Prosecution – France

1. Crimes
2. Making a Police Statement
3. After Questioning

This section refers to situations in which migrant sex workers are subjected to criminal investigations.
Please note:
When using the term “crime”, we mean an infringement of criminal law. When using the term “offence”, we mean an infringement of administrative law if there are sanctions attached to it.


1. Crimes

In France, sex workers may commit the following crimes in the course of their work:

  • facilitating prostitution by renting rooms/apartments to another prostitute;
  • pimping;
  • employing prostitutes;
  • soliciting clients. Soliciting is very widely interpreted by police. It means not only asking for money or addressing a potential client; in some cases, it may be enough to be in the street looking for clients. All in all, it can be said that police acts at their discretion, meaning they might call all kinds of activities “soliciting”.
Please note:
Prostitution in itself is not a crime.

2. Making a Police Statement

A. Right to Remain Silent

When someone suspected of a crime is interrogated by the police, she is entitled to remain silent. Even in answering questions about other people she need not say anything that incriminates herself.

B. Translator

The suspected woman has a right to demand an interpreter if she is not a native speaker. If she does not trust the interpreter who is provided she can refuse him/her and ask for someone else.

C. Lawyer

The woman also has the right to answer questions only in the presence of her lawyer.
Hint: Memorize a lawyer’s phone number.

D. Custody

The suspect can be held in police custody for 72 hours. After that, a judge has to decide whether the woman shall be detained for the purpose of a criminal investigation or for deportation. The suspect is entitled to her lawyer’s services in this process. For details, see above.

If a woman is detained, she should always make contact with a lawyer or/and an advisory centre. The advisors can visit and support her.

E. Victims of Trafficking in Women

Criminal proceedings against a woman may be halted if she is not only a suspect, but also a victim or witness of a more severe crime, such as trafficking in human beings and/or rape. Whether the proceedings are halted for this reason depends on the crime she has allegedly committed: if it is a consequence of her being a victim of the more severe crime, proceedings may be halted. It is not possible to make reliable predictions because it always depends on the exact circumstances.

However, in criminal proceedings against the perpetrator the women is then obliged to give evidence as a witness. This implies that criminal action can be taken against her for reasons of perjury/false testimony if it is proven that she has lied or omitted to tell the whole truth. She need not say anything that incriminates herself, though.

Proceedings are generally not abandoned if she has already been detected by the police as an illegal resident or illegal worker on several occasions.
For details, see above.

3. After Questioning

A. Immigration Offences

If a woman has allegedly committed an administrative offence, her work permit and her residence permit will be withdrawn if the offence is considered severe. A clandestine immigration into France, for example, is considered such an offence. But, in addition, working without a residence and/or work permit may have the following consequences:

  • penal proceedings,
  • expulsion,
  • detention for deportation.

B. Crimes

Other (sex work-related) crimes that the woman has allegedly committed could have the same consequences.

If a woman is also a witness in an important case, she can stay in France until the proceedings are finished. If necessary, it is possible for her to have police protection.

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