False Imprisonment Lawyers

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What is False Imprisonment?

False imprisonment may conjure up notions of people being forcibly restrained against their will with a risk of being seriously injured or killed.  Imprisonment, however, can include other scenarios which sound less terrifying.

False imprisonment is the detention of a person without any justification, consent, or authorization by law.  It is any illegal imprisonment, without due process and without any regard as to whether any crime has been committed. Like assault, false imprisonment doesn’t require that any actual harm or damage be done to the plaintiff before a lawsuit can be brought.

The elements of false imprisonment are: 

To help determine if false imprisonment has occurred, consider the circumstances of the situation: 

Example of False Imprisonment

False imprisonment can occur when a store manager believes you have stolen some items from the store and detains you. When detained, you are denied the chance to use the restroom, get water and/or exit the room. This is considered imprisonment. You may be considered "falsely imprisoned", depending on the period of time you are held, and whether or not you sustain any injuries.

Hospitals are often another example of false imprisonment. Persons who are confined to a hospital, especially the elderly, without their consent or a court order are often considered falsely imprisoned.

What Remedies are Available for People Who are Falsely Imprisoned?

A court may order for a writ of habeas corpus and to recover damages for the injury. A writ for habeas corpus is issued by a court to release a party from unlawful restraint. The person falsely imprisoned may sue the offender for damages.

Defense for False Imprisonment

It is a complete defense to a claim of false imprisonment if the plaintiff was restrained or arrested under legal authority or justification. If the defendant was exercising his/her legal rights and duties, then the restraint or imprisonment was justified. This usually extends to police officers and merchants exercising the shopkeeper’s privilege.

Medical professionals may also have certain exceptions to false imprisonment liability. If a doctor believes that a patient may harm him or herself, the doctors may confine the patient provided that the doctors immediately file involuntary commitment proceedings with a court. The court’s decision will determine how long the doctors can confine the patient, or if the doctors even have a right to do so. 

Finally, false imprisonment claims can be defeated by disproving any one of the elements of false imprisonment. If the defendant never made any indication that the plaintiff was never free to go, then the intention element is gone. Likewise, actual imprisonment involves being confined with no reasonable means of escape without physical harm. In order to qualify as an escape though, the plaintiff must be aware of the exit and be capable of using it. Finally, if the plaintiff entered the situation voluntarily or if the plaintiff was never aware that he or she was being confined, then the plaintiff cannot sue for false imprisonment.

Do I Need an Attorney for my False Imprisonment Issues?

If you feel that you may have been injured by being falsely imprisoned, you should contact an attorney experienced in personal injury suits for false imprisonment and /or false arrest. Additionally, an attorney will inform you of your rights and preserve any possible legal remedies you may have.

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Last Modified: 09-06-2012 11:54 AM PDT

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