You must have heard about the term false imprisonment once in a while. False imprisonment usually occurs when a person intentionally and illegally restrains another individual’s capacity to move freely. The matter of false imprisonment can be brought both within civil and criminal law. In this article, we will be focusing primarily on the criminal side of false imprisonment.
What is False Imprisonment?
False imprisonment is defined as the act when an individual intentionally and illegally restricts another individual’s ability to move freely. Within a private lawsuit under civil law, false imprisonment could be brought within the realm of intentional tort claims. Moreover, it means the act falls under the iota of civil wrongful act.
On the other hand, within criminal law, a government prosecutor has the capacity to bring criminal charges against the defendant for false imprisonment. This might be known as unlawful imprisonment in the first degree. Similarly, this act is much more elaborated within the state’s individual penal codes.
Moreover, false imprisonment is also the act that restrains an individual against their will within a bounded area without any justification. In Serra v, Lappin, 600 F.3d 1191 (9th Cir. Cal. 2010), the said court stated that false imprisonment is the act of non-consensual, intentional confinement of an individual without the presence of lawful privilege for a certain amount of time.
Similarly, it was also found within the United States v. McMiller, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 8093 (3d Cir. Pa. Apr. 19, 2010) that false imprisonment under the law of Georgia is a crime of violence since it involves conduct that presents a serious risk of physical injury to the other. Thus, Grade A violation under 18 USCS Appx § 7B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines.
Moreover, false imprisonment is generally accompanied by force or threat of force. Along with this, consent obtained by such force or threat of force is invalid. Some states still recognize false imprisonment as a misdemeanor under common law. So, it can be said that this act falls both under a misdemeanor and a tort under common law.
Elements of False Imprisonment
Every crime has certain elements that allow that particular act to be classified as a crime. Similarly, to determine an act as a crime of false imprisonment, you would have to prove its elements. The elements of this act are as follows:
- Willful detention;
- Without consent; and
- Without the authority of law.
In the case of Forgie-Buccioni v. Hannaford Bros., Inc., 413 F.3d 175 (1st Cir. N.H. 2005), the court found under the New Hampshire law, false imprisonment is an unlawful restraint of a person’s personal freedom. Moreover, when a defendant acts with the intent of restricting or confining a plaintiff within boundaries fixed by the defendant. Moreover, it can be stated that false imprisonment can be categorized within both the imposing of physical barriers or physical force.
False Arrest vs. False Imprisonment: Differences
In the legal system, the terms “false imprisonment” and “false arrest” are often used interchangeably, even though they have different origins. False imprisonment occurs when someone is detained without legal cause or process, and it can happen without the intent to make an arrest or even an actual arrest.
On the other hand, false arrest is a type of false imprisonment that involves an unlawful arrest or detention by a law enforcement officer or other authority.
According to a court case called Davis v. Clark County Bd. of Comm’ns, a false arrest is a type of false imprisonment, and both of these legal claims can be referred to collectively as “false imprisonment.”
Moreover, false imprisonment ends when the victim is held pursuant to legal process, such as being bound over by a magistrate or arraigned on charges. The damages for a false arrest and/or false imprisonment claim begin at the time of detention and end when legal process is issued or arraignment occurs.
In order to claim false imprisonment, it is essential to have a reasonable belief that you were confined in a defined area. The court will determine the validity of your belief based on what a reasonable person would do or believe in similar circumstances. Furthermore, it’s crucial to note that the person responsible for the confinement must have intended to do so without the legal privilege to do it. It’s important to keep in mind that shopkeepers who investigate shoplifting may have the necessary privilege to meet legal standards.
Cases of False Imprisonment Circumstances
In certain situations, a person may be held against their will through the threat of force or harm. For example, if a bank robber enters a bank with a weapon, orders the customers to get down, and threatens to shoot them if they try to leave, the customers are being held against their will. In such cases, the captive customers may be able to seek damages for any harm caused.
In personal injury cases, the bank robber may be held liable for any physical injuries or emotional distress caused intentionally. The robber may also be liable for punitive damages that are meant to punish them for their actions.
Furthermore, the bank robber may be charged with false imprisonment, which can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Even the police may be charged with false imprisonment if they exceed their authority and wrongfully detain someone without legal justification.
In general, any person who intentionally restricts another’s freedom of movement without their consent may be liable for false imprisonment. False imprisonment is both a crime and a civil wrong, similar to other offenses such as assault and battery. It can happen anywhere, whether it is in a room, on the streets, or even in a moving vehicle.
The Crime of False Imprisonment
False imprisonment is considered both a serious criminal offense and a civil wrong that involves holding someone against their will. It entails depriving an individual of their freedom of movement without their consent or legal justification. The definition of false imprisonment as a crime and as a tort (civil wrong) share many commonalities. The principles applied in the criminal prosecution of false imprisonment are similar to those applied in civil cases but with the addition of the general laws of criminal jurisprudence.
