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Court Decision – Corporate Liability

When the owner of a vehicle is flashed for speeding, therefore without interception, and that said owner is a legal person, article L121-3, paragraph 3, of the Highway Code applies.

As a reminder, this paragraph provides that:

“When the vehicle registration certificate is drawn up in the name of a legal entity, the pecuniary liability provided for in the first paragraph falls, subject to the reservations provided for in the first paragraph of Article L. 121-2, to the legal representative of this society”.

The Court of Cassation, Criminal Division, of December 19, 2012, was seized of an appeal lodged by the public prosecutor against a decision rendered by a local judge who had acquitted a commercial company of the purposes of the prosecution on the count of non- compliance stop imposed by a traffic light.

The Court of Cassation dismissed the appeal thus lodged, stating:

“Whereas it follows from the contested judgment and the procedural documents that, on July 10, 2011, a vehicle, the holder of the registration certificate of which is the company SP…, was fined when crossing an imposing traffic light stopping; that a notice of violation was issued to this company, “taken in the person of its legal representative, Mr. François X…”, as “liable for the fine incurred”, the copy of the minutes of service having been given to the latter, in his capacity as manager, instead of the registered office of the company;

Whereas, in order to exclude the company SP… from the purposes of the prosecution, the judgment holds that pursuant to Article L. 121-3 of the Highway Code, when the registration certificate of a vehicle sanctioned for non-compliance with a signal requiring the stopping of vehicles is established in the name of a legal person, only the natural person legally representing it may be declared financially liable for the fine incurred, provided that it has been cited and prosecuted in this capacity.

Whereas in the state of these statements, the judgment justifies its decision;

That indeed, for the application of Article L.121-3, paragraph 3, of the Highway Code, the notice of violation must be issued only to the natural person who was, at the time of the facts, the legal representative of the legal person holding the registration certificate and who, as such, is financially responsible for the fine incurred;

Hence it follows that the plea must be rejected. “.

Thus, only the legal representative, in this case Mr. François X…, a natural person, must be cited and not the legal person, company SP…, even if the precision had been added: “taken in the person of its legal representative, Mr. François X…”.

This is an eminently interesting decision because, as you know, the issuance of a notice of nullity does not interrupt the prescription of the public action… and therefore… let’s hope that the fact of invoking the nullity of ‘a summons drafted in the manner recalled by the high court may lead to the benefit of the annual prescription in the event that the prosecution takes its time to regularize the procedure and thus summon the legal representative…

Cabinet DAMY, Nice