• JC Serrano

False Imprisonment: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Jun 5

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False imprisonment (also known as wrongful imprisonment) occurs when one person is wrongly arrested and imprisoned by another. False imprisonment may be the subject of a civil case. The detainee receives compensation for any injury or other damages sustained due to the incident in these types of cases. Your case's details are crucial, as they may mean the difference between three years in jail and life without parole. It's important to keep in mind, though, that just because you've been convicted doesn't mean you're guilty. An experienced Criminal Defense Attorney will defend you against overbearing prosecutors and ensure that you receive a fair outcome.


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In a nutshell, false imprisonment happens when someone (let's call them Person A) is held against their will by someone else (Person B). Furthermore, Person B is required to:

  • intend to keep the complainant in custody

  • do it without being able to prove that you have the legal authority to do so

False arrest is similar to false imprisonment, although there are several differences. A legal authority would almost always be involved in a false arrest argument, while false imprisonment may be committed by anyone, regardless of whether an arrest followed the imprisonment.


What does False Imprisonment (PC 236 PC) entail?


False imprisonment is illegal in California, according to Penal Code 236 PC. In general, Penal Code 236 PC refers to false imprisonment. In certain cases, some rules apply against false imprisonment. Penal Code 210.5 PC, for example, governs false imprisonment in the sense of escaping detention or capture.


False imprisonment is described in Penal Code 236 PC as the unlawful deprivation of another's personal liberty. This is a vague description that won't help you figure out whether you can contest a Penal Code 236 PC fee. Looking at the meaning the court would use to decide whether or not false imprisonment has occurred is even more helpful:

  • False imprisonment is the act of restraining, detaining, or confining another person without their permission, usually through the use of violence or threat.

  • Restraining, detaining, or confining – The word "false imprisonment" is perplexing since it implies that a breach of Penal Code 236 PC will only happen if someone is jailed or imprisoned. The reality is that false imprisonment can happen in a variety of places and by a variety of methods. In reality, a Penal Code 236 PC violation does not require the victim to be physically restrained or confined. All they have to do is imagine themselves being imprisoned or confined.

  • Intentional – You must have made a conscious and deliberate decision.

  • Penal Code 236 PC deals with whether or not physical force was used. Even then, the prosecutor must prove that the physical force used was no more than was reasonable in the circumstances. The trick in these circumstances, of course, is to show that the force used was both necessary and fair.

  • Danger – Also, the threat of force may be used to wrongly imprison anyone.


Illegal Detention


In order for a plaintiff to be held voluntarily, he or she must be restricted to a specific location and unable to escape. An unconstitutional warrant that prohibits an individual from leaving the country, for example, may be as small as a chair or as big as a state or other geographic region. When anyone is stopped from accessing a certain location, this is not usually referred to as detention.

  • Either real force or the threat of force must be used in the arrest. Locking someone in a prison cell, a closet, tying them to a chair, or gripping their arm and not letting go are all clear examples of using coercion, but something that prevents someone from leaving an area willingly would almost certainly qualify.

  • A threat of force may also result in detention if the threat makes a rational individual think they will be harmed in any way if they leave the region. Threats made by deceit are included (like being threatened with a toy gun). The key is that any rational person would feel they had no other option but to stay in custody.

  • It is not necessary for the damage threatened to be physical harm; a credible threat to the plaintiff's property or reputation would likely suffice. It's worth noting that the danger doesn't always have to be about immediate consequences, but the perceived harm must be imminent.

  • The person detained will not be able to easily flee, thus avoiding the threat of injury. If such a means exists and the individual does not use it, the detention may be deemed voluntary, and the defendant may be exempt from responsibility for false imprisonment.

  • Even if the "detained" individual believes they are forced to stay, no imprisonment exists if they are stopped by a store employee but are not ordered to stay in the store or otherwise prohibited from leaving. However, reasonable suspicion of a public struggle or a reasonable assumption that someone is a law enforcement officer or other authority figures could be enough to rule out the possibility of a quick getaway.

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Defendant's Intention to Detain


It is not enough for a defendant to have established the circumstances that confined the plaintiff by mistake or negligence, such as locking a closet door without realizing anyone was inside. False imprisonment, on the other hand, occurs when a defendant tries to imprison one person but inadvertently imprisons another.

  • In the vast majority of cases, the legality of detention is determined by the legality of the arrest that preceded it. However, even though an arrest was legal, holding the complainant in jail after being found not guilty—or in custody for longer than a sentence allows—can result in false imprisonment.

  • In the case of shoplifters, the question of whether detention was lawful also occurs. Most states have laws dictating when (and for how long) a store owner may hold a suspected shoplifter in custody.

In most cases, the shop owner may have "probable cause" to suspect that the person detained has stolen something. The arrest is likely illegal without probable cause, and the shop owner has likely committed false imprisonment, as long as the other elements are met (no easy escape, etc.). Even if probable cause exists, the shop owner can be held liable for false imprisonment if the complainant is detained for too long or unfairly or excessively.


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False imprisonment can be committed in a number of ways. An individual must prove three elements to establish false arrest:

  • A police officer detained the person

  • The individual was actually harmed

  • The officer's actions played a significant role in the person's injury

The officer now has the responsibility of proving that probable cause exists for the arrest after the individual has made this display. To escape liability, the officer must show that a reasonable officer would have had probable cause to arrest the individual more often than not. If the evidence that led to the arrest is uncontested, the matter of whether probable cause existed is a legal question for the trial judge to decide. If the officer and the arrestee disagree about the facts of the arrest, the trial judge must advise the jury on what facts would constitute probable cause if proved. "After that, the jury must determine if the evidence supports the necessary factual findings." Levin v. United Airlines, Inc., 158 Cal. App. 4th 1002, 1018–19; Levin v. United Airlines, Inc., 158 Cal. App. 4th 1002, 1018–19; Levin v. (2008).


