Say someone have made a criminal offense in one European country (say France), the (suspected ?) criminal is in a car or any others means in which he can escape law enforcement officers pursuing him in this country and cross the border of another (say Switzerland)

Can law enforcement of this country cross the border of this other country catch him and bring him back to the initial country by force ? If not what will happen ? Is this applicable with other countries (member of the EU) like Germany or Luxembourg ?

  • 1
    I don't know any specific of EU, but countries may have mutual agreements (which may also be a regulation from EU). I know that Brazil has agreements with Paraguay and Argentina that allow police officers to ignore international borders during a pursuit. Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 16:44
  • Further to @GabrielDiego's comment: I would suspect that most states sharing a border have bilateral agreements controlling this sort of thing. In Europe, such agreements have most likely been in place for decades, far longer than the European Únion or even its predecessor organizations.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 21:15
  • I would assume that French police officers have the same right to cross the border to Switzerland as any French citizens, so the "crossing the border" should be fine. Switzerland may have laws that only Swiss police officers may drive cars that look like Swiss police cars, and that might be a problem for French police cars. Arresting a suspect and forcing him back into France would be a completely different matter.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 14:34
  • @gnasher729 Switzerland probably also has laws about what kinds of arms are allowed to be carried by what people. It's also worth noting that Switzerland is not a member of the EU.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 4:15

2 Answers 2


Let's start with the basic rule on pursuits. The law enforcement officers of one country have no authority to even enter another country, let alone pursue someone (which often involves very dangerous driving), let alone use force in that other country, without the permission of the other country. This permission can be ad hoc, but countries can also enter into an agreement setting out different rules. Absent permission, the most you can do is notify foreign authorities and hope they pick up the chase when the suspect crosses the border.

There's no EU-wide rule (or at least wasn't as of 2008). The broadest relevant grouping is Schengen (among other things, getting rid of border checkpoints removes one obstacle to criminals fleeing over a border). The Schengen Convention contains a provision on hot pursuit. This doesn't let police arrest someone and take them back over the border, though; the most the chasing cops can do is detain someone until local police arrive to take them into custody pending the start of a formal extradition request (and countries can decide to not even let foreign police do that). If no request is forthcoming and the person isn't a national of the country where they're arrested, they have to be released within 6 hours.

Schengen's rules only allow pursuits for escaped prisoners and people caught in the act of committing serious crimes (countries can decide if that means a list of crimes in the convention, or just "extraditable offenses"). They also let countries set standing limits on length or time of foreign pursuits in their territory, and let countries order foreign police to immediately stop any pursuit. The pursuit can only happen on land; sea and sky are excluded (so a foreign police helicopter can't continue over the border).

Schengen countries can give each other more powers in a cross-border pursuit if they want to, either on an ad hoc basis or by treaty. There have been treaties before Schengen, and treaties since Schengen. Benelux countries have a fairly close agreement, and in a cross-border pursuit there the pursuing officer can actually arrest the suspect and take them to the competent authorities (as opposed to detaining them until local cops arrive). A pursuit under Benelux need not be of someone caught in the act, and since the intra-Benelux extradition threshold is lower, more crimes qualify for cross-border pursuit.

Source: Daman, Maarten. "Cross-border Hot Pursuit in the EU." European Journal Of Crime, Criminal Law & Criminal Justice 16, no. 2 (May 2008): 171-207.


I am an American (and not a lawyer), but will post an answer based on the fact that both American law and much of international law on this topic are derived from English common law.

In America, the law officers of one state can cross the border into another state in hot pursuit of a criminal, that is an "immediate" pursuit that was already in place when the border was crossed.

An American law officer can't initiate a pursuit in a different state, nor pursue a case in a different state that is not "fresh."

  • Firstly, we can hardly see (at least for me, de facto) USA as a democracy and even less each countries within this union as independent or sovereign compared to Europeans countries (even if they are or not within EU), secondly my question was more about borders crossing within the European continent (more precisely the European Megalopolis where Switzerland is an exception) but thanks anyway.
    – guest
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 18:48
  • @guest I understand your frustration with the situation of the democracy here in US, but this is not the place to vent them. Be kind with people who (at least try) to answer your question :-) Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 21:29

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