False Imprisonment: Elements & Unlawful Charge Examples

False imprisonment is the unlawful detention of an individual against their will. In other words, it is the act of restricting or restraining another person from moving without their consent.  Depending on your jurisdiction, false imprisonment can be an intentional tort (i.e. a civil wrong) or a crime (i.e. criminal offense). The victim of false imprisonment can seek compensation for any physical or emotional harm suffered.

False Imprisonment Situations

One of the key elements of false imprisonment is intentionally being held against your will. Here are some situations that would represent unlawful imprisonment of an individual:

  • Physically restraining a person from leaving an area
  • Locking the doors of a room to prevent escape
  • Store owner detaining a suspected theft for an unreasonable amount of time
  • A robber enters a store, waves his gun and tells people not to leave
  • Drugging someone to restrain them from leaving
  • Police officer arresting and detaining an individual without a warrant
  • Keeping something of great value to another person with the intent to detain them in a certain area

Below are situations where false imprisonment does not apply:

  • A shopkeeper has probable cause for a suspect committing theft and detains them for a reasonable amount of time
  • A person accidentally locks the door, trapping another individual inside
  • A person locks one door and tells you to stay, but another door is unlocked
  • A person grabs your arm telling you to stay, but you know and are able to free yourself without fear of retaliation

False Imprisonment vs. False Arrest

False arrest is closely tied to false imprisonment. A false arrest is the arrest of another individual with no warrant or legal authority to do so. Technically, false arrest constitutes false imprisonment since it illegally detains another person against their will. The distinction is with the intent to arrest the individual. Where a false arrest has the intent to arrest, false imprisonment doesn’t require this intent.  Someone who is falsely arrested is also falsely imprisoned. Conversely, someone who is falsely imprisoned does not mean they are falsely arrested.

Elements of False Imprisonment

The plaintiff must prove the following false imprisonment elements:

  • Intentional detainment: There must be intent on the part of the defendant committing the act of imprisonment. They could utilize physical barriers to prevent the individual from leaving an area, but it could also be verbal threats of harm as well. Accidentally locking up a person in a room does not constitute false imprisonment. 
  • No consent was given: False imprisonment implies being held against your will. This means no consent was ever given in the act of confinement. For those unable to provide consent (i.e. children or those with cognitive disabilities), guardians and caretakers are the ones responsible for consenting.
  • Unlawful detention: There are some instances when detaining a person is lawful. For example, certain states allow shopkeepers to detain a suspect for a reasonable amount of time if they have grounds for retail theft. Police officers also have the legal authority to arrest and detain someone if they have probable cause. Additionally, a citizen’s arrest may also be justifiable when a crime is occurring in front of them.

Another consideration the courts will factor in a false imprisonment case is the time of unlawful detainment. There is no time limit on what constitutes false imprisonment – it can be as short as one minute, or it can last days. However, heftier penalties could result from longer periods of imprisonment.  

False Imprisonment Consequences

Consequences will depend on whether the act committed is classified as a false imprisonment tort or a false imprisonment crime. Various state laws will also contribute to the severity of the penalty. For civil cases, the plaintiff can file for a lawsuit against the defendant for false imprisonment charges. The plaintiff can then seek compensation for damages, including:

  • Physical harm or injuries sustained
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Loss of time
  • Interruption of business
  • Other expenses

In a criminal suit, the case can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of the act, the length of imprisonment, whether the victims were children or a disabled person, would all factor in the gravity of the sentence. In addition to monetary fines, the person guilty of false imprisonment could face a criminal record, probation, and jail time.

Valiente Mott

If you or your loved one suffered injuries or emotional harm due to false imprisonment, contact us today. The Valiente Mott Las Vegas personal injury attorney team is dedicated to helping victims recover the compensation they deserve. Call us at (702) 623-2323 for your free consultation! 

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