What is a "state of emergency"?
On Friday night the President of France, François Hollande, declared a "state of emergency" (état d’urgence) in France in the wake of the terrorist violence.
Created as possible temporary state of affairs by a law enacted in 1955, the state of emergency is intended as a intermediary state between the normal functioning of the Republic and the even more exceptional "state of siege" (état d’exception). Intended to be used only rarely, the state of emergency has been invoked only five times previously, the most recently in response to several weeks of unrest in Paris’ outskirts in 2005.
Under this temporary legal framework, which must be decreed by the Council of Ministers, public demonstrations are banned, and administrative forces are given augmented powers to limit circulation, declare zones of public space off-limits, and order the closing of public venues such as schools or concert halls, and the like. Reinforced discretionary powers allow for search and seizure, sequestration, and confiscation of arms.
This state of affairs may last no longer than 12 days unless prolonged by law. If the State intends also to limit or control the press this must be stated in the decree, which it was not in the decree Friday.