Fine or imprisonment: how long will it take to carry out the sentence?

Verified 29 June 2023 - Legal and Administrative Information Directorate (Prime Minister)

You've been fined and haven't paid yet? Imprisonment You have been sentenced to a sentence of Want to know how long you don’t have to serve your sentence?

We present you with the information you need to know.

Criminal penalties (fines, imprisonment, confiscation) imposed by the police court, the correctional court or the criminal court must be executed within a certain period. After this period, they may no longer be executed. They are then prescribed.

The limitation period for the enforcement of criminal convictions shall be determined according to the nature of the the offense (contravention, offense, crime).

It is calculated from the date on which the decision becomes final, i.e. from the day on which the call or opposition has expired.

Tableau - Time limit for the imposition of the penalty according to the nature of the offense committed

Nature of the infringement

Time limit for application


3 years


General case

6 years

Crime of terrorism or drug trafficking

20 years


General case

20 years

Crime of terrorism or drug trafficking

30 years


crimes against humanity are non-prescriptible. This means that sentences can be executed without delay.

The time limit for the execution of a sentence may be interrupted. This has the effect of ending the current period and restarting a new delay identical to the original delay.

The limitation period may be interrupted by a judicial act of the public prosecutor, the public prosecutor, the sentencing judge or the public treasury. Such an act may be, for example, arrest, imprisonment, seizure for the recovery of a fine, arrest.

In that case, the new limitation period shall start on the day of the act which interrupted the firster time limit.

Example :

A fine must be enforced within 3 years. If a seizure of the convicted person's bank account by a Commissioner of Justice does not succeed, a new period of 3 years starts again on the day of seizure.


the death of the convicted person prevents the execution of a sentence of imprisonment, but not the penalties of confiscation or fine that will be paid at the time of the settlement of the succession.

If the sentence has not been carried out in time, it can no longer be executed.

However, even if the sentence is time-barred, the sentence continues to have some of the following effects:

  • The sentence shall be entered in the criminal record. It can then be used to pronounce the recurrence or prevent the uttering of a reprieve in the event of a new conviction.
  • The additional penalties or accessories remain applicable (prohibition of hunting, prohibition of French territory, prohibition of stay...).
  • Civil remedies ordered remain applicable (compensation to civil parties by the payment of damages).


in case of presidential pardon, the sentence shall not be carried out in whole or in part. However, amnesty erases convictions pronounced.

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