Los Angeles False Imprisonment Lawyers
California law defines false imprisonment as the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another, in Penal Code Section 236. More information about the elements of this crime that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to achieve a conviction are revealed in the 2021 Criminal Jury Instructions provided by the California Judicial Branch.
False imprisonment has only two elements, and the prosecutor must prove both of them, or the defendant can be acquitted. Those elements are:
- The defendant intentionally confined, detained, or restrained another person, or caused that person to be confined, detained, or restrained; and
- The defendant made the other person go or stay somewhere against that person’s will.
If a person does not consent to an act, it is done against his or her will. To consent, the person must do so freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act.
When force or violence are not part of the alleged crime, false imprisonment is a misdemeanor. If the crime of false imprisonment is committed using force or violence, it is charged and prosecuted as a felony.
Felony false imprisonment involves falsely imprisoning another person by violence or menace. In this context, violence can be defined as physical force greater than what is reasonably necessary to restrain a person. Menace can be defined as the threat of harm, either verbal or physical, including the use of a deadly weapon. The threat may be either express or implied.
Upon conviction of misdemeanor false imprisonment, you could be facing up to one year in county jail and a fine of $1,000. In a conviction for felony false imprisonment, the penalties are more severe and may include a state prison term of 16 months, two years, or three years.
False imprisonment penalties can be enhanced if the victim is an elderly person or a dependent adult. This means an additional prison term of three years for a victim under the age of 70 and five years for a victim 70 or older.
With a well-developed, compelling legal defense, charges of false imprisonment may be reduced or even dismissed in some cases. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys may use any of these common defenses in your case:
- Consent: This is an affirmative defense to false imprisonment. Consent negates one of the essential elements of the crime – acting against the other person’s will.
- Self-defense: People in California are allowed to defend themselves and others, using proportional force if they reasonably believe they are in danger of immediate bodily harm. If you intentionally confined, detained, or restrained another person acting in self-defense, it is not false imprisonment.
- Parental authority: Parents have a right to “ground” their children, put them in “timeout,” or otherwise restrict their freedom of movement as a means of discipline. It is legal and not false imprisonment for parents not acting with any malicious or criminal intent to confine their children against their will, provided it does not cause any undue suffering or injuries.
- Shopkeeper’s privilege: Under California law, store owners and shopkeepers may detain a person long enough to investigate if they have probable cause to believe that person is guilty of shoplifting. The investigation must be carried out in a reasonable time and manner.
If you are facing false imprisonment charges, call Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 to schedule a free initial consultation. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience handling complex, high-stakes cases. We pride ourselves on providing the best criminal defense available to each of our clients.
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Recent Case Results
- Complete Dismissal of Molestation Charges
Attorney Mark Werksman’s 29 year old client was falsely accused of molesting two neighborhood children and was subsequently charged with felony child molestation, with a significant prison sentence hanging over his head should he be convicted. Instead, at the preliminary hearing Werksman was able to convince the court to grant his client a complete dismissal of any charges.
- Decision Set Aside
Client, a college student in a faulty Title IX case, was awarded $130,000 in attorney fees.
- Probation with No Jail Time for Drug Money Laundering Charge
Wilmington man accused in New York federal court of laundering drug money through the sale of laptop computers. Mark was able to get the case transferred to federal court in Los Angeles, where he convinced the United States Attorney to reduce the charges. His client was sentenced to probation with no jail time on a misdemeanor conviction.