Criminal trial: what is a civil party?

Verified 22 December 2021 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

The civil party is the person who considers himself the victim of a infringement who intervenes in proceedings to obtain compensation for his loss and the return of seized objects.

The person who becomes a civil party must have suffered harm as a result of the offense. This damage may be of a personal nature or moral nature. It may also concern his property.

The civil party may be a natural or legal person (business, association, etc.).

A minor cannot be a civil party on his own, these are his legal representatives (parents or guardian) who must do so on his behalf. If the prosecutor considers that his interests are not protected by his legal representatives, he may appoint a ad hoc administrator to make representations on his behalf. This is the case, for example, when parents are guilty of child abuse.

The person under guardianship may become a civil party with the assistance of its curator.

The person under guardianship acts through his or her guardian.

Please note

an activist association for the defense of rights (fight against racism, sexual violence, crimes against humanity...) can file a civil suit before the court and obtain damages.

The damage can be material (destruction of property, loss of salary...), physical (injuries...) or moral (emotional, psychological damage...).

It is up to the civil party to quantify the amount of the damage and to provide all the necessary evidence for the court to make its decision and fix compensation.

The civil party may ask the court to to carry out an assessment to help establish the damage and estimate the amount of compensation.

It is possible to bring a civil action before the criminal court until a judgment has been given.

Before the judgment hearing

Right from the police investigation

The formation of a civil party may be made at the beginning of the police or gendarmerie investigation.

The The complaint can also be made directly to the public prosecutor. In this case, the willingness to take civil action must be clearly indicated in the letter of complaint.

Before the hearing

The formation of a civil party may be made before the hearing by registered letter with notice of receipt to the court, fax or electronic communication at least 24 hours before the hearing.

All the supporting documents (medical certificates, invoices, etc.) concerning the assessment of the damage must be attached to this letter.

The declaration of incorporation of a civil party is made using the form cerfa n°16141.

Declaration of formation of a civil party in an ongoing case

Who shall I contact

The Public Prosecutor's Office shall notify the victim of the date of the hearing and inform him or her that he or she may become a civil party if he or she wishes to obtain damages.

Day of hearing

The formation of a civil party may take place on the day of the hearing.

The victim must do so orally when the case is raised by the presiding judge.

It may also file a written request.

The formation of a civil party must take place before the prosecutor asks the court to sentence the perpetrator to a sentence.


the victim may waive his or her civil party status before the hearing in writing. It may also do so orally on the day of the hearing.

The fact that the victim becomes a civil party enables him to be informed of the proceedings and to have access, through a lawyer, to the file.

The civil party may be assisted or represented by a lawyer at the hearing.

Who shall I contact

If they have a low income, they can apply for legal aid.

The civil party may request the referral of the case to a later date if he is unable to attend. They must provide justification (for example, hospitalization). The judge may or may not grant a referral of the case.

The civil party may be heard by the court and intervene in the proceedings concerning the case.

On the day of the criminal trial, if the victim's claim for compensation is not in a state to be tried, the victim may request a postponement to the judge. The court then decides on the sentence and refers the case on the claim for compensation to a hearing called civil interests. In order to request referral to this hearing, the victim must justify these obstacles (hospitalization, missing documents,...).

The civil party may only claim compensation for the damage suffered or the return of the seized objects. It cannot seek the criminal conviction of the perpetrator. In order to obtain compensation, it must prove the harm caused by the offense.

The court may refuse any compensation.

The civil party who has sent his civil party and his claim for damages or restitution of objects is not obliged to appear at the hearing.

On the other hand, if it was called to the hearing by quotation but she does not attend and is not represented by a lawyer, she is considered to have abandoned her claim for compensation. In this case or if it had previously waived it, it may bring proceedings for compensation for its damage before the court. The court of law must be seized by subpoena or by request.

Who shall I contact

The civil party may appeal of the court's decision, but only as regards compensation for his loss. She cannot appeal the criminal conviction (prison, fine...).


a victim who was not able to file a civil claim before the judgment was delivered may bring an action before the court. It can also seize the Victims Compensation Commission (Civi) or the Crime Victim Recovery Service (Sarvi).

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