10 Things U.S. Criminal Defense Lawyers Should Know About Defending a Case in France

22 May 2019
Access the publication here

Debevoise’s White Collar & Regulatory Defense Group today launches a new guide to help lawyers navigate the differences between French and U.S. criminal justice systems.

When we introduced our 2017 “10 Things U.S. Litigators Should Know about Court Litigation in France” guide, we outlined the substantial differences between U.S and French court litigation rules and practices. This is even more acute when comparing criminal justice systems.

This guide provides a practical, real-world perspective based on the authors’ direct experiences. Some of the key characteristics of the French system that we explore and contrast with U.S. practices include:

  • How investigations work and what rights suspects have at this stage of the process;
  • The role of judges in leading the most complex investigations;
  • The ability of a victim to initiate a criminal investigation where a prosecutor has declined to do so;
  • The relative lack of plea bargaining and other negotiated outcomes;
  • The prevalence of public trials with no jury;
  • The relatively limited pre-trial role of defense lawyers;
  • The lack of sophisticated or detailed rules of evidence;
  • The advance organization of the trial record;
  • The lack of privilege for internal communications of in-house lawyers;
  • The active role of bench judges during trial;
  • The almost unlimited right to appeal, and the nature of appeal as essentially a new trial.