Engine running, VP running

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RIGHT OF THE USER – While France is experiencing a strong heat wave, the municipality of Nancy has decided to sanction road users who leave their engine running when stationary or parked.

Unprecedented decision to fight against CO emissions2 and fine particles in the context of the heat wave, the municipality of Nancy has indicated that it will sanction any road user whose vehicle is stationary or parked with the engine running. This decision, which could extend to other cities, being legal, between air conditioning and PV, motorists will have to choose.

A decree, although old but still in force, dated November 12, 1963 and relating to the fumes produced by motor vehicles, precisely provides that: “parked vehicles must have their engines stopped, except in case of necessity, in particular when cold starts.

This prohibition has been taken up by the Highway Code which recalls more generally that motor vehicles must not emit smoke, toxic, corrosive or odorous gases, under conditions likely to inconvenience the population or compromise the health and public security (art. R 318-1).

The Court of Cassation has also recently validated the conviction of a fined motorist because his parked vehicle did not have its engine stopped (Cassation, March 22, 2022, 21-85.693) even though the fining agent had not mentioned on the report the emission of toxic fumes.

Know therefore that only the user of an electric vehicle escapes this incrimination and that for the others, they incur a fine of 135 euros and the risk of immobilization of their vehicle.



Beware of license plate scams

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RIGHT OF THE USER – How to protect yourself from a scammer who asks you for a sum of money by telephone, on the grounds that you have committed a traffic accident?

Most often, your interlocutor informs you that he was hit by your vehicle and that he was able to raise your license plate. He also tells you that he got your phone number through the prefecture.

This type of call should alert you because it is the license plate scam.

Be aware that an individual can in no way obtain the identity of the owner of a vehicle.

Access to the car registration file is indeed very limited and reserved for a limited list of institutions (police, insurer, prefecture, judicial service, etc.).

In such a case, it is advisable on the one hand not to follow up on the request and to lodge a complaint as quickly as possible by providing as many factual elements as possible.



Confiscation of the vehicle: even without being guilty of an offence!

Jean-Christophe MARMARA/Le Figaro

RIGHT OF THE USER – According to the law, the confiscation of a vehicle does not necessarily suppose that the author of the facts is the owner of the vehicle.

The Highway Code provides for the judicial confiscation of the vehicle belonging to a road user when he is the perpetrator of an offense (alcohol, use of narcotics or speeding). But the law also allows in certain cases the confiscation of the vehicle, object of the offence, even if the author of the facts is not the owner.

The judges thus authorized the confiscation of the vehicle used to commit the offense when it was the property of a company whose manager was none other than the convicted person. It was admitted in this case that this company was not a bona fide owner since the manager was in fact the only user of the vehicle.

Until recently, the confiscation of the vehicle could also be ordered against an owner who knew of his friend’s dangerous behavior on the road.

His bad faith, like his lies to the investigators to protect his friend, will have cost him his vehicle.



Can you be banned from driving for life?

RIGHT OF THE USER – Justiciable like no other, the offender of the Highway Code is exposed to a multiplicity of penalties that can be combined.

For the same act, the road user is most often, and contrary to the common law offender, sanctioned by a prefectural sanction then judicial of his driving licence, by a fine, a loss of points and can even see his confiscated vehicle… This defendant, unlike any other, can thus be given a life sentence and in particular a driving ban for life.

Indeed, in the event of manslaughter committed with hit and run, and/or a manifestly deliberate violation of a particular obligation of prudence or security, and/or in a state of manifest drunkenness or under the influence of a alcoholic state, and/or having used narcotics, and/or without a licence, and/or exceeding the maximum authorized speed equal to or greater than 50 km/h, the driving license is automatically canceled with ban on applying for a new permit for up to ten years.

But in the event of a repeat offense (within 5 years), the duration of the ban is then automatically extended to ten years and the court may even, by specially reasoned decision, provide that this ban is final.



Radar Parifex-Nano, the new multitasking radar

RIGHT OF THE USER – Equipped with extended verbalization capabilities, this new device promises to make life even more difficult for road users.

A new radar, which has just obtained its approval, will be deployed in the coming months along French roads. He has great verbalization skills. This radar used on a fixed station, but also for mobile use, is presented as the one that can verbalize speeding as well as non-respect of red lights, traffic in the wrong direction, crossing a white line, non-respect of safety distances, etc.

It uses 3D LIDAR technology for the first time, allowing the use of 360° scanning lasers that model the advance of controlled vehicles in three-dimensional space.

It will always be possible to escape the loss of points by denying being the driver of the vehicle. But the flashes may well crackle more often on the roads thanks to this new technology accompanying the announced disappearance of the signs indicating the presence of automatic speed cameras.