In general, if the officer has probable cause to conclude that the arrest was lawful—even if the arrest was later found to be unlawful—the officer is not responsible for false arrest under California law, as it is under the Fourth Amendment. 847 of the California Penal Code (b). "The presence of probable cause is required, but not sufficient, to determine the legality of an arrest." City of Long Beach v. George, 973 F.2d 706, 710 (9th Cir. 1992). An arrest for such offenses may be in violation of California's penal code, which limits when officers may make arrests.


Arrests for such misdemeanors and infractions may be fraudulent


In California, an arrest based on probable cause may be legal under the Fourth Amendment, but it is illegal under state law, which restricts an officer's discretion in deciding whether or not to make a custodial arrest. In general, unless a person fails to show a driver's license or another form of identification and signs a written promise to appear contained in a notice to appear (a "ticket"), an officer does not make a custodial arrest for certain misdemeanors and infractions (lesser offenses than a misdemeanor). If a person does not have a driver's license or other forms of identification, the officer can ask them to place a thumbprint on the summons. "The arrestee can only be taken into custody if he or she refuses to sign a written promise, has no acceptable identification, or refuses to include a thumbprint or fingerprint." 853.5 of the California Penal Code (a).


Other limits on convictions for misdemeanors


There are several exceptions to the rule that a law enforcement officer cannot arrest anyone for a misdemeanor committed outside of the officer's presence. An officer can, for example, make a warrantless misdemeanor custodial arrest of someone for driving while intoxicated or assaulting or battery on a family member.


An officer cannot make a warrantless arrest for a stale misdemeanor, which happens when an adult commits a misdemeanor in the officer's presence, but the officer fails to arrest the adult within a reasonable period after the misdemeanor is committed. If the officer sees the individual again, he does not arrest her, but he may detain her from obtaining information (such as her name, date of birth, and so on) to obtain an arrest warrant.


There are three situations in which an officer can make a lawful custodial arrest without a warrant.


In general, a California law enforcement officer can only make a lawful custodial, warrantless arrest of a person in three circumstances:

  • when the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person being arrested committed a crime (felony or misdemeanor) while in his or her presence

  • when the arrestee has committed a crime while not in the presence of the officer

  • when the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect the person being arrested has committed a crime, regardless of whether the felony has been committed." 836 of the California Penal Code

  • Once in jail, you have the right to make phone calls and have a judge determine whether you have probable cause

  • An officer must authorize an arrested adult to make at least three completed phone calls after being booked and within three hours of being arrested. 851.5 of the California Penal Code. An officer must inform an arrested juvenile of his or her right to make at least two phone calls after being booked and no less than one hour after being taken into custody. 627 Cal. Welf. & Instit. Code (b).

  • It is a crime for an officer to deny an accused person the right to make a phone call. 851.5 of the California Penal Code (f). Section 1983 can make such an officer civilly liable.

  • People who are arrested and detained without a warrant have the right to a probable cause finding from a judge within 48 hours. McLaughlin v. Riverside County, 500 U.S. 44, 55–58 (1991).


Penal Code 236 PC Violation


Penal Code 236 PC is referred to as a "wobbler." This means that depending on the circumstances of the situation, if you used physical abuse and your criminal records, you may be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.


For the purposes of California's Three Strikes Law, a conviction for Penal Code 236 PC does not constitute a "strike." A felony, on the other hand, can carry a sentence of up to three years in state prison, while a misdemeanor can carry a sentence of up to one year in county jail. Furthermore, a conviction under Penal Code 236 PC may have significant social consequences. It may have an effect on your legal status, job prospects, and professional licenses, among other things.


Restrained Anyone Intentionally and Illegally


False imprisonment is when someone's personal liberty is violated. This offense happens when you obstruct someone's ability to move freely and willingly. If you did this on purpose, you would be found to have behaved knowingly. It would not be deemed "intentional" to detain someone through mistake or by incompetence.


To be guilty of false imprisonment, you do not have to physically restrain or hold another person, contrary to common belief. If you imprisoned anyone by locking them in a bed, you might be charged with false imprisonment. You may also face charges if you threatened others with a deadly weapon to deter them from moving freely. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you don't obstruct their ability or freedom to travel.


Unable to move freely


You must have prohibited another person from traveling freely in order to be guilty of false imprisonment. One of two things can cause this:

  • You prohibit anyone from exercising their right to free will and leaving a specific venue

  • You transfer anyone without their permission to a specific location on purpose

Consent refers to a person's willingness to do something while fully comprehending the implications of their decisions. If consent is obtained by coercion, deception, or duress, it is not valid. Children also lack the ability to give informed and lawful consent. This is due to the fact that they can not completely comprehend a situation.


False Imprisonment is a Wobbler


In California, false imprisonment is a wobbler, which means it can be punished as a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of your charge will be determined by a number of mitigating and aggravating factors, including:

  • If you've ever been charged with or convicted of false imprisonment,

  • Describe your criminal records.

  • Whether or not the supposed victim was injured or harmed

  • Whether or not force or intimidation was used in the commission of the crime


When false imprisonment is a misdemeanor.


If you have no previous convictions and did not use coercion or intimidation, false imprisonment can be charged as a misdemeanor. False imprisonment as a misdemeanor will result in the following penalties:

  • A maximum sentence of 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail is possible

  • Probation

  • Penalties

When false imprisonment is a felony.


Under Penal Code 237 PC, false imprisonment can be prosecuted as a crime if:

  • "Violence, threat, fraud, or deception" helped the crime. False imprisonment as a felony has serious consequences.

  • The victim was a senior citizen or a disabled individual.