in France: Can I register a car at my French address?

For many people with a second home in France, especially those living in rural areas, a car is essential. But is it possible to buy and keep a French registered car in the country if you are not a permanent resident?

Second home owners in France: Can I register a car at my French address?
Photo: AFP

And if you want to keep a car here is it better to buy in France or import from the UK?

READ ALSO Are the French really bad drivers?

Registering a car to a non-permanent address in France.

This is a relatively straightforward process as long as you can prove that you have an address in France – there is no requirement to prove full-time residency.

If you're buying a car in France then it will come with the carte grise registration documents and the car will already be registered in France.

But you still need to do is change the details on the carte grise so that you are the registered owner.

If you buy from a dealership some dealers will arrange the paperwork, for you for a fee of course, but either way you will need to provide valid ID (a passport) and proof of an address in France that the car will be registered to.

To do this you will need to provide documentation that includes your full name and is dated within the last six months.

Any of these are accepted:

  • The title deed to the home if you are the owner
  • A rent receipt in your name if you are a tenant
  • Your most recent bill for the taxe d'habitation or local tax
  • A telephone, gas or electricity bill (water bills and mobile phone bills may not be accepted)
  • A certificate of insurance of the home
If you do not have any of these in your name (for example if all housing documentation is in the name of a partner of family member) it may still be possible to register the car but you will need the following:
  • Proof of residence in the name of your host (ie the person whose name the house is in)
  • A declaration on honour. This is a handwritten letter, written by your host, stating that you are living at his/her home.
  • A copy of the host's identity document (passport)
  • An official document linking you to the host's house. This can be a tax slip, a social security certificate, a pay slip or a bank statement.

If you live on a boat, you can register with the following documents:

  • A certificate issued by the harbour master's office of your boat's home berth or port
  • A certificate of insurance of the boat
  • A title deed to the boat if you are the owner
  • A valid rental contract if you are the tenant

If your dealer has not competed the carte grise paperwork for you you will need to do it yourself, and this can be done online here.

In the past local préfectures could deal with car registration, but the process has now been moved online. However if you get stuck there is a helpline that is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm on 0899 86 93 93.

If you are buying a new car, bear in mind that you cannot drive it until the registration is complete.

Is it better to buy in France or import a car from England?

The answer to this essentially depends on whether you think simplicity or bargain prices are the most important thing.

If you buy in France the process of registering it to your address is pretty simple, as the car already has all the relevant French documentation.

The downside to this is that cars, particularly second hand ones, are significantly more expensive in France than in the UK.

So buying in the UK will be quite a lot cheaper, but certainly not simpler.

If you are planning on keeping the car permanently in France, after six months you will have to change its registration to French, a process that is quite complex and will also involve some financial outlay. If you do follow this process, don't forget to let the DVLA back in Britain know that you have exported the vehicle.

FIND OUT MORE HERE The six month rule and other things to know about bringing a British-registered car to France

If your car is registered in France, you will also need a French insurance policy, which can work out more expensive than a comparable policy in the UK. But there are some ways to make it cheaper, especially if you are not driving it that often. (see link below)

READ ALSO Seven need-to-know tips for cutting the cost of car insurance in France

Once your car – either French or English – is registered in France it falls under the contrôle technique regime for regular road-worthiness tests This is the equivalent of the MOT in the UK and needs to be done every two years, but not before the car is four years old.

READ ALSO What you need to know about France's new (and tougher) car inspections

And, depending on where you're driving, you may need to register your car for a Crit'Air sticker to comply with the anti-pollution traffic restrictions many towns and cities across France are introducing.

READ ALSO How France's Crit'Air vehicle sticker system is taking over the country

Also bear in mind that if you do take it back to the UK it will count as a foreign vehicle under DVLA rules and you will not be able to drive it there long-term without switching the registration.

 

 
 

Member comments

  1. There are often discussions on the Dutch community about this topic. My understanding is that can get it registered, however you have to lie about your residency. If France is your second home, your residency is not France. Your insurance company could refuse a big payment when you need it, as you committed fraud.
    Could you please check this with a legal advisor, to make sure nobody is out into trouble?

  2. Interesting article. Is it still current or have there been changes to the requirements for second home owners registering French cars?

