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False Imprisonment Laws In California

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

A Brief Guide To California Penal Code 236 PC

California's false imprisonment laws prohibit the physical restriction of someone's personal freedom. So, for example, you can't hold someone in a room or area if you have no legal jurisdiction.

That said, false imprisonment can manifest in different ways for various reasons. So, what counts as false imprisonment? And, if action is legally considered as such, how will it be punished?

Let's look at what goes in California Penal Code 236 PC, as experienced by prescreened Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers:

california penal code 236 PC

What's In California's False Imprisonment Laws?

Section 236 of the California Penal Code contains details on the crime of false imprisonment. False imprisonment is the illegal restriction of another person's physical or personal liberty.

The prosecution must demonstrate two factors beyond a reasonable doubt to establish the defendant's guilt of false imprisonment:

  • Using force or threat, the defendant intentionally confined or restrained a victim.

  • Due to the defendant's actions, the other party was forced to do something against their choice.

  • There is no legitimate legal basis for the defendant's use of force to restrain a person, such as a citizen's arrest, self-defense, the protection of others, permission, etc.

In the context of California's false imprisonment laws, consent is a crucial aspect of the charge. For instance, if a person is so drunk that they cannot comprehend the details of their false imprisonment, they cannot consent to involuntary movement.

That said, if you need some clarifications on how it works and how it's defined, consult with Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers.

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What Are The Penalties Under California's False Imprisonment Laws?

Since not all circumstances are the same, the false imprisonment charge and penalties vary depending on each unique case. So let's take a look at the factors that might affect that:

False Imprisonment Is A Wobbler Case

Since false imprisonment is a wobbler, PC 236 can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The county jail sentence can be up to one year for misdemeanor false imprisonment convictions. Penalties for felonies, including wrongful imprisonment, can range from three years in county jail.

Other factors that might affect the wobbler case:

  • Whether violence was used (as opposed to just a verbal threat)

  • The defendant's criminal history

  • The presence of any mitigating factors, such as false imprisonment during a heated argument with another person who is physically attacking the defendant


Unlike a jail sentence, a probationary sentence is a period of supervision. Regarding false imprisonment charges, probation sentences are permitted but not always granted.

Whether or not a defendant will be allowed to serve a probation sentence instead of a jail sentence generally relies on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history. Sometimes the terms of probation sentencing include house arrest or manual work.

Monetary Fines

Penal Code 236 is penalized by a fine not exceeding $1,000. Convictions under PC 236 can result in serious penalties in addition to any jail or prison sentences and fines, including Immigration concerns (for non-U.S. citizens), ramifications for professional licensure, fines, civil litigation, restitution, firearm restriction, and job loss.

Is False Imprisonment Considered A Strike?

Contrary to California's Three Strike Sentencing Law, false imprisonment is not a strike offense. False imprisonment is also not regarded as a morally reprehensible crime for immigration or professional licensure purposes.

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