Holding someone against their will, even for a moment, can lead to false imprisonment charges. False imprisonment can be a serious offense in California, resulting in jail time, fines, and a possible felony criminal record. If you have been charged with kidnapping or false imprisonment, talk to your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney to understand your rights.
False Imprisonment Charges in California
Under California Penal Code §236, false imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another. False imprisonment can involve physical force or violence to restrain a person's movements. However, false imprisonment may also involve threats of harm to the victim or the victim's family, or deception.
Examples of false imprisonment could include:
- An ex-boyfriend blocking the door while having an argument and not allowing the other person to leave;
- Someone pretending to be a police officer who stops a person on the street and tells them they are not free to leave;
- Locking someone in a room and not letting them leave; or
- Slipping a date rape drug into a person's drink so they cannot leave.
False Imprisonment Penalties
False imprisonment in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. The penalties depend on a number of factors, including the defendant's criminal record, age of the victim, and whether the victim was injured. False imprisonment that is affected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit may be a felony.
As a misdemeanor, false imprisonment is punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. As a felony, a conviction for false imprisonment could include up to 3 years in jail.
False imprisonment of a dependent adult or elder aged 65 or older can face a felony conviction under California Penal Code §368(f). The penalties for false imprisonment of an elder or dependent adult involving violence, menace, fraud, or deceit include up to four years in prison.
False Imprisonment and Human Trafficking in California
Under California Penal Code §236.1, false imprisonment with the intent to obtain forced labor or services is considered human trafficking. This could include holding someone against their will for domestic work, agricultural work, or prostitution. False imprisonment and human trafficking is a felony punishable by 5 to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
False Imprisonment of a Hostage
Under California Penal Code §210.5, false imprisonment for the purposes of protecting someone from arrest is a felony. This could involve taking someone as a hostage to avoid arrest or capture by the police. False imprisonment which substantially increases the risk of harm to the victim, or for the purposes of using the person as a shield is punishable by 3, 5, or 8 years in prison.
For example, someone has a protective order related to a domestic violence charge. The individual goes to the home of the victim in violation of the order. The victim calls the police who arrive at the scene. The individual with the protective order does not want to go outside for fear of being arrested. Instead, the individual holds the victim inside the house and says the victim will not be released until the police leave. In addition to charges for violation of the restraining order, the individual may face a felony charge of false imprisonment of a hostage.
False Imprisonment vs. Kidnapping
Kidnapping is similar to false imprisonment; however, kidnapping generally involves moving the victim some distance. For example, keeping someone locked in a room may be considered false imprisonment but if the individual takes that person and moves them to another building without allowing them to leave may be considered kidnapping.
Kidnapping generally involves moving someone without their consent by use of fear or force. This includes physical force or threatening to inflict harm. Kidnapping is a felony, punishable by up to 8 years in prison.
Aggravated kidnapping is a more serious offense that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Aggravated kidnapping involves moving someone against their will involving:
- A victim who is a child under the age of 14;
- Kidnapping someone for ransom;
- Causing serious bodily harm or death; or
- Carjacking involving kidnapping.
Defenses to False Imprisonment Charges
There may be a number of legal defenses available to charges of false imprisonment. In some cases, an innocent person is accused of false imprisonment during a domestic dispute.
It is a defense to charges of false imprisonment if the other person was free to leave at any time and not threatened or prevented from leaving. Asking someone not to leave is not considered false imprisonment if their personal liberty was not impeded. Talk to your East Bay criminal defense attorney about your case if you are facing charges of false imprisonment.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing criminal charges, including false imprisonment or kidnapping. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Fremont, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.