These panels will be gradually replaced by less precise panels announcing the presence of speed cameras over several tens of kilometres.



The risks of driving under laughing gas

RIGHT OF THE USER – More and more road accidents are caused by the inhalation of nitrous oxide. What are the risks for the consumer motorist?

The consumption of nitrous oxide, otherwise known as “proto” or “laughing gas”, is widespread, especially among young people.

Its misuse consists of inhaling the gas through a balloon, after having “cracked” the cartridge to open it.

Its ingestion causes euphoria, giggles, visual distortions and other hallucinations.

If the law n ° 2021-695 of June 1, 2021 prohibits the sale and the offer to minors, laughing gas is not to date part of the prohibited psychotropics.

The police can therefore neither control nor verbalize his consumption while driving.

In the event of an accident and, under the current law, the consumer user could only be prosecuted for loss of control or lack of control of his vehicle if the use of laughing gas was demonstrated. .



The security corridor in question

RIGHT OF THE USER – Any road user who does not adapt his speed and trajectory, during an intervention on a motorway lane or in the presence of a vehicle in distress, is liable to a financial penalty.

In response to the explosion of accidents affecting personnel and intervention vehicles on the motorway and broken down users on the hard shoulder, the public authorities have decided to set up an experiment on several motorways . It is based on new signage aimed at informing users about compliance with the “safety corridor”.

Don’t be surprised to discover this new road sign relating to the rules of conduct to be applied in the event of the presence of a vehicle that is immobilized or traveling at low speed on a lane or on the hard shoulder and using its lights distress or its special lights.

As a reminder, article R. 412-11-1 of the Highway Code provides for these obligations.

Thus in the presence of a vehicle equipped with special lights (intervention) or any other vehicle immobilized or traveling at low speed on the lane, on a shoulder, on an emergency lane or on an adjacent lane, whose the driver makes use of his hazard warning lights, any driver of a moving vehicle must when approaching him: reduce his speed and change lanes of traffic after ensuring that he can do so without danger.

If the lane change is not possible, the driver must move as far away as possible from the vehicle while remaining in his traffic lane.

The fact, for any driver, to contravene these obligations is punishable by a fine of at least 135 euros and which can reach 750 euros.



The risks of driving without technical control

RIGHT OF THE USER – Renouncing to pass his vehicle to the technical inspection exposes the motorist to criminal and sometimes even civil sanctions.

By the summer, nearly 5 million vehicles will have to pass the technical inspection test. The traffic jam announced to the centers in charge of checking the good condition of the vehicle in terms of safety and depollution should not deter users from respecting their legal obligations under pain of criminal and sometimes even civil sanctions.

As a reminder, the vehicle technical inspection must be carried out in an approved inspection center before the fourth year of first registration of the vehicle, then, thereafter, every two years. Vehicles with collector’s registration documents are subject to another less restrictive regime.

The owner of a vehicle who does not comply with these obligations is punished with a fixed fine of 135 euros. The vehicle may be subject to an immobilization decision and, in any case, the registration certificate is withheld. The owner is then issued a circulation card valid for 7 days to allow him to carry out the technical inspection.

The owner must present to the police a report of the valid technical inspection.

Is a vehicle in contravention of the technical control rules insured? The lack of technical control is not a cause of exclusion covered by the insurance code. The insurance must therefore indemnify third parties in the event of an accident.

In the event of an accident at fault, and according to the clauses of the insurance contract, only the additional cover taken out by the driver may be reduced or cancelled, but only if the lack of technical control is the cause of the accident.



Vehicle searches: what legal framework?

RIGHT OF THE USER – During a roadside check, can the police freely search a vehicle? The Court of Cassation has just recalled in a judgment of February 23, 2022 the rules applicable in this area.

The vehicle is not considered as an extension of the home, however it remains a private place whose visit remains supervised.

A judicial police officer (OPJ) may search a vehicle if there is a plausible reason to suspect the commission or attempted commission of a crime or offence. In this case, the vehicle must be immobilized for the time strictly necessary for the search to take place.

Failing this, the OPJ may be authorized by prior written decision of the public prosecutor, to search the vehicle as part of special operations aimed in particular at certain offenses (terrorism, possession of weapons, etc.).

Outside this framework, the OPJ can immobilize the vehicle while waiting for the instructions of the public prosecutor. The visit takes place in the presence of the driver or the owner of the vehicle.

If thirty minutes (in the case of a justified search to prevent serious harm to persons or property) have elapsed, without any instruction from the Public Prosecutor, the user is entitled to leave freely.

Customs officers have more extensive powers to investigate customs offences. However, they cannot proceed to the inspection of a vehicle for the observation of a traffic violation.

