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Is False Imprisonment a Felony?
Definition and 5 Key Elements Explained

False imprisonment, which is defined as the unlawful restraint or restriction of another person’s freedom of movement against their will, can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances and the laws of the jurisdiction where the offense occurs.
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What is False Imprisonment?

According to Contra Costa, false imprisonment is a serious crime that involves the unlawful and intentional restraint or confinement of a person against her or his will [1]. False imprisonment restricts an individual’s freedom of movement without legal justification or consent.

Also Read: Is Kidnapping a Felony?

Elements of False Imprisonment

False imprisonment can take many different forms; however, key elements of the crime usually include:

  • Intentional Restraint: False imprisonment must be intentional, meaning that the person committing the crime knowingly and purposefully restrains the other person.
  • Unlawful Restraint: The restraint must be unlawful, meaning that there is no legal reason for the action. Legal justifications could include law enforcement taking a suspect into custody within the scope of their duties or other situations where restraint is legally justified.
  • Against the Victim’s Will: The victim must be confined or restrained without their consent and against their will. Coercion, threats, force, or deception may be used to confine the individual.
  • Deprivation of Freedom of Movement: False imprisonment involves confining a person’s freedom of movement. This can occur in physical spaces or by controlling their ability to leave a particular area.
  • Lack of Legal Authority: The individual committing false imprisonment must lack legal authority for their behavior. If someone has the legal authority to restrain another person, it would not be considered false imprisonment.

Examples of Misdemeanor, Felony False Imprisonment

In many jurisdictions, extraneous factors including the use of force, duration of the confinement, and the presence of aggravating circumstances can influence whether the crime of false imprisonment is considered to be a felony or a misdemeanor. For example:

Misdemeanor False Imprisonment:

  • Usually involves shorter durations of confinement.
  • May not involve the use of physical violence or threats.
  • Typically considered less severe cases.

Felony False Imprisonment:

  • Involves more severe cases, such as longer-term confinement.
  • May involve the use of weapons, violence, or other extenuating factors.
  • Intent on the part of the offender to commit another crime during the false imprisonment may elevate it to a felony.

What To Do If You’ve Been Charged With False Imprisonment

If you are facing charges related to false imprisonment, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney who can provide guidance based on the specific laws of the jurisdiction and the details of the case.

It’s important to understand that legal definitions and classifications vary by state and local jurisdiction, and the specific elements required for a false imprisonment charge may differ. Laws regarding false imprisonment are designed to protect individuals from being unlawfully restrained, and the severity of the offense is reflected in the potential penalties.

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References:

  1. https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/927/False-Imprisonment

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