The tort of false imprisonment occurs when someone intentionally restricts the freedom of movement of another person without their consent or legal justification. It can be committed through physical force, threats, or other forms of coercion, resulting in damages for the victim.
On November 17, 2022, police charged a woman with false imprisonment after an 18-year-old girl escaped her room, alerting the neighbors for help. Let’s explore what false imprisonment is with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.
“0:00 What is false imprisonment under tort
0:02 law? A false imprisonment is defined as a
0:06 direct restraint on someone’s free
0:07 movement. It can be done with words it
0:11 can be done with threats but basically
0:13 it’s a situation where the person can
0:16 find has no reasonable means of escape.”
Under tort law, false imprisonment refers to a person, without legal authority, restraining another individual to a confined space without any justification, restricting the victim from exercising their freedom. For example, if a person wrongfully stops another person from leaving a room, they could fall under false imprisonment as they violate their personal liberty.
False imprisonment and false arrest are similar; false arrest is when police officers arrest another individual without legal authority. If a police officer arrests an individual without a warrant or probable cause, the victim can have a legal case against the officer.
False imprisonment, or unlawful confinement, can lead to civil and criminal penalties. Under a few jurisdictions, false imprisonment is also treated as kidnapping.
The plaintiff must prove the following elements of false imprisonment if they’re bringing a claim against the perpetrator:
There are many forms of false imprisonment, and it does not necessarily have to include physical force. For example, a person can falsely imprison another by imposing physical barricades or unreasonable duress.
If a plaintiff claims false imprisonment, they must reasonably believe that the defendant confined them, as the court will determine false imprisonment by deciding what a reasonable person would do under similar circumstances.
The following examples don’t constitute false imprisonment:
Here are some of the defenses under tort law to false imprisonment claims. In all the defenses mentioned below, the defendant must provide legal justification for imprisoning or arresting an individual.
An individual who consents to restraint cannot claim false imprisonment. In the case of Robinson vs. Balmain New Ferry Company Ltd, the plaintiff had to take a ferry, but they had to pay a penny to use a turnstile managed by the defendant. The plaintiff paid a penny, went across the turnstile, and waited for the ferry.
After waiting, they decided to change their mind and go back through the turnstile for which the defendant asked for a penny. The plaintiff sued the defendant claiming false imprisonment, but the court dismissed the claim stating that the plaintiff imprisoned themselves voluntarily.
A shopkeeper can detain patrons if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person committed theft. The shopkeeper can request identification, ask questions, or hold the patron in custody until an officer arrives under reasonable suspicion of theft.
Police have the right to detain someone if they have probable cause to believe that the person carried out a wrongful act. The police can arrest someone based on reliable facts, whether or not the person has committed a crime at that point.
In the case of Austin v. Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, police arrested certain people protesting in London, which included two people who were not part of the protest.
They sued for false imprisonment, but the court ruled that it was an exceptional situation and that the police had the authority to take such steps to maintain law and order.
Although citizens cannot make an arrest, they can detain people in certain situations, including when they witness a crime.
The legal definition of the two might be similar in certain states, which may cause confusion on whether the two are the same.
It could involve using force, violating civil rights, and moving across the state. Moving to a new location could put the victim at a higher risk of danger or reduce the risk of the perpetrator getting caught.
False imprisonment is a lesser criminal act and lacks malicious or criminal intent present in a kidnapping. Secondly, false imprisonment is holding someone in one place, while kidnapping involves taking the victim to a secondary location.
The two can often meet in certain crimes. Suppose a person picks up someone on the sidewalk by forcefully pushing them into their car, taking them home, and locking them in their basement. In this case, the person would be guilty of kidnapping and false imprisonment.
The following are specific remedies provided by the court in a false imprisonment claim:
If you suffered damages due to false imprisonment, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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