What should a Frenchman do if he is arrested abroad?

Verified 16 December 2021 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs

If you are arrested abroad and you are a French national, you can benefit from the help of the French diplomatic authorities.

To do so, you must ask to contact the consulate of France responsible for the foreigner country concerned.

The consulate can provide you with a list of lawyers, if possible French-speaking, to defend you.

But the lawyer's fees are at your expense (or at the expense of your relatives) and not at the consulate.

Depending on the laws of the country concerned, you may sometimes be eligible for legal aid.

You must contact the local judicial authorities.

French legal aid cannot be granted in such a case.

If you are tried abroad, you may be sentenced to the same penalties as a citizen of the country in which you find yourself.

If you are sentenced to prison, you will be detained in the country that made the decision.

As far as possible, an official of the French Consulate will be present at the trial hearings. He will be a mere observer and will not speak. He will ensure that you are assisted, if necessary, by a translator and that your rights of defense are respected. However, under no circumstances may he take the place of a lawyer to defend you.

Your relatives who have remained in France can contact the Mission for the Protection of the Rights of Persons of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This service can provide information on how to help someone arrested abroad: sending money, organizing visits...

Who shall I contact