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What is a Priority Constitutional Issue (QPC)?

Verified 10 juillet 2020 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

In court proceedings judicial or administrative, you can challenge the law that is applied if you believe it is contrary to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. You can ask a priority question of constitutionality (QPC) before the case is decided. If all the conditions are met, the Constitutional Council will examine the contested law and decide whether it should no longer be applied.

Priority issue of constitutionality: summary of the procedure

Priority issue of constitutionality: summary of the procedure - plus de détails dans le texte suivant l’infographie

A party to a lawsuit may ask a priority question of constitutionality (QPC) at any time in the proceedings.

The QPC may be brought at first instance, on appeal, in cassation (or in Council of State).

Several steps must be taken before the Constitutional Council could be seized. It cannot be entered directly.

There can be 3 steps or only the last 2 steps.

1mother step: when the trial judge (judicial or administrative court) or the appeal judge (court of appeal or administrative court of appeal) receives a QPC, he or she makes a first check.

Two choices are available:

  • if the conditions of QPC are not met, QPC is not transmitted in cassation (or to the Council of State). Proceedings continue.
  • if the conditions of QPC are met, QPC is transferred to cassation (or to the Council of State). The proceedings shall be suspended at first instance or on appeal.

2second step: when the Court of Cassation or the Council of State receives a QPC, there is a 2nd control.

Two choices are available:

  • if the conditions of QPC are not met, QPC is not transmitted to the Constitutional Council. Proceedings continue.
  • if the conditions of QPC are met, QPC is forwarded to the Constitutional Council. The proceedings are suspended in the Court of Cassation or in the Council of State.

1second step: when the Constitutional Council receives a QPC, two choices are possible:

  • if the law is found to be in conformity with the Constitution, the procedure shall resume.
  • if the act is repealed or repealed, it can no longer be enforced.

In a trial, if you believe that a law is contrary to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, you can apply QPC before the case is tried.

The QPC will first be examined by the court before which the trial is ongoing.

After examination, it may be transmitted to the Constitutional Council.

The Constitutional Council then judges whether the law is in conformity with the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

Only laws can be challenged in a QPC.

Constitutional rights and freedoms

Rights and freedoms are derived from the 1958 Constitution and the texts referred to in the Preamble to the Constitution.

The Preamble to the Constitution refers to the following:

  • 1789 Declaration of Human and Citizen Rights
  • Preamble to the 1946 Constitution
  • 2004 Environmental Charter

  Warning : you cannot invoke a text of international law like the European Convention on Human Rights.

Relevant laws

The contested text must be of a legislative nature, i.e. a law or part thereof. Statutory instruments such as an Order or Order may not be subject to a QPC.

The contested text must be directly applicable to your case. For example, if you are prosecuted for violating a particular section of the law.

Before a case is tried, the parties to a civil or administrative trial (applicant and defendant) or a criminal trial (defendant, civil party, public ministry) can pose a QPC.

The QPC can be asked regardless of the type of litigation (civil, criminal, administrative).

It may be raised at the first trial or at an appeal (call, appeal in cassation or appeal to the Council of State).

In criminal matters, if it's a case criminal, the QPC may only be brought before the examining magistrate. A QPC may not be placed before the Court of Assizes.

The QPC must be in writing and include a justification, that is, why the law is being challenged. This writing must always be apart from the others conclusions data to the court.

If a lawyer is required in a case, it is the lawyer who will take the QPC to court or court.

Who shall I contact

The court before which the question is asked must make a first examination.

The court seised of a QPC must consider the following points:

  • If the law is applicable to the case or procedure
  • If the law has not already been declared constitutional by the Constitutional Council (unless circumstances change)
  • If the question is serious or new

When a QPC is presented before a court or court of appeal (judicial or administrative), a review must be done immediately.

When a QPC is submitted to the Court of Cassation or the Council of State, a review must be made within 3 months.

Répondez aux questions successives et les réponses s’afficheront automatiquement

If QPC conditions are not met

If the QPC was submitted to a court or to a court of appeal (judicial or administrative), it is not transmitted to the Court of Cassation or the Council of State. Proceedings continue.

If the QPC was brought before the Court of Cassation or the Council of State, it is not transmitted to the Constitutional Council. Proceedings continue.

  FYI : no recourse is possible if the QPC is not transmitted.

If QPC conditions are met

The QPC is sent to the Court of Cassation if it has been submitted to a court or court of appeal.

The QPC is transmitted to the Council of State if it has been submitted to an administrative court or an administrative appeal court.

The QPC is transmitted to the Constitutional Council if it has been directly submitted to the Court of Cassation or to the Council of State.

The Constitutional Council must give its decision within 3 months.

Répondez aux questions successives et les réponses s’afficheront automatiquement

If the Constitutional Council declares the law constitutional

The law is maintained and continues to apply. However, the Constitutional Council may provide details on how the law is to be applied.

The case can go on. The law in question shall continue to apply, taking into account, where appropriate, the details of the Constitutional Council.

If the Constitutional Council declares the law unconstitutional

The law in question is repealed, that is to say, it is deleted, it can no longer apply. This can be done immediately or delayed until a date set by the Constitutional Council, while a new law is passed.

The case can be brought back to court, but the law can no longer be applied.

  Please note : a decision of the Constitutional Council cannot be appealed.