Cars with foreign number plates are standard prey. Vehicles are rarely stolen, but tape-decks and luggage left in cars make tempting targets. Good insurance is the only answer, but even so, try not to leave any valuables in plain view. If you have an accident while driving, officially you have to fill in and sign a constat à l'amiable (jointly agreed statement); car insurers are supposed to give you this with the policy, though in practice few seem to have heard of it. For non-criminal driving offences such as speeding, the police can impose an on-the-spot fine. Drink-driving is heavily penalized.
If you need to report a theft, go along to the commissariat de police of the arrondissement in which the theft took place, where they will fill out a constat de vol. The first thing they'll ask for is your passport, and vehicle documents if relevant. Although the police are not always as co-operative as they might be, it is their duty to assist you if you've lost your passport or all your money.
Should you be arrested on any charge, you have the right to contact your consulate. People caught smuggling or possessing drugs, even a small amount of marijuana, are liable to find themselves in jail, and consulates will not be sympathetic. This is not to say that hard-drug consumption isn't a visible activity: there are scores of kids dealing in poudre (heroin) in Paris, and the authorities are unable to do much about it.
Free legal advice over the phone (in French) is available from SOS Avocats (tel 08.03.39.33.00; MonFri 711.30pm; closed July & Aug).
Pages in section ‘Crime’: Foreign embassies, The police, Racism.
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