Driving offences and penalties in France
Before registering your car in France, it is good to get familiar with driving rules and driving offences penalties in France. If many things might be similar to your country, you will also find out that there are differences. Drink driving offence code and penalties, how does the fine system work, how to pay… Let’s dive right now into those subjects.
And about the obligation or not to own the international driving permit in France, click on the link to read our articled dedicated to that subject.
Driving offences and penalties in France in a nutshell
In France, there are 4 main types, divided in “classes”, of offences penalties. Those are valid for minor to medium offences. When it’s more serious, you will have to go to the court and the judge will determine the fine amount.
- First Class fine: €11 (no discount for quick payment – €33 for late payment): parking offences (except no payment in case of paid parking. In that case it’s the municipality that fixes the price of such offense)
- Second Class fine: €35 (€22 for quick payment – €75 for late payment): offences related to unpaid toll road, proof of insurance or turn without winker
- Third Class fine: €68 (€45 for quick payment – €180 for late payment): speeding offences less than 20 km/h, and when max speed limit is above 50 km/h
- Fourth Class fine: €135 (€90 for quick payment – €375 for late payment): most road offences, like driving without a seatbelt, dangerous overtaking, crossing or overlapping a continuous line, mobile phone usage while driving, etc.
- Fifth class: €200 (no discount for quick payment – €450 for late payment): speeding 50 km/h above the limit
As you can see most driving offences in France lead to a fourth class penalty. You have 45 days to pay the standard amount. To avail the discount for quick payment, you need to pay within 15 days by cash or cheque or within 30 days online. If you were handed the ticket, you must pay within three days. It is always advised to pay online as you just have to provide the offence reference (E-payment no and key) to the system to know the exact amount to pay. It’s also easier to trace the payment when paying online. To pay, click on the link below:
France speeding fines: when you might get a speeding ticket? How much?
What is the fine for speeding in France? It ranges from 68 to EUR 135 if the speeding is not more than 50 km/h above the limit. How much is a speeding ticket in France, precisely? Here are the fines amounts:
- Speeding up to 20 km/h above the limit outside cities: EUR 68
- Speeding up to 50 km/h above the limit: EUR 135
- Speeding exceeding 50 km/h above the limit: Up to EUR 1,500 (amount will be determined by a judge), up to EUR 3,750 in case of recidivism
In France, speeding cameras apply a tolerance margin of 5%.
Can UK drivers be fined for speeding in France?
Before the Brexit, it was the case because of the European cross border enforcement directive. Now that the UK is out of the EU, this agreement is no more. Therefore you won’t get a French speeding ticket in your mailbox. You might only get fined on the spot. The old system in which France enforces speeding fines might come back if a bilateral agreement is signed with the United Kingdom. But so far, it has not happened.
Driving offences: when will you have to meet a judge?
In most cases you will get a fourth class ticket if you commit a driving offense. However, when serious a penal procedure will be triggered. In certain cases, a much heftier fine will have to be paid if it’s your first offense of that type. The most common road penal offences when driving in France are the following:
- Driving without driving licence: €800 the first time. If caught a second time you will have to go to court.
- Driving without insurance: €500 the first time. If caught the second time, you will have to appear in court
- Driving with a fake driving license: up to five years jail term and up to €75,000 fine
- Crash with injuries to third parties: jail time up to 5 years, fine up to two €75,000, driving ban up to five years + other sanctions
- Drink driving limit: see the paragraph below dedicated to driving under influence
- Driving under influence of drugs: fine up to €4,500, jail time up to two years, car confiscation
- Hit and run
In case of a serious offense, the judge can confiscate the vehicle, or even seize it and sell it. Any of those offences will be added to you criminal record.
Speed limits in France
Here are the main rules regarding speed limits in France. Those are applicable unless a sign imposes another limit. Please note that young drivers are subject to lower limits at high speed:
- Motorway: 130 km/h – 110 for young drivers
- 2-lane roads separated by a central structure: 110 km/h – 100 for young drivers
- Two-lane roads not separated by a central structure: 90 km/h – 80 for young drivers
- One way roads outside of cities or inhabited zones: 80 km/h
- In cities and inhabited zones: 50 km/h or 30 km/h
In case of rain, speed must be reduced to the limit that applies to young drivers. In other words on highways speed is limited to 110 km/h.
Drink driving offence code and limit
What are the drink driving laws in France? The drink drive limit is 0.5 g per liter of blood for experienced drivers. It corresponds to 0.25 mg of alcohol per liter of expired air. The threshold falls to 0.2 g per liter of blood for young drivers holding a probationary license.
Between 0.5 g and 0.8 g per liter of blood, you will have to pay a standard fine (4th class). Above 0.8 g per liter of blood, it is a criminal offence. Driving under the influence of alcohol exposes you to penalties, here are the penalties you will be exposed to in the event of a positive test.
As a rule of thumb, 0.5 g equals roughly to 2 drinks (any kind of) based on the quantities served in restaurants and pubs. So yes, you can drive and drink in France, but very moderately!
Drink drive limit France vs UK
In the UK, the drink drive limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Converted to the French scale, it means 0.8 g of alcohol per liter. The tolerance in France is therefore much lower. You would have to drink almost 40% less than you do at home.
Drink driving limit in France: penalties
For a blood alcohol level that does not exceed 0.8 g, here are the possible sanctions in case of drink driving:
- A fixed fine of 135 €
- 6 points withdrawal on your driving license
- Driver’s license suspension (3 years maximum)
- Your car can be confiscated
Above that level, the French drink driving offence code holds the following provisions:
- A fine of up to € 4,500
- Prison sentence (2 years maximum)
- Driver’s license confiscation
- Administrative suspension (1 year maximum)
- Cancellation of the driving license
- The obligation to follow a road safety awareness course
- 6 points withdrawal on the driving license
- Temporary car confiscation, unless a passenger is able to drive
- The obligation to equip your vehicle with an EAD (Anti-Start Breathalyzer)
- Car confiscation
FAQ driving offences and penalties in France
Yes. Anything that does not lead to a fourth class offence is criminal, and therefore will be visible in your French criminal record.
In France, no. Until 1959, there was nothing preventing people to drink and drive. As of 1959, police could fine people driving under influence, but in an arbitrary way (you had to be really, really drunk). In 1970, people could still drink 6 glasses of wine without risking more than a fine. From 0,8 gr of alcohol per blood liter in 1970, maximum level has dropped to 0,2 g.
Driving offences and penalties in France say that no points are deducted for driving without insurance.
There are quite some lawyers and law offices specialized in driving offences. They offer their services in English. To find one, Google is your best friend. Just type “driving offence lawyer” + your city.
It depends how careless. In principle no, as “dangerous driving” is an offence that leads to a fourth class offense. However, if that careless driving lasted for a while, it can be requalified by police officers.
There is no lenience for first offence in case of drink driving as there is for driving without insurance. If you are above 0.8g, you will have to go to court. However the judge will be less severe if it’s your first time.