The prescription of public action makes it possible to extinguish and therefore put an end to all legal proceedings, even those which are in progress.

Prescription constitutes an exception peremptory (once established it is necessary, no dispute is possible) and public order to be relieved ex officio by the judge (Crim. of May 20, 1980, n ° 79-93.548; Crim. of February 14, 1995, n ° 93-85.640; Crim. of April 19, 1995, n ° 94-83.519).

Article 8 of the Code of Criminal Procedure specifies that it is for the public prosecutor to demonstrate that the limitation period has not been acquired and to determine its starting point.

As a result, the burden of proof of prescription does not weigh on the prosecuted parties, as the criminal chamber of the court of cassation regularly reminds us (Crim. Of 19 Apr. 1995, n ° 94-83.519; Crim. Of 23 September 2014 n ° 13-86.053)

And that it can be invoked at any time of the procedure and therefore in appeal or cassation even if it had not been raised before (Crim. Of January 20, 2009, n ° 08-80.021).

It has effects preventing any prosecution because the prescription:

  • Removes any criminal character from the prosecuted acts
  • Constitutes a legal ground for dismissal
  • Makes it impossible to bring a civil action before the criminal judge (art 10 of the code of criminal procedure).

Common law deadlines

Warning : The statute of limitations for crimes and misdemeanors have been doubled by Law 2017-242 of February 2, 2017

  • The crimes: 20 years from the day the crime was committed (Article 7 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
  • Offenses: 6 years (article 8 of the code of criminal procedure),
  • Tickets: 1 year and this, even if the contravention is related to an offense (article 9 of the code of criminal procedure) from the commission of the offense

In terms of financial delinquency, the starting point of the limitation period will start from the revelation of the facts and not from their commission. In addition, we will no longer be able to prosecute facts dating back more than 12 years. This considerably limits the heads of prosecution.

Special deadlines

Shorter deadlines

  • Press law offenses: 3 months from the day of commission (art 65 and 65-1 of the law of July 29, 1881)

Longer delays

  • Imprescriptibility crimes against humanity

Minors:

  • 30 years from the commission of the facts for the crimes provided for in Articles 706-16,706, 26-706 and 167-214 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Articles 1-XNUMX et seq. of the Criminal Code.
  • 20 years from the majority of the victim for the crimes of article 222-10 CP (violence resulting in mutilation or permanent disability) and the offenses of articles 222-12 (violence resulting in an ITT for more than 8 days on under 15); 222-30 (aggravated sexual assault on a 15-year-old minor) and 227-26 CP (aggravated sexual assault on a 15-year-old minor)
  • 10 years from the majority of the victim for the offenses of article 706-47 CCP (assault or sexual assault on a minor of 15 years without aggravating circumstance; procuring and recourse to prostitution of a minor)
  • Imprescriptibility crimes committed against minors provided for in articles 211-1 to 212-3 of the penal code.

The starting point of the limitation period

The principles:

  • Instant infractions (consumed in the same unit of time)

The limitation period begins to run from the day after the day on which the offense is committed.

Ex: theft

  • Continuing offenses (the effects of the offense last over time)

The limitation period does not begin to run until the day on which the infringement ceases.

Ex: concealment (limitation begins to run from the day the fraudulent detention ends)

  • Habitual offenses (which results from several facts the repetition of which is punishable by law)

The limitation period does not begin to run until the day of the last act constituting the offense)

Ex: malicious telephone calls the limitation period only runs from the last call; the illegal practice of medicine, the prescription only runs from the last act performed…).

The exceptions:

  • Legal exceptions

The statute of limitations for crimes and offenses committed against minors does not begin to run until they come of age.

  • Jurisprudential exceptions

Ex: the prescription of the offense of fraud (instantaneous offense consumed by the remittance of funds) does not begin to run until the last remittance.

Acts interrupting prescription

Articles 7, 8 and 9 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provide that any act of investigation or prosecution is to interrupt the limitation period.

In this case, everything has to be redone. The period already elapsed is erased (it is lost) to make room for a new counting of the limitation periods.

According to the Court of Cassation, all “acts which aim to find an offense, to gather evidence, to find the perpetrators” are interruptive (Crim., Of February 20, 2002, n ° 01-85.042)

It's about :

  • Civil party constitutions
  • Acts to set public action in motion
  • Direct summons before the criminal court,
  • From the introductory indictment
  • Investigation instructions by be transmitted;
  • Reports from investigators noting an infringement
  • Minutes of futile research

Suspension of prescription

It only stops the course of the prescription without erasing the elapsed time. So unlike the interruption, we do not start from zero).

This concerns preliminary exceptions, or the implementation of an alternative measure to prosecution (reminder of the law, penal mediation, etc.).

As long as they are in progress, these measures suspend the limitation periods and if they are unsuccessful, the period resumes as if the measure had not taken place.

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