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CRIME

What to do if you are arrested in France

Everything you need to know if you find yourself in handcuffs in France.

What to do if you are arrested in France

France’s legal system is born out of its Code Civil, and for criminal proceedings, the relevant legal infrastructure is the Code pénal.

The way the system works is very different to many anglophone countries, so if you are arrested do not expect events to follow the pattern you would expect in your home country.

Here are some of the scenarios you might find yourself in, and what to expect:

The police have stopped me:

There are a few scenarios here, they could give you an amende (fine), it could just be a contrôle d’identité (ID check) or contrôle routière (traffic stop) or you could be under arrest. 

READ ALSO Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

Fine – If they have stopped you to give you an amende, this is likely because you committed a minor infraction. 

This could be a traffic related offence – maybe you went through a red-light while riding your bicycle – or a minor crime such as littering.

The amount of the fine will depend on the severity of the infraction, which is at the discretion of the police officer. In most scenarios, the officer will ask for proof of identity, your address, and then the fine will be sent to your home. You’d be advised to pay it right away, because if you delay the fee can be increased.

Be aware that police officers will not ask you to hand over cash on the spot. It’s unfortunately true that scammers prey on tourists by pretending to be police and asking for cash ‘fines’ – a legitimate officer will not ask for this.

If you’re on public transport, transport police such as the Paris-based RATP Sûreté are also empowered to stop you and to issue fines if you have committed an offence such as travelling without a ticket. 

READ ALSO ‘Don’t mess with French cops’ – Tips for dealing with police in France

ID check – The other scenario where you could be stopped by a police officer is during a contrôle d’identité (identity check). This is when a police officer stops to check your identity, and it can only happen under certain conditions: they suspect you have committed or will commit a crime, you are in a ‘dangerous’ location where crime is known to occur, the public prosecutor has ordered an area to be watched, or you are operating a motorised vehicle (contrôle routière).

If you refuse to provide proof of identity, the police can find you guilty of refusing to obey or find you guilty of contempt and rebellion. If you do not have documents on your person to prove your identity, the officer can take you to the police station to check your identity there.

Many activists and NGOs argue that police practice racial profiling when they perform ID checks and it’s unfortunately the case that these ‘random’ checks do seem to happen more frequently to people of colour.  

Arrests – Finally, an officer might arrest you.

The French criminal code allows police to arrest and detain (for a limited period of time) any person against whom there exists one or more plausible reasons to suspect that they have committed or attempted to commit a criminal offence – this is at the discretion of the officer so it can cover a pretty broad range of circumstances.

Detention

The French police are allowed to detain you if the police suspect you have committed or could commit a crime that is punishable by jail time. This means they cannot detain you for something that is punishable simply by a fine, but no arrest warrant is required in order to detain you.

If police detain you, you need to be aware of your rights: 

  • Right to interpretation and translation if needed
  • Right to information (you have the right to know the exact legal definition of what you’ve been accused of)
  • Right to legal assistance (from the moment of arrest)
  • Right to have someone, such as a family member, be made aware of your arrest
  • Right to have an opportunity to communicate with your family
  • Right to be in contact with your country’s consulate and receive visits if you are arrested outside your home country
  • Right to the presumption of innocence
  • Right to remain silent and the right against self-incrimination
  • Right to be present at your trial
  • Right to consult police documents related to the investigation such as: the transcript of police interviews, medical certificates and notice of the rights in custody

In most circumstances you can only be held a maximum of 24 hours.

This can be extended if the crime you’re accused of is punishable of more than a year in prison. If so, the initial period of custody can be increased by 24 hours (up to 48 hours in total). In order for it to be extended, a public prosecutor must deem it necessary.

If the crime you are accused of is punishable by more than 10 years in prison, or relates to organised crime, initial detention can be up to four days, while those suspected of terror offences can be detained for a maximum of 144 hours (six days).

Court hearing

If the offence you are accused of is too serious to be dealt with by way of a fine, you will need to appear before a court.

If you’ve found yourself in this unfortunate situation, you should know that your hearing could either take place immediately at the end of your time in police custody or it could be sometime in the distant future – maybe even years later if it’s a complex matter.

