The Defender of Rights recommended on Wednesday the abolition of the tort fixed fine (AFD), an alternative method of criminal sanction to legal proceedings for a hundred minor offenses, a device supposed to lighten the procedures but criticized.
Established in 2016, the AFD is a fine drawn up in flagrante delicto by a police officer or a gendarme on a mobile device and which is worth conviction and registration in the criminal record, as for any offense.
The fixed fine procedure, originally reserved for fines, was extended to traffic offenses in 2016, before affecting others: in particular the use of narcotics, the illegal occupation of public or private land, or the occupation of building halls.
In her opinion, consulted by AFP, the Defender of Rights notes "very many difficulties in the implementation of the AFD procedure which compromise respect for the rights of users". Starting with "the risk of arbitrariness and disparities in treatment contrary to the principle of equality before the law" while the choice of whether or not to resort to this sanction is based solely on the assessment of the agent.
"This transfer of powers leads to the exclusion of the prosecutor and the judge and gives considerable power to the enforcement officers. The strengthening of this power also includes a risk of increasing discriminatory practices", considers the independent institution responsible for in particular to defend users against the administration.
The Defender of Rights recommends the pure and simple abolition of the AFD.
But this opinion - non-binding for the administration - is also accompanied, if necessary, by several ways of improving the system: clarifying the employment framework with agents, improving the information given to the fined person, increasing the control of the public prosecutor's office and streamline the challenge procedures.
The Ministries of the Interior and of Justice estimated on Wednesday in a joint press release that the arguments of the Defender of Rights were "unfounded".
Thus, the low rate of recourse against the AFD in the field of narcotics (2.1%) proves, according to Beauvau and the Chancellery, "the acceptance of the device by the respondents".
The two ministries also reject any risk of discriminatory practices on the part of the police, recalling that they act under the direction of the public prosecutor and obey the "local instructions" issued by each prosecution.
The government, invoking a simplification of the criminal response, had initially provided in its 2023 law on the orientation and programming of the Ministry of the Interior (LOPMI) to extend the procedure of the tort lump sum fine to all offenses punishable by a single fine or a maximum of one year's imprisonment, or nearly 3,400 offences.
After a compromise between the Senate and the government, the expansion will ultimately only concern 85 new offenses, such as tags, the offense of obstructing traffic or the unjustified use of the alarm signal in trains.
Since 2018, 840,000 AFD have been issued, including 330,000 against the use of narcotics since October 2020, according to figures from the authorities
05/31/2023 09:34:09 - Paris (AFP) - © 2023 AFP