Informed of your complaint, the district
attorney orders a police investigation.
During this investigation, you
will be summoned repeatedly to answer all questions meant to clarify the circumstances
of the rape.
You will be asked to try and identify
the attacker; if he is known, you will be asked to identify him officially in
a line-up. If he denies the accusation, the person in charge of the investigation
can decide on a confrontation: you can refuse this and request that it take place
in front of the examining magistrate.
the attacker was unknown to you and if there are no specific clues to help identify
him, this period of the investigation can be fairly long.
The results of the investigation
are given to the district attorney. He decides either:
- To dismiss the case when the attacker
has not been found or if he considers there is insufficient evidence. You will
not be automatically informed. It is up to you to contact the penal order office
(bureau d'ordre pénal) of the Circuit Court (Tribunal de Grande
Instance) in the jurisdiction where the attacker was picked up or where the
complaint was filed.
to give your case to an examining magistrate to examine the file. The examining
magistrate will summons you. or
to send it directly to criminal court. |
The examination period can be long
and painful; an attorney can accompany you if you have filed civil charges.
The examining magistrate
The grand jury
- He will be
designated by the President of the Tribunal and will summons you to the local
courthouse (Palais de Justice) where the attack took place. He has your
complaint and the elements of the police investigation as well as the statements
made by the accused and his attorney.
has total authority to gather all useful information. He looks to establish proof
to indict the attacker. Don't forget to give him all the elements that prove it
will look for any contradictions in your story in order to make his decision.
out any threats or pressure that the attacker or the attacker's circle made on
you: that is another penal offense.
you waited to file a complaint, he can ask you for your reasons and you may be
considered less credible.
He can order :
character investigation: you can't prevent this, even though rape is the only
case where this is done concerning the victim. This investigation is done without
your consent by the police or the sheriff's office. They will question your family,
friends, neighbors, landlord, employer, work colleagues, …
confrontation with the attacker who will appear with his attorney. You can
also appear with your attorney if you have filed civil charges.
reconstitution of the facts in certain exceptional cases.
to the site.
medical or gynecological examination (or several, including at the request
of the opposing party). Taking place several months after the fact, it can be
used to evaluate the damage caused by the rape. It is a questionable ordeal, useless
in the absence of physical scars. It proves nothing about it being non-consensual.
Get advice from your attorney.
psychiatric examination is too often imposed on women rape victims to evaluate
their credibility. It is unfortunately the sign that a woman's word is often ignored
when she affirms that she said "no." This expertise, although questionable,
does allow an evaluation of the eventual mental and emotional scars. Get advice
from your attorney.
grand jury (chambre d'accusation) has the same decisional powers as the
examining magistrate. It is before them that one files an appeal in the case of
dismissal or of dequalification. It reviews the files concerning the crime that
the examining magistrate gives them. It can either:
dismiss the case
it by sending it to criminal court
it to the Assizes.
judgement rests on the sincere conviction of the District Court jury or the three
judges in criminal court.
You can request a closed court once the President exposes the names of
the parties. The public will be banned from the courtroom until the end of the
arguments.Before the district court, a closed court proceeding is law when the
victim has filed a civil claim. In criminal court, the closed court is subject
to the decision of the Tribunal which can refuse it.
If there exists a doubt about the guilt of the defendant, he will be acquitted
in the district court or the charges will be dismissed in Criminal Court.
- You can appeal a judgement
in criminal or district court ; you have 10 days from the date of the deliberation
(criminal) or the judgment (district). If necessary, you can then request an appeal
in Appeals court but in this case, the facts are not re-examined: the Appeals
Court just assures that the law was properly applied and that procedure was respected.
- In criminal court,
the judgment will be pronounced at a later audience to which you will be summoned.
In district court, the judgment will be pronounced the same day.
of the column]
however that the role of this magistrate is not to judge the affair but :
- To examine "the
burden and the defense", that is to say de look for all the elements which
accuse or excuse accused person
bring charges against the aggressor
incarcerate or to grant provisional liberty
courtroom of the district court
Aside from the President, present in the courtroom are:
judges that assist the President of the Assizes court.
he is designated by the district attorney to read the charges against the accused
in the name of society by requesting application of the law.
Defense attorneys: they assure the defense of the accused person.
The Prosecuting attorney: through her attorney, the victim pleads and demands
justice for the prejudice suffered. If the victim hasn't filed a civil complaint,
she will be heard only as a simple witness.
The clerk: he is responsible for administrative tasks (writing up the minutes
of the hearing, drafting judgments, verification of judiciary expenses).
The bailiff: he is in charge of spectator services. He announces the entrance
of the judge, the beginning of the procedure and introduces the witnesses.
bar: the witness box.
The jury: nine randomly selected persons judge in the name of the French
people. After the hearing, gathered in the presence of the President and of his
assessors, they deliberate in secret. They vote by secret ballot on the guilt
of the accused (a majority of at least eight votes). The decision taken by the
Assizes court is called a warrant (arrêt).
press and the public: they are allowed in the courtroom, except
in the case of closed-door proceedings, decided by the President at the request
of the Attorney General or the victim's attorney, or the victim herself.
of the column]
- At the end of the
examination period which can be long and after having submitted his file to
the Public Prosecutor's Office, the examining judge can :
decides for dismissal if he considers that there is no reason to pursue
(insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges). You can appeal this decision
before the Grand Jury.
or transfer the case to the Criminal Court (dequalification in "sexual aggressions
" or "assault and battery"). The examining judge may ask your opinion.
It's a difficult assessment. By "dequalifying", the length and slowness
of the procedure is reduced but the rape is considered as a misdemeanor and not
a felony or even worse, it is sometimes reduced to a simple charge of "aggravated
assault ". Ask your attorney or rape crisis association for advice.
- or send the
case to the Grand Jury. This is the rule when it concerns a crime which should
be judged before a district court.
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