The Court of Cassation has just clarified that the search of the vehicle without the presence of any occupant was not regular. The presence of the person concerned by the search, visit or search is therefore now mandatory.



The motorist, a litigant not quite like the others

CHRONICLE – Over the years, the rules of law applying to traffic offenses have become derogatory to those governing our state of law. By spreading insidiously in our repressive arsenal, they now threaten our public freedoms.

With the recent deployment of radar cars, the authorities have just taken an additional step in the control of motorists. Nowadays, it is not good to be a traffic offender, who has been exposing himself for decades to the zero tolerance of the authorities. Each year, more than 26 million offenses are noted and processed by the authorities, and no less than 13 million points are deducted from the driving licenses of our fellow citizens.

In this area, justice is quick while the administration is exceptionally efficient. The road user is the only litigant faced with a “zero tolerance” policy.

Traffic law is undoubtedly the most important and densest contentious activity within our criminal courts. Sanctions fall, implacably, mechanically, to the point that many motorists have the feeling that it is better to be a common law offender than to be a traffic offender. Of all the “offenceists”, the motorist is the one who contributes the most to the funds of the State.

To deal with this mass litigation, drivers caught at fault are subject to a body of measures derogating from common law. Thus erecting traffic law into an exceptional law which, if we are not careful, could well threaten our rule of law and our public freedoms.

An overview of the system of repression put in place, as it exists and as it is applied, gives an idea of ​​the scale and gravity of the situation in which any motorist is one day or the other confronted.

First of all, the latter, unlike a common criminal, never knows the notion of impunity or amnesty. He exposes himself in the event of conviction to multiple cumulative penalties (suspension of the license, fine, loss of points, obligation of internship, prison sentence, confiscation of his vehicle). Thus, for a single offence, the “road offender” may accumulate no less than four to five sentences on average, whereas the common law offender will only suffer at most one or two (prison sentence and fine )!

An increasingly bureaucratized justice system will be able, in many cases, to inflict automatic penalties on him, sometimes without any adversarial debate, striking the validity of his driving license, until its cancellation, or even the ownership of his vehicle by a measure confiscation. These measures derogating from our rights and public freedoms bring the road user before his judge with a strong presumption of guilt and forced to demonstrate his innocence.

The denunciation erected into a civic act

But, before facing a judge, however tempted he may be, he will first be confronted with the powers of the administration. The prefectural authority can sanction him (and it does not refrain from doing so) without the intervention of a court by depriving him of the right to drive for up to 12 months. He is then obliged to pay the amount of the fine incurred beforehand so that his only right to appeal is admissible, then forced to execute court decisions even before he has been able to exercise his rights of defence. Even before speaking, he is presumed responsible for offenses committed with his vehicle. Because this litigant not quite like the others is in many cases forced to designate the driver of his vehicle, except to have to suffer heavy financial penalties if he does not do so. The authorities have made denunciation an act of good citizenship by now giving him a clear conscience in the name of road safety.

In the field of the administration of evidence, the motorist is confronted with the veracity of the report, because its mentions are authentic until proven otherwise.

His ordeal does not stop there, because he can only provide evidence to the contrary by witnesses or in writing. Not always easy, if not often even impossible.

In addition, the means of appeal have been removed in the matter of penalty points litigation. This is in addition to institutional obstacles to the right of access to the court by the authorities who arrogate to themselves the right to judge the merits of their disputes by filtering the right of access to the judge despite the multiple condemnations by the European Court human rights.

Normative madness

Since 2003, road repression policies and the generalization of automated checks have created a new form of crime, the contours of which now affect all citizens. Faced with this repression, little concerned and little guarantor of the rights of defence, the secular pillars of our rule of law resist but find themselves cracked. But for how long? The legislator bears a large part of the responsibility in the sterilization of motorist rights. Over time, it has abandoned its institutional competences in favor of regulatory power, exercised by non-elected authorities. This is how, by a simple decree and without any checks and balances, the speed could be lowered over a large part of the territory to 80 km/h. To have forgotten it, let us remember that at the end of 2018, the transition to this new limitation had largely contributed, if not caused, the anger of the “yellow vests”.

This normative madness of regulatory origin, but sometimes also of legislative origin, incorporates exceptional measures into our law. It distances the litigant from his judge by expurgating the elementary rights of the defense and is accompanied by an omnipresence of the administrative authority. Reconciling the requirement of road safety and respect for the fundamental principles of the right of defense of traffic offenders has become only an equation of principle for the public authorities. Even more worrying, this overriding right to which road users have been subject for decades foreshadows and silently but insidiously contaminates our criminal law in what is most restrictive and exclusive in the effectiveness of the rights of defence.