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In many civil law countries (e.g.: France, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Brazil) a contravention is a non-criminal offense, similar to an infraction or civil penalty in common law countries.


Contravention is, in French law, an act which violates the law, a treaty or an agreement which the party has made. It designates a minor infraction, as opposed to a delict or misdemeanor, or a crime. Any infraction of a law or regulation enforced by the agents of the State executive, that is not punishable by more than a €3000 fine for a person, is considered as a contravention. The fine may also be accompanied by an additional sentence (peine complémentaire).


Contraventions and their penalties are determined by the executive organs of the French State, unlike délits and crimes which are determined by the legislative organs (Parliament Senate), as per Article 34 of the French Constitution of 1958.
The executive organs include:

  • The President of the Republic
  • The government (Cabinet)
  • The local government (prefects of regions and departments)
  • The department and region Councils
  • The police prefect of Paris
  • The town Council and Mayor


As previously stated the maximum fine for an individual is €3000, and the maximum for a corporation or collectivity is €45,000.

The additional penalties are defined in the Article 131-10 of the Code Pénal. They include:

  • Prohibitions (e.g. prohibition of residency in the country (for foreign individuals only), prohibition of civil and family rights)
  • Forfeitures (e.g. loss of the French nationality - extremely rare)
  • Incapacity (e.g. prohibition to take action on one's own property)
  • Retraction of a right (e.g. confiscation of driving licence)
  • Obligation to seek treatment (e.g. obligation to prove a medical treatment has been followed)
  • Obligation of action (e.g. obligation to reimburse the victims)
  • Immobilisation or confiscation of an object (e.g. confiscation of weapons or drugs etc.)
  • Confiscation of an animal (previously considered as objects)
  • Closure of an establishment
  • Obligation to publish the court decision publicly, and since the law n°2004-575 in date of June 21, 2004 obligation to communication the decision to the public by electronic means (internet).

The penalties are determined by the legislative organs: Assemblée Nationale and Sénat, or the government in the cases defined in article 49-3 of the Constitution (attribution of certain legislative rights to the government, in particular cases). There are 5 classes of contraventions, each having a progressively higher maximum fine.

Classification of the contraventions Seriousness of the offense.
1st class Non public slander and insult
2nd class Involuntary attack on a person's physical integrity having caused no work incapacity (Incapacité temporaire de travail (fr), ITT)
3rd class Threats of violence
4th class Light violence
5th class Willful violence having caused an incapacity to work shorter or equal to eight days.

See also[edit]