What happened when the police stopped me in France without papers or a converted license

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I haven’t grown up instinctively carrying identification with me (although I do understand why you should), I also have the bad habit of driving without my driving license – call me irresponsible. Anyway, I always wondered what would happen if the police stopped me without my papers, especially whilst driving. As you may know, we are supposed to convert our (UK) driving license to a French license after a certain period. Well I’ve been here 8 years and haven’t changed my license, like many, I quickly saw the advantage of not doing so, but have always known it was bound to catch up with me eventually. So what exactly happens when the police stop you without identification or a converted license?

Last weekend I was driving through Marly le Roi, approaching a roundabout there must have been 15 police officers randomly stopping drivers, and I was one of them. I already speak French with a strong English accent, but these situations really bring out the best performance – in true Mcvitie’s style!

Two police officers approached the window, I asked if I can step outside, they politely told me I can do as I like. The first thing they want to see are the vehicle papers – check! These are always in the car, so far I’m a perfect citizen, but this illusion didn’t last long. Next they wanted my personal ID, Oops, I frantically look in all my pockets knowing full well I didn’t have any. I even checked the boot – I still don’t know why – maybe my passport was there? They certainly weren’t impressed, luckily I did have a bank card.. One of the officers went away with my bank card to check their database.

Meanwhile, the officer who stayed with me said that he noticed I was in a rush. “A rush”? I replied. He said I seemed to be driving fast. I assured him WAZE informed me the speed limit was 50 kph which I respected. The witty officer quickly responded – “And did WAZE tell you to go out without ID”? – It’s exactly the kind of answer I would have given if I was the officer  – respect!

The other officer came back with my bank card, informing me that I wasn’t in the system. I assured him I had a license, but it was a UK license. Instantly they asked me how long I have been in France (the question I was dreading)… I told them 8 years. No, I hadn’t converted the license and they both explained the importance of doing so.. After-all with a UK license you cannot receive points for traffic infractions in France! There’s only one real way to react to this, like it’s the first time you’ve heard that you need to convert the license and that it totally makes sense that you should be penalized with points if you’re caught speeding. But let’s face it, what more incentive do you need to not change your license, you’re untouchable (except for fines), points do not reach a UK license, its so powerful! Every time you you get caught by a speed camera you smile, because you just outsmarted the system. Right?

No ID and an overdue license conversion.. So what happens next? Maybe I was fortunate, maybe the 28 degrees weather put them in a good mood, maybe the baby in the car helped… I don’t know. They told me, “normally we should fine you on this instance, but we won’t do that, just go to the “prefecture” and do the conversion”, next time it may be the ‘Gendarme’ and they won’t be as nice as us.

I thanked them for their time, apologized and assured them I’ll do as they said and drove off. I’ve actually been carrying ID with me since that day. As for the license, I don’t know if I’m ready to hand it over yet. Will the next officer be as nice and understanding? I do hope so.

I’ve decided to share this story to show what happened in a situation I’ve always wondered about, however – you should respect the law and convert your license. Expatriates Magazine does not recommend what is stated in the article.


“They let you off as you have no obligation whatsoever to ever change your UK license until the Uk is no longer in the European Union. The rules after that are yet to be negotiated. However at present its 100% optional whether you convert or not. Check the prefecture de police website its clearly stated.


The only case in which you must convert is if you’re caught with a points deducting offence (which happened to me) I jumped a red light and was caught. They send you a fine with a note at the bottom with an obligation to convert. If you don’t after that and then get caught again for example for speeding you will be done for speeding plus an invalid driving license. Thus ending the myth that using a uk license makes you immune to points punishments. Until you commit an offence there is no reason to convert it, just dont do it. Its a lengthy process for nothing. I converted mine as I had to. The process took 6 months or so and I received a clean french license” – PETER B







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