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Can you hide your face in a public place?

Verified 03 September 2020 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

No, it is forbidden to hide or completely cover your face in a public place: public roads and places open to the public or assigned to a public service. But there are exceptions, especially when the face is obscured by an object whose wearing is imposed by the authorities. This is the case with the obligation to wear a mask for health reasons, which is punishable by non-compliance. The penalties are more severe for forcing another person to mask his face.

The wearing of any clothing intended to conceal his face is prohibited:

  • on the public road (in the street, at the wheel of his car...),
  • in places open to the public (a shop, a bank, a cinema, etc.),
  • or in places assigned to a public service (town hall, station, school....).

This prohibition does not apply in private places, such as a home.

The prohibition does not apply if you are:

  • Clothing is required or authorized by law (e.g. a full helmet for a motorcycle)
  • The dress is justified by health reasons or professional reasons (protective mask for example)
  • The outfit is part of sports practices, festivals or artistic or traditional events.

It is also punishable to require a person, by reason of his sex, to cover his face by using threats, violence, coercion or abuse of authority or power.

General case

Possible sanctions:

At a demonstration

The fine can be as high as €1,500 if all the following elements are present:

  • The person is participating in a demonstration or is next to the demonstrators
  • The person deliberately hides his face so as not to be identified
  • There are circumstances which may give rise to the fear of a disturbance of public order.

There are two cases in which the penalty is not imposed:

  • when the event is in accordance with local practice (e.g. carnival)
  • or if the concealment of the face is justified by a legitimate reason (e.g. medical bandage).

It is also punishable to require a person, by reason of his sex, to cover his face by using threats, violence, coercion or abuse of authority or power.

In this case, the penalty may be as follows:

  • 1 year in prison,
  • and €30,000 fine.

Where the victim is a minor, the sentence shall be doubled:

  • 2 years in prison,
  • and €60,000 fine.