Theft, burglary

Verified 28 December 2022 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

Theft is the act of taking, without authorization, property or thing belonging to a person. There are several forms: single flight or aggravated theft by at least one aggravating circumstance. The penalties are more severe depending on the severity of the theft. Additional penalties may be added to the main penalties. The victim may file a complaint for the perpetrator to be prosecuted. We present you with the information you need to know.

Theft occurs when a person takes and removes property or something that does not belong to him.

The perpetrator is aware of the act committed, for He acts with the aim of taking the thing from others. For example, stealing a piece of fruit from a merchant's display in a market is shoplifting. “Pickpocketing” is theft that involves taking an object that the victim carries with them, in a pocket or bag.

Theft occurs regardless of the value of the stolen object.

In order for a flight to occur, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • The thief must not be your Civil partnership or partner (unless separated)
  • The thief must not be your father, mother or child
  • You must be the real owner of the property
  • You must not have abandoned the property (in a dump, on the street...)

Robbery between spouse or between child and parent is recognized only where the object of the flight is a document indispensable to everyday life: identity card, means of payment.

If the theft is committed by the person in charge of a protection measure (guardianship, curatorship,...)However, there may be criminal proceedings. This is the case with the guardian who steals from the person they are supposed to protect (e.g. take furniture).

Diversion of energy (e.g. manipulation of the neighboring electricity installation) is considered theft.

Some items are not abandoned and are so stolen : offerings in churches, wreaths laid on public monuments, things accompanying the remains of the deceased...

Aggravated theft is more serious than simple theft. It's a theft committed with at least one aggravating circumstance.

For example, the burglary is a break and enter. Forcibly entering a dwelling is an aggravating circumstance of theft.

Aggravating circumstances exist if the theft was committed in the following situations:

  • By several persons, perpetrator or accomplice (the one who assists or assists the perpetrator of the theft)
  • By a person who is a depositary of public authority (police officer, gendarme, for example)
  • By a person claiming to be a police officer, gendarme or postman, EDF agent,...
  • With violence before, during or after flight, resulting in total incapacity for work (TBI) of up to 8 days
  • In a dwelling room or in a place used to receive goods, with possible entry into the place by break, entry or climbing
  • In public transport or in a place allowing access to public transport (metro, airport, train station,...)
  • With destruction before or during flight
  • With all or part of the face hidden
  • In or near a school
  • By an adult with the help of minor(s)
  • Theft of a classified or archeological object, cultural property
  • Against a person who is vulnerable because of his age, his health, his pregnancy...
  • With the use or threat of use of a weapon
  • In organized band that is, an agreement between persons to prepare an offense
  • With severe violence (torture or barbaric acts) resulting in mutilation, permanent disability or death.

Theft is said to be "false police" when committed by thieves posing as police officers. Typically, one of the thieves speaks with the occupant of the dwelling, while the other steals items or money.

We're talking about car-jacking, where the theft of a car is carried out with threats or violence against the driver driving the car.

We're talking about home-jacking when the thief enters a person's home, in his presence and without his authorization, to steal the key of his car. The car can then be stolen without being damaged to enter and steal it.

Simple theft is less severely punished than aggravated theft.

Single Flight

Theft is punishable by 3 years in prison and €45,000 of fine.

It is the will to steal that is repressed. The penalty is applicable even if the author returns the object after its theft or if there has been only one attempt to steal.

There is an attempt to steal if the perpetrator has begun to commit the offense, but he has been stopped because of external circumstances. For example, the intervention of a security guard in a store prevents a thief from going to the cash register without paying with a bottle of alcohol under his clothes.

Theft aggravated

The sentence varies depending on the aggravating circumstances. It can range from 5 years in prison to life imprisonment and up to €150,000 of fine.

Sometimes two or three aggravating circumstances can be identified for the same person.

The penalty is applicable in the event of an attempt. For example, if a burglar knocks on the door of a house but leaves because an alarm has been sounded.

Additional penalties may be imposed. This can be the confiscation of the object used to steal (weapon, vehicle...), the prohibition to exercise an activity, a profession or to have a weapon. Another penalty exists for any foreigner found guilty: the ban on residence in France for a period of up to 10 years or permanently.

Please note

any person who avoids theft by organized band and identifying the perpetrators may not be condemned. This is called a repentant person.

File a complaint

You have to file a complaint to ask the court to sentence the perpetrator of the theft to a prison sentence and to pay a fine, during a criminal trial.

If the author is unknown, you can file a complaint against X.

You must file a complaint within 6 years. Otherwise, your complaint will not be taken into account by the courts.

On the spot

You must go to a police station or the gendarmerie of your choice.

Who shall I contact

The police or gendarmerie services are obliged to register the complaint.

The complaint is then forwarded to the public prosecutor for a decision on further action (investigation, closure without further action...).

If you don't know the perpetrator, you can fill out an online pre-complaint before traveling.

You will then get an appointment and the police or gendarmes will already have the elements of your complaint upon your arrival.

Online Pre-Complaint

By mail

You can file a complaint with the public prosecutor.

We need to send a free-form letter the court of law of the place of the offense or of the domicile of the offender.

Who shall I contact

The letter should specify the following:

  • Your marital status and full contact information (address and telephone number)
  • Detailed account of the facts, date and place of the offense
  • Name of the alleged perpetrator if known (otherwise, the complaint will be filed against X)
  • Names and addresses of any witnesses to the offense
  • Description and provisional or definitive estimate of the damage
  • Evidence: medical certificates, work stoppages, miscellaneous invoices, findings ...
  • Willingness to take civil action

File a complaint with the public prosecutor

Who shall I contact

You can send your complaint by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, by simple letter or by letter followed.

You can also file your complaint directly at the courthouse.

In any case, a receipt is given to you as soon as the Public Prosecutor's Office has registered your complaint.


in the case of a home robbery, you should not touch anything until the police or gendarmerie arrive.

You can be assisted by a lawyer if you wish.

Who shall I contact

Please note

if you have low resources, you can apply for legal aid to pay the costs of a lawyer in whole or in part.

Seeking compensation for damage

You can ask for damages for the compensation of the damage caused to you by the theft civil party following the filing of a complaint. You can request a copy of the statement of complaint. This part can be claimed by your insurance.

The damage to be repaired concerns both the object of the theft (if it cannot be repaid) and the ancillary damage (broken door, moral damage...).

Most of the time, the criminal conviction and the claim for compensation are processed at the same time.

Request return of stolen item

If the stolen item was found during the police or gendarmerie investigation, you can request its return during the investigation or after the trial.

You have to use the form and send it to the court.

Request for the return of an object placed in the hands of the court

Who shall I contact

Take other steps

If the theft concerns means of payment, you must block them with your bank:

If the theft involves important documents, you must report it to the relevant authorities:

If the flight concerns a mobile phone, you must request that your line be blocked. It is also possible to make a declaration of theft to your insurance.

In case of burglary in your home, you can be compensated through your home insurance. You need to assess your damage.

In case of theft or attempted theft of your vehicle, you can make a theft report to your motor insurance.

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