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False Imprisonment in Alameda and Contra Costa County

After an argument or confrontation, one person may try and leave and another person will want them to stay until they get the answer they are looking for. However, preventing someone from leaving or making someone go somewhere against his or her will is a criminal offense. False imprisonment can be a misdemeanor or felony crime, resulting in possible prison time. If you or a loved one is charged with false imprisonment, you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.

False Imprisonment in California

Under California Penal Code PC §236, “false imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.”

False imprisonment can include any actions that prevent or restrict a person's free movement without their consent. This could include putting someone in a locked room with no way out. However, it also includes less obvious types of restricted movement, like standing in front of a door or making threats against a person if they try and leave.

As an example, a wife confronts her husband about finding evidence of infidelity. The husband says he is innocent and is going to leave the house. If the wife grabs a knife and threatens the husband that she will cut him if he leaves, the wife may be guilty of false imprisonment.

As another example, a burglar is rummaging through a house knowing the residents are not home. However, the homeowner suddenly comes home and confronts the burglar. The burglar pulls a gun, telling the homeowner to get into a closet, and barricades the door. The burglar may be guilty of false imprisonment, in addition to other criminal charges.

Misdemeanor False Imprisonment

False imprisonment can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the situation. In order to convict a defendant of misdemeanor false imprisonment, the prosecutor has to prove the defendant:

  • Intentionally detained, restrained or confined a person; and
  • The defendant's actions made that person stay or go somewhere against his or her will.

Felony False Imprisonment

To convict a defendant of felony false imprisonment, the prosecutor has to prove the defendant:

  • Intentionally detained, restrained or confined a person;
  • By violence, menace, fraud, or deceit; and
  • The defendant's actions made that person stay or go somewhere against his or her will.

Violence involves any physical force than the amount of force necessary to restrain someone. Menace involves any verbal or physical threat of harm. The use of a deadly weapon may be considered menacing. Threats of harm do not have to be explicit, implied threats of harm can also be menacing.

False Imprisonment of an Elder or Dependent Adult

False imprisonment of certain vulnerable individuals can also result in felony false imprisonment charges. Under California Penal Code PC §237, false imprisonment of an elder or dependent adult by the use of force, menace, fraud, or deceit is punishable as a crime against elders, dependent adults, and persons with disabilities.

Elders include any person who is 65 years of age or older. A dependent adult means any person who has physical or mental limitations which restrict his or her ability to carry out normal activities or protect his or her rights.

False imprisonment of an elder or dependent adult, under this section, is punishable by imprisonment for 2, 3, or 4 years.

Criminal Penalties for False Imprisonment

The penalties for misdemeanor false imprisonment include up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Felony false imprisonment is punishable by a fine and up to 3 years in prison.

In addition to the criminal penalties, the individual who was unlawfully restrained may be able to file a civil lawsuit against the defendant for money damages.

Defenses to False Imprisonment

There may be a number of legal defenses available to criminal charges of false imprisonment. Consent is a defense to false imprisonment charges. In some cases, self-defense or defense of another is an affirmative defense to charges of false imprisonment. Self-defense generally requires the defendant to have a reasonable belief that he or she, or another person is in imminent danger of injury or harm.

Allegations of false imprisonment may arise when a parent confines his or her child for some reason. If the parent confines the child with the intent to endanger the child's health or safety, or the child is restrained for some unlawful purpose, the parent may face false imprisonment charges. However, if a parent is restraining or confining a child and the restraint is reasonable, the parent may claim the defense of lawful parental authority.

The specific defenses available will depend on the individual facts of your case. Your attorney will investigate your case, and identify the best available defenses. Talk to your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney about the best strategy to fight criminal charges in your case.

East Bay False Imprisonment Defense Attorney

Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing false imprisonment charges and other criminal charges. 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 Oakland, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.