- Compensation for U.S. Victims of Crime in France
- Marriage and Dating Scams
Tourists or legal residents in France may obtain compensation if they have been the victim of a crime during their stay.
The information below may not be applicable to cases of terrorism; victims of terrorism in France should contact France Victimes (contact information provided below) to receive terrorism-specific information and assistance.
THE LEGAL PROCESS
Under French law, compensation is available to all victims of crime committed on French soil. In order to be eligible for victims’ rights and benefits, one must be in legal status in France, whether a tourist or a resident.
The victim is responsible for reporting the crime, filing a formal complaint, and filing a claim for civil damages (that is, identifying him or herself as the partie civile in the case – see details below). A lawyer is recommended in order to ensure compliance with the correct procedure.
PARTIE CIVILE: WHAT IT MEANS
Partie Civile (“civil party”) is the victim’s formal attachment to a criminal case. The partie civile has privileges such as being informed of developments in the case, being able to contest certain court decisions, being able to present additional evidence in the case, and testifying in court.
Whether or not a complaint proceeds to litigation is decided by the French prosecutor (procureur) who reviews the case and decides whether there is sufficient proof to proceed against a suspect. The procureur may forward the case to a judge (juge d’instruction or examining magistrate) for further investigation and review; may dismiss the case due to insufficient evidence; or may negotiate a settlement.
If the case is forwarded for further investigation, the juge d’instruction may then either dismiss the case due to insufficient evidence, or forward it to the appropriate jurisdiction for trial.
To recover damages, French law looks usually to the perpetrator of the crime, if identified, and to the victim’s insurance but recognizes that these sources may not always guarantee compensation. A state fund (Fonds de Garantie) has therefore been established for victims so that victims receive more complete, timely remuneration. This fund provides compensation for both serious and minor crime, but in practice offers very little remuneration in cases other than those involving wrongful death, serious personal injury (causing loss of at least one month of activity or continuous after-effects), or sexual violence.
In these serious cases, appointed commissions (Commissions d’indemnisation des victimes d’infractions, or CIVI) determine the material and nonmaterial damages (psychological, emotional, loss of potential income, etc.) to be compensated. This financial award may include legal costs as well, including expenses associated with travel to and from France during the legal process.
What To Do If You Are A Victim
- Report the crime to the police and make a formal complaint:
- You must appear in person at the nearest gendarmerie or commissariat police station. You should make a precise complaint including the nature and details of the infraction, and the offender’s name, if known. Include all proof of the crime, including medical certificates, bills, etc.
There are two types of formal complaints:
- a simple complaint (plainte simple), and
- a complaint with constitution as civil party (“plainte avec constitution de partie civile”). This second type of complaint allows victims to immediately indicate a claim for compensation and a desire to be actively involved in the legal process; however, partie civile status may be claimed at any time during the trial.
- Contact the U.S. Embassy (contact information provided below).
- Contact one or more victims’ assistance organizations as they can help victims of crime, both with counseling and legal advice. The Embassy can assist you with getting in contact with one of them. Such associations can offer general guidance and can recommend attorneys. France Victimes is an umbrella organization that can offer assistance and direct a victim to other appropriate associations. Contact information is provided below.
- While organizations for victims’ assistance can help you to prepare an initial claim file, a lawyer is usually required to present the file and to submit it to the appropriate government offices. Lawyers’ fees are the responsibility of the claimant though they may eventually be taken into account if you receive compensation or through the legal aid system. Hiring a lawyer can minimize bureaucracy and prevent procedural mistakes. The U.S. Embassy has a list of English-speaking lawyers.
- Remember to maintain records of all damages, including medical costs, etc.
- Claim partie civile if you did not do so at the same time of making a formal complaint. You can claim partie civile at any time during the trial, either by letter, by appearing at court, or your lawyer may do it for you. A sample letter is attached to this package. (**See lbelow.)
- Have your passport stamped as you leave France and keep plane tickets, boarding passes, itineraries, etc. to prove that you were legally present in the country when the assault occurred.
- Depending on the severity and complexity of the crime, it may take several weeks or months before the court processes a case to completion. For misdemeanor-type cases, however, the procureur may negotiate a more immediate settlement between you and the offender. In most cases, a French lawyer representing you may pursue the case while you are abroad though you may be required to be present as a witness during the trial.
- Claim compensation for damages through the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Crime (CIVI), a special commission that exists at every Tribunal de Grande Instance. This process allows the victims of voluntary or involuntary acts that have the material character of a crime to obtain compensation by bringing the matter before the Either a lawyer or working through France Victimes (see information below) can facilitate this claim.
Send a registered letter to the secretary of the CIVI, or drop off a letter to the CIVI office with the following information:
- Your full name, date and place of birth, occupation, nationality, address, a copy of your ID;
- Your relationship to the victim if it is not yourself, with a copy of proof;
- The date, place, and circumstances of the crime, with copies of police reports, etc.
- The trial information, along with a copy of the judgment, if any;
- A detailed list of all incurred costs and damages, lost wages, damages both material and emotional/psychological, with detailed documentation including medical bills and reports, etc.;
- A report of compensation from your insurance insurance, the offender, and other sources;
- Your actual resources, including documents on your salary and other sources of revenue;
- Your bank account number and information.
Contact Information and Victims Resources
- U.S. Embassy in Paris, 4, avenue Gabriel 75382 Paris Cedex 08. Tel: 01 4312 2222. Fax: 01 4261 61 40. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: https://fr.usembassy.gov
- France Victimes, Umbrella organization for victims’ services. English-speaking counselors on staff. Legal and counseling assistance and referrals available. Call: 08-8428-4637 (08-VICTIMES) – from the U.S. : 011-331-4183-4200 or 4208. http://www.france-victimes.fr/ 7 days a week, from 9 AM to 9 PM (local time)
- Paris Aide Aux Victimes. Annexe du Palais de Justice, 4-14 rue Ferrus, 75014 Paris, tel: 01-4588-1800, Fax: 01-4589-9026, and 22 rue Jacques Kellner, 75017 Paris, Fax: 01-5306-8356, Tel: 01-5306-8350; email: email@example.com; English speakers available for legal advice and other services.
- See also: www.nacvcb.org, The National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards; http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/index.html, the US Department of Justice Violence Against Women Office; www.try-nova.org and www.vaonline.org.
- European Commission website: https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_victims_of_crime-65-en.do contains information on victims compensation and procedures, criminal proceedings, complete factsheets on the rights of victims in criminal proceedings, covering all EU Member States.Monsieur le Procureur de la République
Monsieur le Procureur de la République
Tribunal de Grande Instance
2/4, boulevard du Palais
Monsieur le Procureur,
J’ai l’honneur de faire référence à ma plainte contre X (or name of aggressor) (No. ________ CJ _____) déposée le (insert here the date in the order: day/month/year).
Je souhaite renouveler ma plainte et me constituer partie civile.
Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur le Procureur, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées.
Full permanent address
For more information, please refer to the State Department information on Help for U.S. Citizens Victims of Crime,