French police hand out 900,000 lockdown fines including to holiday home owners

A total of 915,000 fines have been issued since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown, according to the French government, while in Brittany, police have clamped down on holiday makers and second home owners.

French police hand out 900,000 lockdown fines including to holiday home owners
Photo: AFP

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the country's police had carried out 15.5 million stops since March 17th, the first day of the strict nationwide lockdown, and handed out 915,000 fines.

Fines were initially €38 but were quickly raised to €135.

“Remaining in lockdown is extremely difficult,” Castaner said in an interview with BFMTV.

As he thanked the French for showing “exemplary behaviour” in respecting the government's rules, he noted an increased number of “slip ups” lately.

“It's our duty to maintain a high level of controls,” he said, to ensure that people in France continue to follow the rules.

Holiday makers 

Police in Brittany have over the past week increased the number of checks on tourists and holiday home owners in the region, after a Parisian couple was fined for having rented a property on the coast of the Finistère département.

The couple were ordered to return to Paris.

Police told France Bleu they had issued several similar fines, including to second home owners reminding them that changing location was strictly forbidden during lockdown. Those found to have broken the rules were fined €135.

At the beginning of the lockdown on March 17th the government said people would be allowed to travel to the second homes, as thousands have done, for the lockdown period.

READ ALSO: No, you can't go to your holiday home in France during lockdown

But once the lockdown began, people are expected to stay put. 

In a statement to The Local, the government made it clear to British owners of second homes in France – and indeed those in France – that they should not be changing their place of residence during lockdown.

“People, French and British alike, are not allowed to travel to their second home until the end of lockdown,” read the short but concise statement.

France's nationwide lockdown has imposed a new order of social distancing that has been crucial in limiting the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Since March 17th, people have been told to stay home, only going out for essential errands such as grocery shopping, important doctor's appointments, walking the dog or some brief physical exercise.

Before Easter, the interior minister said that under no circumstances should people travel for holiday purposes, and that the number of checks would increase to ensure that people complied with the rules.

Member comments

  1. In my town, I find a lot of young boys hanging around everytime I go out to buy essentials. They don’t seem to be out for anything important, and most certainly aren’t carrying the mandatory attestation d’deplacement. I hope the poilice crack down on these potential torublemakers, rather than on the generally harmless holiday makers moving to their own second homes.

  2. Hmm. I’m willing to be those boys live in a tiny apartment with several people, and are suffering much more from the confinement than people sulking because they can’t go on holiday.

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Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

The French Constitution offers broad legal protection to anyone in France from the right to trial to the right to legal advice, but there are some scenarios specific to foreigners in France.

Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

What are my rights if I am arrested or imprisoned?

If you are arrested you have the same rights as a French citizen to legal advice, phone calls, bail and a full trial – full details HERE.

There are some extra things to be aware of however;

Once arrested you have the right to an interpreter during police interviews.

You have the right to call your Embassy, although the help the Embassy can offer you is much more limited than many people think.

If you are released while awaiting a court hearing you will usually have to hand over your passport and undertake not to leave the country. If you are not a French resident, the judge can assign you a residency address in France.

If you are found guilty and imprisoned in France you maintain several rights, such as the right to vote (if you have French citizenship). France’s interior ministry has a handout detailing these rights, HERE

Can I appeal against my sentence?

Yes, you have the right to appeal a court’s decision.

Keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process with very specific deadlines – and it can go either way, so you risk a sentence being increased.

If you are acquitted in court,  French law also allows for the prosecution to appeal against your acquittal.

I am the victim of a crime, what are my rights?

In France, the role of the state and the prosecutor is to protect the peace, this means that if someone commits a crime against you, it is up to the state to decide whether to move forward with criminal proceedings.

It’s not up to the victim to decide whether or not to press charges.

Conversely, if the state chooses not to go ahead with criminal proceedings, but you (the victim) want them to press charges, you have the right to appeal against their decision to drop the case.

Can I be expelled from France for committing a crime?

Yes, although this is generally reserved for people who have committed serious crimes such as violent crime, drug-trafficking or terror offences.

If you have been jailed for a serious crime in France you can be served with an ‘interdiction du territoire français‘ – a ban from French soil – on your release. These are reserved for the most serious offences and simply being incarcerated does not necessarily lead to expulsion.

If you are a full-time resident in France but not a French citizen, then being convicted of a crime can mean that your visa or residency card will not be renewed. This is again usually reserved for people who have committed very serious crimes, but in certain circumstances residency can be withdrawn for less serious offences such as driving offences or begging. 

READ ALSO What offences can lose you the right to live in France?

If you have French citizenship it’s virtually impossible for your to be expelled from France although in some rare cases – usually connected to terrorism – citizenship of dual nationals can be revoked.

What are the rules for minors?

Minors in the French legal system have some specific rights. The EU has laid out the specific rights of minors, which apply in France as well, and apply from the time of arrest.

  • Right to be be quickly informed of legal rights, and to be assisted by your parents (or other appropriate persons)
  • Right to be assisted by a lawyer
  • No prison sentence should be imposed on a minor if they have not been assisted by a lawyer during the court hearings. All measures should be exhausted to avoid a child being imprisoned.
  • Right to be detained separately from adults if sent to prison.
  • Children should not be required “to reimburse the costs of certain procedural measures, for example, for individual assessment, medical examination, or audio-visual recording of interviews.”
  • A child’s privacy should be respected and “questioning will be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner.”
  • Repeatedly questioning children should be avoided.