The Emergency Law No. 2020-290 of 23 March 2020 addressing the Covid-19 epidemic1 empowered the Government, for a period of 3 months, to take any measure, by way of Executive Order, that would normally require an act of Parliament to "adapt, for the exclusive purpose of limiting the propagation of the Covid-19 epidemic amongst persons participating in the conduct and organisation of hearings, the rules on territorial jurisdiction and on the composition of administrative and judicial Courts, as well as the rules relating to procedural deadlines and handing down judgments, publicity of hearings and their organization, the use of videoconferencing before these Courts, the means of seizing the Courts and of organizing adversarial proceedings before them".
Acting on these exceptional prerogatives, the Government issued an Executive Order adapting the rules of criminal procedure further to Law No. 2020-290, that was made public directly after the Council of Ministers of Wednesday 25 March 2020 (the "Order"). This Order enacts a series of measures to adapt French criminal procedure to the current health crisis and to the preventive measures that are necessary to limit the propagation of the coronavirus. The postponement of all hearings in criminal matters, with the exception of urgent matters (pre-trial detention matters, summary trials, etc.), had already been announced2. In addition, the Order adapts in many respects the procedures for measures and hearings, in light of the confinement, on the one hand, and of the shortage of Court personnel and law professionals, on the other hand. The Order also contains substantive provisions to adapt procedural deadlines.
This communication will sumarise the key provisions that are likely to be of interest to companies and their officers when dealing with criminal matters and procedural issues.
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