The arrest warrant is an order to the police to look for the person against whom it is issued and to take him or her to the jail indicated on the warrant, where he or she will be received and incarcerated. The arrest warrant must be issued by the competent court. This may be a criminal court, the president of the investigating chamber of a court of appeal, the investigating chamber itself, the president of a criminal court, a criminal court, the enforcement judge or the juvenile court.

When issued by the investigating judge , the arrest warrant may only be issued against a person who is at large or residing outside the territory of the Republic. The investigating judge must first seek the opinion of the public prosecutor, on pain of nullity. In an important decision of 11 January 2017, the Criminal Division of the Court of Cassation stated that when the investigating judge issues an arrest warrant against a person on the ground that the person resides outside French territory, the necessary and proportionate nature of the use of this highly coercive measure must be justified by the circumstances of the case , the sole circumstance that the person resides abroad not being a sufficient reason..

The arrest warrant issued by the investigating judge remains enforceable after the investigation has been completed, as long as it has not been revoked, replaced or overruled by an express act of the judicial authority. The arrest warrant issued by a French court may be enforced on board a French-registered aircraft at a foreign aerodrome because, pursuant to Article 113-4 of the Criminal Code, French law is applicable on board a French-registered aircraft. It can be also enforced on board a ship flying a French flag.

Conversely, the French arrest warrant is not applicable as such on the tarmac of a foreign airport, in international waters or on board a foreign ship or aircraft. When the criminal court pronounces a firm prison sentence not accompanied by an arrest warrant, the enforcement judge may issue an arrest warrant if the convicted person is a fugitive or resides abroad, in accordance with article 712-17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

If the convicted person is found, the procedure will be somewhat different depending on the court that issued the arrest warrant. Finally, pursuant to article 135-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, any warrant for arrest or search is entered, at the request of the investigating judge or public prosecutor, in the wanted person’s file..

When the person is referred by the investigating judge to the criminal court, article 135-2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure relating to the enforcement of the arrest warrant can be applied, if necessary.

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