Conceived as a means of quickly judging simple offenses recognized by their perpetrator, the use of CRPCs is becoming increasingly frequent.
The sentences pronounced can nevertheless be significant, which justifies rigorous preparation beforehand because the lawyer can greatly reduce the sentence proposed by the prosecutor.
Appearance on prior recognition of guilt (CRPC) allows the perpetrator of an offense who recognizes the charges to quickly appear before a judge so that he or she can validate (pronounce) the sentence negotiated beforehand with the public prosecutor.
In which cases can a case be referred to the CRPC?
The first condition is the recognition of the facts. If this is not the case, the adversarial debate will have to be held before the criminal court.
If, during the course of the proceedings, it turns out that the charges are admitted, the decision to proceed by this route rather than before the criminal court rests with the public prosecutor. This choice can be made ex officio, but also “at the request of the person concerned or his lawyer”. Since the CRPC has (in principle) an advantage over referral to the criminal court, the lawyer can usefully raise this possibility from the stage of police custody.
But the prosecutor’s freedom is not total: the CRPC procedure is only possible if the offence is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years (495-7 CPP).
On the other hand, press offenses, intentional attacks on the integrity of the person and sexual assaults are excluded from the CRPC procedure, as are all offenses committed by a minor.
How does a CRPC procedure work?
As soon as he receives the summons, the accused must contact a lawyer (1). This will allow him to be better prepared for the appearance before the public prosecutor (2) and to limit the risk of refusal of approval at the hearing (3).
1. Preparing the case with a lawyer
If the defendant is not referred to the court at the end of police custody, he is first summoned to appear before the prosecutor as part of a CRPC. A summons to appear at a later date before the criminal court may also be sent at the same time in order to avoid having to summon him again if the CRPC fails.
As soon as you receive the summons, it is crucial to contact a lawyer, whose presence is mandatory. The lawyer will be able to assist his client:
- by verifying the reality and relevance of the recognition of the facts ;
- by assessing the seriousness of the alleged offences ;
- by gathering all the documents relating to his family, professional and financial situation ;
- by contesting the claims of the plaintiff that may be made.
2. Appearance before the public prosecutor
The defendant is first summoned to appear before the public prosecutor.
The prosecutor first verifies that the charges are still acknowledged, and then informs the defendant of the proposed sentence. A short debate between the lawyer and the prosecutor then begins on the quantum and nature of the sentence. Depending on the prosecutor, the sentence may be more or less reduced (for example, it is possible to change from a suspended prison sentence to a fine).
In any event, the proposed prison sentence “may not exceed three years or half the prison sentence incurred. The prosecutor may propose that all or part of the sentence be suspended” (495-8 CPP). The fine may also be suspended.
The prosecutor must also inform the defendant that he or she has 10 days to respond to the proposed sentence. Depending on the situation of the accused, the exercise of this period of reflection may lead to his being placed in pre-trial detention or under judicial supervision (art. 495-10 CPP).
If a sentence of imprisonment is required, the prosecutor also decides whether the sentence is to be carried out immediately or whether the offender is to be summoned to appear before the sentence enforcement judge at a later date for the sentence to be adjusted.
All these formalities are recorded in a report, under penalty of nullity of the procedure (art. 495-14 CP).
The appearance phase before the prosecutor is then over. The latter will then submit a request for approval to the president of the court or a delegated judge.
3. The sentencing hearing
At the approval hearing, the president of the judicial court or (more frequently) a delegated judge will hear the accused and his lawyer to verify the reality of the material facts, their qualification and to ensure that the facts are not contested.
The complainant may also be present at the hearing and file a civil suit at that time.
At this point, the judge has only two choices: to homologate or refuse to homologate the sentence. But in no case can he modify it. If the homologation is refused, the accused is summoned to appear before the correctional court where, notably, the admission of the facts in the framework of the CRPC cannot be used against him.