While physical force is often present in false imprisonment, it is not always necessary to constitute an offense. A threat of force, arrest, or the belief that one’s personal liberty will be violated is sufficient to bring about a charge of false imprisonment. A person who aids or abets in the commission of a false imprisonment offense can also be held liable.
If an individual suffers no actual damages as a result of illegal confinement, they may be awarded nominal damages. However, if an injured party offers proof of injuries suffered, they may be compensated for physical injuries, mental suffering, loss of earnings, and sometimes, attorney’s fees. In cases where confinement involves malice or violence, the plaintiff may be entitled to punitive damages. It is important to note that to recover damages for false imprisonment, the person must have been confined for a significant period, and their freedom of movement must have been completely restricted.
The punishment for false imprisonment may include a fine, imprisonment, or both, depending on the nature and severity of the offense. It is a serious matter that can have a significant impact on a person’s life, and it is crucial to understand the legal implications of such an act.
Defenses to False Imprisonment Claims
When it comes to defending against false imprisonment claims, the issue of consent is often crucial. Consent can be either actual or implied, but it may not always be necessary if reasonable grounds justify the confinement. To help navigate this complex area, here are some common defenses that can be used to fight false imprisonment claims with confidence, sincerity, enthusiasm, optimism, and friendliness while still providing valuable information. Here are some common defenses to false imprisonment claims:
If a person has given their consent to be confined, they cannot later claim that they were falsely imprisoned. However, it’s important to note that the consent must be given voluntarily and without any pressure, force, or deceit. Therefore, voluntary consent to confinement is frequently cited as a valid defense against accusations of false imprisonment.
Police officers in every state of the US have the lawful power to temporarily hold someone in custody, provided they have a valid legal justification to do so. To establish such justification, the police must generally have either probable cause or reasonable suspicion. These are two distinct legal standards that enable the police to believe that an individual may have committed a crime or engaged in unlawful activities.
It is important to note that in various states, there are laws that protect store owners from false imprisonment claims. These laws usually permit store owners to detain patrons if they have a reasonable and good faith belief that the patron has committed theft.
However, a store owner is generally limited to detaining a person for certain purposes, which include requesting or verifying identification, reasonably inquiring whether the person has purchased the merchandise, or holding the person in custody until a peace officer arrives.
Moreover, when determining liability, a court will examine whether the actions of the store owner were reasonable under the circumstances. It is important to note that even if a shoplifter is found guilty, they can still sue for false imprisonment if the detention is deemed unreasonable.
There are certain situations where an individual who is not affiliated with law enforcement can conduct a “citizen’s arrest” by requesting the assistance of a peace officer. This type of arrest can be made if an individual witnesses a crime taking place or being attempted in their presence. It’s crucial to note that this defense is not intended to grant citizens the authority to act as law enforcement officers.
According to the legal principle of contributory negligence, a defendant’s mere negligence cannot be used as a defense when their wrongdoing involves more than just negligence. This means that if the defendant’s conduct includes willful, reckless, or wanton misconduct, they cannot claim contributory negligence as a defense.
However, if an individual acts recklessly and with complete disregard for the rights of others and, as a result, exposes another person to the risk of death or serious bodily harm, they are liable for the consequences. This liability is applicable even if the other person involved is also guilty of some degree of negligence. This legal principle was established in the landmark case of Aiken v. Holyoke S. R. Co., 184 Mass. 269, 271 (Mass. 1903).
Understanding the legal concept of false imprisonment is crucial, as it is a serious claim that can be made against someone who has unlawfully restricted another person’s freedom of movement. However, it’s important to note that false imprisonment doesn’t always involve physical force or a locked room. In fact, it can occur in any situation where the victim reasonably believes they are unable to leave or move freely.
As such, it’s essential to be aware of the various scenarios in which false imprisonment claims can arise. For example, if there is an unlocked door that poses a perceived danger or if a victim is prevented from leaving due to the threatening behavior of another person, it can be enough to support a claim of false imprisonment. Even situations where one party loses their temper or becomes emotionally agitated can lead to such claims, as seen in instances where an argument escalates, and one person blocks the other’s path.
Another common scenario where false imprisonment claims may arise is when a store owner detains a customer suspected of shoplifting. However, merchants have a defense that can be crucial in defending against such claims.
It’s important to approach false imprisonment with a thoughtful and informed mindset, understanding the various elements that can constitute a claim. By doing so, we can help ensure that justice is served and that victims of false imprisonment are given the support they need. So, let’s remain optimistic and positive as we work towards a more just and fair society.