What is False Imprisonment?
California Penal Code section 236 defines false imprisonment, quite simply as “the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.”
Not very helpful, right?
In order to better understand what actually amounts to False Imprisonment, we must look to the essential elements of the crime, as described in the California Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM). CALCRIM is not a source of law, but a summary of law written annually by the Judicial Council of California in order to help jurors, who are generally regular people outside the legal profession, understand the law.
Misdemeanor False Imprisonment
CALCRIM 1240 states that False Imprisonment, under Penal Code section 237 and 237, has two essential elements, which the prosecutor must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a person of the crime.
- The defendant intentionally restrained, confined, or detained someone or caused that person to be restrained confined or detained: AND
- The defendant made the other person stay or go somewhere against the person’s will.
If the prosecutor cannot prove both, and proves only one element or neither, the defendant is entitled to an acquittal (not guilty verdict.)
An act is done against a person’s will if that person does not consent to the act. In order to consent, a person must act freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act. Saying yes at gunpoint is not enough.
Consent is an affirmative defense to the charge of false imprisonment because it negates one of the essential elements for a conviction (movement against the person’s will.)
What’s the Worst that could happen?
A crime of false imprisonment without the use of force or violence, like the crime described above, is a misdemeanor.
- 1 year county jail maximum
- $1,000 fine
If the crime is committed by force of violence, it is prosecutable as a felony.
Felony False Imprisonment: What does it mean to Falsely Imprison someone by violence or menace?
Violence means using physical force that is greater than the force reasonably necessary to restrain someone. Menace means a verbal or physical threat of harm, including use of a deadly weapon. The threat of harm may be express or implied.
Consider the following examples distinguishing misdemeanor false imprisonment from felony false imprisonment
- A ride-share driver picks up a fare, drives them to their desired drop-off location, but does not let the fare leave. The driver explains he must go get another fare first and drives away, over the objection of the passenger who is trying to get out of the car. The doors are childproof, so the passenger cannot unlock them to get out of the vehicle. The driver is likely guilty of misdemeanor false imprisonment, because he restrained the person’s liberty (could not escape the vehicle) and transported them against their will. Both elements of the crime are present
- A ride-share driver picks up a fare and drives the fare not to the desired drop-off location but to an alley. The car has child locks, so the person cannot escape. The uber driver then threatens to kill the passenger if they move, and then forces zip ties around the passenger’s hand. The driver then drives the passenger to a different location and throws them out on the street. The driver is likely guilty of felony false imprisonment because the person was restrained both by the locks but also by the driver’s threat that he will kill the passenger if the passenger resists (violence or menace). Both elements of the crime are present
What’s the Worst that could happen?
As a felony, the crime may of false imprison may be punished by
- Incarceration in state prison for 16 months, or 2 or 3 years.
What should I do if I am charged with False Imprisonment?
You should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at Manshoory Law Group, APC to assist you in analyzing the specific facts of your case, preparing and presenting defenses before and during trial, and making sure you understand your rights and helping you enforce them. The risks of a False Imprisonment conviction are too great to go-it alone. Call now for a free consultation (877) 977-7750.