Police custody is a measure that deprives a person of liberty if there are one or more reasonable grounds for suspecting that he or she has committed or attempted to commit a crime or an offence liable to a prison sentence.
Police custody must be the only way to achieve one or more of the objectives listed in article 62-2 of the French Code of Criminal Procedure:
1° To allow the execution of investigations involving the presence or participation of the person ;
2° To guarantee the presentation of the person before the public prosecutor so that this magistrate can appreciate the follow-up to the investigation;
3° Prevent the person from altering the evidence or material proofs;
4° Prevent the person from putting pressure on witnesses or victims as well as their family or relatives;
5° Prevent the person from consulting with other persons who may be his or her co-perpetrators or accomplices;
6° To ensure the implementation of measures intended to cease the crime or offence.
This measure allows investigators to keep the suspected person at their disposal for a defined period of time, which in principle cannot exceed 24 hours. In some cases, police custody can last 48 or even 96 hours, depending on the gravity of the acts of which the person is suspected. In the case of a terrorist act, police custody can last up to 144 hours.
The attorney is the guarantee of the respect of the fundamental rights of the person in custody, and should be present as soon as possible, from the beginning of the measure, either designated by the person himself, or contacted by his family or employer. The person in custody also has the right to request the assistance of a court-appointed attorney. In any case, no questioning of the facts can be carried out by the investigators while waiting for the attorney to arrive.
Despite the fact that the lawyer does not have access to the case file at this stage, his role is crucial for the defense : as soon as he or she arrives, the attorney consults the minutes of the notification of rights, the medical opinion on the compatibility of the person’s state of health with the custody measure and eventually the minutes of the identity interrogation that may have been started in his absence.
The arrested person and his attorney meet for 30 minutes. During this confidential interview, prior to the questioning, the attorney explains the course of the procedure. This interview takes place in a room that guarantees the confidentiality of the exchanges, protected from eavesdropping by the police or gendarmes.
The attorney is present during the auditions and confrontations. At the end of the custody he or she can make written observations. Any placement in police custody is notified to the public prosecutor’s office, which monitors the measure and decides on its follow-up.
At the end of the custody, Maria Snitsar can continue to follow the person she has assisted in custody, whether he is released – for the possible continuation of the procedure, or in case of his deferment for presentation to an investigating judge or a court of first degree.