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What Is False Imprisonment?

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on February 11, 2020

False imprisonment is a serious crime in the state of California, with heavy penalties imposed in a conviction. However, many individuals are unclear as to what precisely false imprisonment is and how it relates to other similar crimes like kidnapping and human trafficking.

False imprisonment is defined in California Penal Code section PC 236, which states:

“False imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.”

To commit the crime of false imprisonment, you must confine another person against their will, and without the legal authority to do so. Some common examples of this are:

  • A police officer arresting someone without a warrant or probable cause
  • A spouse locking their significant other in a bathroom, bedroom, or other location
  • Locking someone in the basement

False imprisonment can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the crime. If charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant faces a maximum of one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. If charged as a felony, the defendant faces up to three years in prison.

Common defenses for false imprisonment include:

  • That you had the legal authority to restrain the person, including the rights of parents and shopkeepers
  • The person consented to be restrained
  • Self-defense

What About Kidnapping?

Kidnapping is a very similar crime to false imprisonment, but it requires the additional element of moving the person a substantial distance. Kidnapping is a more severe crime and is defined under California Penal Code PC 207 as moving another person by force or fear without that person’s consent. The victim must be moved a “substantial” distance, meaning far enough to increase the danger to the victim. There is no set distance for it to be considered kidnapping, but all factors are considered during a trial.

Kidnapping can be an additional charge to false imprisonment, if, for example, someone is kidnapped and then locked in a basement. Kidnapping can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, and the crime can be escalated as aggravated kidnapping (when the kidnapping includes severe bodily injury), and child kidnapping.

Common defenses for kidnapping include:

  • The individual consented to be moved
  • That the movement was trivial and not substantial
  • Lack of evidence
  • You had the right to move a child as his parent or legal guardian

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a third element that can be involved, and it is defined in California Penal Code PC 236.1 which states that “anyone who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with intent to obtain forced labor or services is guilty of human trafficking.” Human trafficking is one of the most severe crimes in California and can result in a fine of up to $500,000 and a possible life sentence in prison.

Human trafficking cases can be difficult, but there are some legal defenses:

  • That the person was free to leave your employment at any time
  • That the charges are false, and that the plaintiff is using the accusation maliciously to tarnish your reputation or imprison you

What to Do if You’ve Been Wrongfully Accused

If you’ve been wrongfully accused of false imprisonment, kidnapping, human trafficking, or all three, you need to contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney immediately. These charges, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, come with hefty penalties and severe ramifications to your reputation. At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, we are intimately familiar with the laws and defenses and if we take on your case, can fight relentlessly to help you get your charges dropped or reduced.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense