Fiches Belges
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Fiches Belges: France

Observation transfrontalière (801)



Is this measure possible in your Member State under International Judicial Cooperation?

Cross-border observations enable criminal investigators of foreign authorities who are conducting, on their territory, observation/surveillance of a person believed to have comitted an offence, to cross the border from their territory in order to continue their observation on the whole of the French national territory. There are two types of cross-border observations: ordinary cross-border observations (OTO) and urgent cross-border observations (OTU). The first type (OTO) involves making a request for authorisation before crossing the border, in cases which are not urgent, relating to extraditable offences punishable under French law by at least two years' imprisonment and punishable by the foreign State by a prison sentence of at least one year. The second type (OTU) involves making a request for authorisation after crossing the border. Authorisations for urgent cross-border observations (OTU) are limited to the categories of the most serious offences. These requests for mutual assistance take a simplified form and are sent via officer-to-officer (law enforcement) cooperation channels. On completion of a cross-border observation operation the investigators conducting the operation produce a report of the observations carried out on the foreign territory. It usually involves making a summary report but the French authorities can ask the foreign officers who have entered French territory to remain at their disposal and to contribute to an investigation concerning the operation. The conventions set out the terms of engagement of the role of the observing investigators.



International legal framework applicable for this measure in your Member State

This measure is provided for in article 40 of the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement (CAAS) of 14 June 1985 and also in article 12 of the Paris Agreement with Switzerland.



* receive the request/decision for judicial cooperation

The authorisation to observe (conduct surveillance on) a person on French territory, transmitted by the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police, is issued, in writing, by a magistrate of the Office of International Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (BEPI) of the Directorate of Criminal Affairs and Pardons (DACG) on weekdays, and in the evenings and at weekends the authorisation is granted to the foreign authority by the duty magistrate of the DACG. Conditions may be attached to the authorisation. The authorisation applies to the whole of the national territory. The offices of the prosecutors general of the jurisdictions concerned and the prosecution services of the interregional jurisdictions specialised in organised criminal matters (the JIRS) are informed of the granting of the authorisation.

* execute/recognise the measure (if other than the receiving authority)




Accepted languages for the request/decision




Deadlines for the execution of the request/decision (where applicable)

For an ordinary cross-border observation (OTO) it is necessary to send a request for an authorisation in advance, before the border is crossed. Urgent cross-border observations (OTU) must be stopped if France requires this after having been informed of the crossing of the border or after having received the request or if the authorisation was not given within 5 hours of the border being crossed (as required under the Schengen Convention) or within 12 hours (as required under the Berne Agreement).



a. Special requirements

The actions that the observing officers are permitted to carry out, while complying with the law of the contracting party [of the Convention or Agreement in box 2 above] on whose territory they are conducting the observation, exclude, in general, any coercive actions. Thus, while they can make various observations, they can conduct surveillance (i.e. following/"tailing" a person or persons), take photographs, gather spontaneous statements or seize items which have been provided on a voluntary basis, they are not permitted to conduct telephone intercepts, to enter places of residence or places that are not accessible to the public or to question or arrest a person who is the subject of the observation. The questioning or the arrest of the person who is the subject of the observation can only be carried out by the French authorities. French officers conducting observations in foreign countries are officers and investigators of the judicial police, of the national police and of the national gendarmerie. In addition, customs officers who have obtained an authorisation in advance from the public prosecutor can exercise this right within the parameters of a judicial investigation relating to the trafficking of drugs, arms or explosives or the illegal transporting of toxic or hazardous waste.

b. Other useful information


Last reviewed on 6 juillet 2016 by Secrétariat du RJE
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