Strauss-Kahn case: 4 ways French and American law differ

International Monetary Fund chief and Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arrest underscores how differently France and the United States view privacy and sexual assault. Here's a look at where the countries’ legal systems clash as they pertain to Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s case.

The "perp walk"

Richard Drew/AP
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, waits to be arraigned Monday, May 16, in Manhattan Criminal Court for the alleged attack on a maid who went into his penthouse suite at a hotel near Times Square to clean it. Strauss-Kahn must remain jailed at least until his next court hearing for attempted rape and other charges, a judge said Monday.

Much of the French ado over US media coverage of Strauss-Kahn has focused on the infamous “perp walk.” In the US, it is standard procedure for police to walk a suspect out in handcuffs in front of photographers, as it did with Strauss-Kahn.

In France, showing images of a suspect in handcuffs has been illegal since 2000, based on the belief that doing so undermines a person’s presumption of innocence. There are also no cameras in the courtrooms. France’s broadcasting watchdog agency, the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA), warned television stations against showing footage of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs unless he is convicted. According to The Wall Street Journal, a media outlet can be fined as much as $21,300 for displaying those images.

"We've been watching Strauss-Kahn on prime-time TV shows and on the front page of all newspapers handcuffed, being forcibly pushed into a car by policemen, and this is contrary to the spirit of the law," Dominique de Leusse, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn, told reporters. "Even if the handcuffs weren't apparent, it was obvious that he was being coerced."

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