The location of your hearing will depend on the severity of your offence: petty offences (contraventions) are typically dealt with in police courts (tribunal de police) or ‘jurisdictions of proximity’ (juridiction de proximité).

For misdemeanour crimes such as theft, you would likely go to a correctional court (tribunal correctionnel), and for the most serious offences such as rape or violent crimes you would be tried in a criminal court called a cour d’assises or la cour criminelle

If you have a ‘fast-tracked proceeding’ (comparutions immediates), this is because the public prosecutor has chosen this avenue.

Typically, it only happens in very straightforward cases, and it would involve your case being heard immediately at the end of your time in police custody (garde à vue). You cannot request a fast-tracked proceeding yourself. You should be advised that in these situations, it means that there is very little time to prepare a defence. You can request more time, and of course, you can request a lawyer. A fast-tracked proceeding will happen in the tribunel correctionnel.

There is also the option of a “Comparution sur reconnaissance préalable de culpabilité” (CRPC), which is a pre-trial guilty plea procedure. In order to go through this procedure, you must have the assistance of a lawyer

Ongoing detention

If your offence is too serious for an immediate court hearing, you will need to wait for a court date.

In most cases you will be released from custody while you wait for the hearing under contrôle judiciaire, which is similar to bail and often involves certain conditions such as not attempting to contact the victim or witnesses in the case.

In certain circumstances the judge can institute a caution, which is a sum of money that must be paid to ensure that the person be present at the proceedings, but paying money for bail is much less common in France than it is in the USA.

If you are a foreigner you will likely have your passport taken and be forbidden from leaving the country. If you do not have a permanent residence in France, the court can assign you one and demand that you stay in France until your hearing date.

If you commit further offences, or try to contact witnesses or victims while waiting for your hearing, or breach any of the conditions, you are likely to be brought back into custody.

I want to contact my embassy

You have the right to contact your embassy at any point after an arrest, though you will need to expressly request this, they will not be automatically contacted when you are arrested.

The role of the Embassy is much more limited than many people think – the Embassy is there to ensure that you are not being mistreated because of your nationality. As long as you are being given the same rights as a French national in the same scenario, The Embassy will not intervene on your behalf.

The Embassy does not have the power to tell a court whether you’re guilty or innocent, to provide legal advice, to serve as an official interpreter or translator, or to pay any legal, medical, or other fees.

They can, however, help you to find the above services, and most embassies have a list of English-speaking lawyers. 

If you have been incarcerated, depending on the country you come from, the French government might be required to inform your country of your incarceration. For US citizens, this requirement exists with your permission, and for UK citizens the obligation to inform exists even without your permission.

I would like legal assistance

You can request a lawyer at any time when in police custody in France.

As mentioned above, your embassy is a great resource for finding an English-speaking lawyer. Most embassy websites will have extensive directories for lawyers.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to find a lawyer in France

You can also check the local “tribunal d’instance” (your local courthouse), your département’s bar association (le batonnier/ Barreau), or consult websites, such as AngloInfo, which compile directories of English-speaking lawyers. 

If you cannot afford legal representation and need legal aid, you must be able to prove that you are low income. You can contact the Maison de Justice, which is the courthouse. Your département or region should have a website explaining the legal aids near you. This is Paris’ for example, HERE

Key Vocabulary

Appeal: appel

Bail: contrôle judiciaire

Bar Association: l’ordre des avocats/ barreau

Charge/Indictment: Accusations

Embassy: Ambassade

File: Dossier

Investigative Judge: Juge d’instruction

Judge: Juge or Magistrat

Lawyer: Avocat – keep in mind, when addressing a lawyer you should use the honorific Maître (the same title applies for male and female lawyers)

Judgment: Jugement

Legal Aid: Aide juridictionelle

Criminal offence: infractions

Felony: un crime

Misdemeanour: un délit

Petty crime: contravention

Police Custody: garde à vue

Public Prosecutor: Procureur de la République

Sentence: Peine

Warrant: Mandat

Witness: Témoin

Expert help for this article was provided by Maitre Matthieu Chirez, who is a practicing lawyer at J.P. Karsenty & Associates and is specialised in criminal law. You can access the firm’s website HERE.

Please note that this article is not a substitute for legal advice and if you find yourself in trouble with the French legal system you should always get professional help.

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