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Hearing of witnesses during criminal investigation

Verified 07 avril 2020 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

Additional cases ? Hearing during the trial

In the course of a criminal investigation, any person who can give information on the facts concerned or on the personality of the suspect may be heard as a witness. The procedure depends on the type of investigation. The witness may sometimes testify anonymously.

Any person whose investigators believe they have information about the case may be heard as a witness, if they are neither a victim nor a suspect in the case.

It is not necessarily a person who directly witnessed the offense. This may include, for example, a person who can provide information on the personality of the suspect.

The warned and the victim can point witnesses to be heard in the search for the truth. The decision to hear the witness rests with the investigation department.

  FYI : a minor may also be a witness. The validity of his statements can be analyzed by the judge.

The procedure depends on the type of investigation that is conducted.

Investigation for flagrante delicto

Investigation for flagrante delicto (or blatant investigation) is opened immediately after a crime or offense coming or being committed. It is managed by the public prosecutor..

The police or gendarmerie may then prohibit any person present at the place of the offense from leaving. The witness may be questioned on the spot to provide information on the facts and may be heard again later.

The witness called to the police station or the gendarmerie must obligatorily introduce yourself. The invitation may be in different forms: phone, mail... If he does not go to the summons received, the law enforcement authorities may seek him on prior authorization of the prosecutor.

If the needs of the investigation justify it (for example to avoid pressure on the witness), that person may be obliged to remain for the time strictly necessary for his hearing. This period must not exceed 4 hours.

The policeman or policeman shall draw up a report of the statements. The witness shall read it out himself, and may record his observations and sign. In the event of a refusal to sign the witness, the minutes shall state this. If the witness states that he cannot read, the policeman or policeman reads the minutes of his statements to him.

The witness must appear, but he is not obliged to make statements. Nor is he obliged to take an oath, that is, to solemnly declare that he will speak the truth.

The witness is not entitled to legal assistance.

Preliminary investigation

Preliminary investigation is an investigation led by the public prosecutor or ex officio by the judicial police officers reporting to the Public Prosecutor. This may be, for example, as a result of a complaint filed by the victim. It is not part of the flagrante delicto.

The police or the gendarmerie may call a witness in the case. The witness called to the police station or the gendarmerie must obligatorily introduce yourself. The invitation may be in different forms: phone, mail... If he does not proceed to the summons received, the police or gendarmes may seek him upon prior authorization of the prosecutor.

If the needs of the investigation justify it (for example to avoid pressure on the witness), that person may be obliged to remain for the time strictly necessary for his hearing. This period must not exceed 4 hours.

The witness must appear, but he is not obliged to make statements. Nor is he obliged to take an oath. The witness is not entitled to legal assistance.

If there are plausible reasons to suspect that the witness has committed or attempted to commit serious acts, he shall be heard as part of a free hearing..

The policeman or policeman shall draw up a report of the statements. The witness shall read it out himself, and may record his observations and sign. In the event of a refusal to sign the witness, the minutes shall state this. If the witness states that he cannot read, the policeman or policeman reads the minutes of his statements to him.

If an investigation has been initiated, a witness who witnessed the events may also write and give written testimony of his own to the police or the gendarmerie. To do this, he can fill out the form cerfa n°11527 or do it on free paper and hand it over to the police or gendarmes in charge of the case. This written testimony must be accompanied by a photocopy of the witness's identification.

Witness attestation template

Cerfa n° 11527*03 - Ministry of Justice

In that case, the witness may be summoned at a later date.

Judicial information

This is a investigation directed by an examining magistrate. It may take place after a preliminary investigation, on the same facts. A witness can therefore be heard at different stages of the procedure (for example, at the time of the police investigation and then at the time of the investigation).

The witness shall be heard at the request of the examining magistrate or if he appears spontaneously.

If he does not appear spontaneously, the witness shall be summoned by mail or city to appear by a bailiff, a policeman or a policeman.

The witness called or called is obliged to testify. If he does not come, the police or the gendarmerie can force him to come.

The witness may be heard by the examining magistrate himself, assisted by his clerk or by police and gendarmes investigating under the direction of the examining magistrate. The witness may be detained in their premises only for the time of his hearing.

In all cases, the witness must take an oath and say « the truth, the whole truth ».. Only minors under 16 years of age are exempt from taking an oath.

The witness does not have the right to remain silent and must answer the questions asked.

The witness is not entitled to legal assistance. He may be assisted by an interpreter. For minors, legal representatives must be informed.

The examining magistrate cannot hear a person review as a mere witness, without the assistance of a lawyer, for acts committed in connection with the offense.

If there are serious indications against a witness, he cannot be heard as a mere witness, but must be heard as a witness witness assisted..

Minutes of the statements shall be drawn up. The witness is invited to re-read his testimony before signing it. If the witness does not want to sign or cannot sign, the minutes shall state so.

A witness taking an oath in the course of an investigation, false testimony is considered a offense..

He can be punished by 5 years in prison and €75,000 fine.

In addition, failure to testify or take an oath may be punishable by a fine of €3,750..

If the witness has a legitimate reason for not coming to testify, he must notify the judge in charge of the investigation and present all the evidence (medical certificate...).

Territorial jurisdiction

Judicial police services and courts at the place of the offense which are competent to investigate, prosecute, investigate and try an offense.

On the authorization of the magistrate in charge of the case, a witness may declare the address of the police station or the gendarmerie as his home. If the witness has been summoned on account of his profession, he may declare his professional address as his address. For example, a police officer who testifies declares the address of the police station where he carries out his mission.

In the event of a crime or offense punishable by at least 3 years' imprisonment, the witness may be allowed to testify without his name appearing in the proceedings. This means that his testimony must be able to endanger his life, that of his family or his relatives. It is the judge of liberty and detention, who is seized by the judge in charge of the case, who may authorize it.

In certain circumstances (e.g. if his safety is no longer assured), the witness may be authorized to use an assumed name. If he is confronted by the suspect, the confrontation will take place at a distance. The witness will not be visible and his voice will be hidden. Revelation of identity or address is punishable by 5 years in prison and €75,000 fine.