Definition of CRPC
The CRPC, or Comparution sur Reconnaissance Préalable de Culpabilité, is inspired by the American procedure of « pleading guilty ». This procedure, instituted by law n°2004-204 of March 9, 2004, came into force on October 1, 2004 and is set out in articles 495-7 to 495-16 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
La CRPC is an alternative to prosecution, just like the penal composition. It allows the Public Prosecutor to propose a sentence directly to the defendant, thus avoiding a trial before the criminal court. It is subject to two conditions. Firstly, the offence charged must be a misdemeanor punishable as a principal penalty by a fine or imprisonment for a period of less than or equal to 5 years. In addition, the CRPC can only be implemented if the defendant admits to the acts of which he is accused.
In practice, the use of the CRPC varies in each jurisdiction according to the policy of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, depending on the local conception of the proper administration of justice.
For example, the CRPC is widely used in matters of traffic offenses for the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol (e.g., drunk driving).
The person against whom a CRPC is being considered is summoned by the Public Prosecutor or by COPJ (summons by the judicial police officer).
During this procedure, the Public Prosecutor takes statements from the defendant in which he or she acknowledges his or her guilt with regard to the acts of which he or she is accused and formulates a proposed sentence. If the defendant accepts the proposed sentence, he or she is then presented to the President of the Tribunal de Grande Instance (or, in practice, by a magistrate delegated by him or her), who approves the appearance on preliminary recognition of guilt by a reasoned order that will be res judicata in the absence of an appeal, and which will close the procedure. If the defendant does not accept the proposed sentence or if the judge refuses to approve the CRPC, the Public Prosecutor must then refer the matter to the criminal court..
Some public prosecutors opt for the technique of double summons for the CRPC: from the outset, in addition to the summons for the CRPC, they provide for a hearing before the Correctional Court in the event that the CRPC is not successful. However, this practice was sanctioned by the Court of Cassation in a decision of the Criminal Division of October 29, 2008, n°08-84857 (https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichJuriJudi.do?idTexte=JURITEXT000019739163). This practice is provided for in article 495-15-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Council specified, in a decision of December 10, 2010, that in this hypothesis the formalities accomplished during the CRPC should not be transmitted nor invoked before the Court subsequently seized. (https://www.conseil-constitutionnel.fr/decision/2010/201077QPC.htm)
The CRPC in criminal defense
The assistance of a lawyer is mandatory
The assistance by a lawyer is compulsory during an appearance on preliminary recognition of guilt. A CRPC without a lawyer is therefore impossible because no one can waive their right to be assisted in this way.
Although the CRPC procedure is generally initiated by the public prosecutor, it can also be requested by the accused or by his or her lawyer when there has been a summons or referral to the prosecutor for the purpose of appearing before the criminal court. Thus, when the interests of his client allow it, Alexandre-M. BRAUN may request the use of the CRPC procedure.
The role of the lawyer during the proceedings
During the procedure of appearance on preliminary recognition of guilt, Alexandre-M. BRAUN will ensure that the rights of the defense are respected. In this respect, he will take cognizance of the file and verify that its elements justify an admission of the facts.
In the same way, he makes sure that the admission of guilt by his client is real and in his interest, in order to advise him in the best possible way. His practice allows him to know the advantages and disadvantages of the CRPC, and thus to be able to evaluate if this procedure is the most appropriate for his client, depending on the case
After the public prosecutor has proposed the sentence, the defendant has the right to a confidential interview with his or her lawyer before giving his or her answer. During this interview, Alexandre-M. BRAUN explains to his client the content and the e effects of this proposal. He then advises him on the follow-up to be given, taking into account his interests and the elements of the case file and ensures that the proposed sentence is adapted to his client’s situation.
Alexandre-M. BRAUN also verifies that the file does not contain any nullity or procedural defect that could be in the interest of his client and that his rights have been respected since the beginning of the procedure.
The CRPC for victims
Alexandre-M. BRAUN also defends the victims during the procedure of the appearance on preliminary recognition of guilt.
Indeed, if the CRPC is essentially devoted to the accused, it must also preserve the rights of the victim.
Maître BRAUN assists his client during the homologation of the CRPC, as the victim does not take part in the proposal phase. During the homologation hearing, he informs his client of the advantages of filing a civil suit and advises him on the evaluation of his damages. He then makes every effort to ensure that his client obtains compensation for the damage suffered.