False imprisonment is usually thought of as a criminal definition or offense, which it is. But it is also a civil wrong, or “tort” in legal terminology. A person who has been the victim of false imprisonment can sue the person who falsely imprisoned them for monetary damages in civil court.
A person commits civil false imprisonment when they restrain another person and confine them in a restricted area. It is an intentional tort, which means that a person does something intentionally and not because they act recklessly or negligently.
The elements of civil false imprisonment are as follows:
- A person acts intentionally;
- The person intends to restrain and confine their victim without the victim’s consent.
- The person acts without the legal authority to act as they do;
- The person’s conduct causes their victim to be confined;
- The victim is aware of the confinement and suffers harm.
For the most part, the elements of criminal false imprisonment are the same as the elements of civil false imprisonment. A perpetrator can be charged with the crime of false imprisonment and sued in civil court for damages by the victim based on the same set of facts.
To be convicted of the crime of false imprisonment, a person must intentionally restrain or restrict another person against the person’s consent. The use of physical force, coercion, and the creation of reasonable fear or threats might restrain the victim. For example, a person can commit false imprisonment by threatening to inflict force or violence on the person if they try to leave. A person can also commit false imprisonment by tricking a person.
The restraint and confinement of the victim does not have to last for any specific amount of time. A false imprisonment can last for only a brief amount of time or a long time. There is no requirement that it last for any minimum amount of time.
What Are the Elements of Civil False Imprisonment?
False imprisonment of a minor, or false imprisonment of a child, is the crime of false imprisonment perpetrated on a victim who is under the age of majority, which is 18 in most states, but 19 in some.
If a person is convicted of the crime of false imprisonment of a minor, they may be punished more severely than a person who is convicted of false imprisonment of an adult. This is because of concerns related to noncustodial parents or parents involved in a custody dispute kidnapping and detaining children without the consent of the custodial parent. Of course, children are more vulnerable than adults also.
In general, false imprisonment of a minor does not occur if the perpetrator is related to the child and they acted with the consent of the child’s parent or parents.
Again, the victim of criminal false imprisonment can also file a civil suit to collect damages from the perpetrator.
Is False Arrest the Same as False Imprisonment?
A false arrest is the restraint or detention by one person or another without legal justification, but under a claim of legal authority to enforce the law.
Of course, law enforcement can arrest a person if they have probable cause to believe the person has committed a crime or a valid arrest warrant issued by a judge upon a showing of probable cause.
In some states, false arrest is referred to as “false imprisonment.” The two crimes are the same for the most part. False arrest is usually charged as a misdemeanor offense. Some states treat the two offenses as different crimes.
False arrest must involve a perpetrator who asserted that they had legal authority to make an arrest. False imprisonment could be perpetrated by any person, especially one who did not assert any legal authority to arrest or confine others but was simply engaged in criminal conduct.
It is important to note that the word “false” in the name of the crime or the civil offense refers to the fact that restraint or confinement is illegal. It does not refer to any description of whether the victim was actually restrained or not.
A false arrest can be committed by a private person or a government employee, e.g., a police officer. Malice is not an element of false arrest or false imprisonment. A person may believe they have the authority to make an arrest and still be guilty of false arrest. Police officers, however, are rarely subject to false arrest claims.
Can I Get a Money Judgment for Being Held Without Consent?
A person who has been falsely imprisoned may file a civil lawsuit against the person who falsely imprisoned them. The remedy they would seek would be payment of compensatory damages.
The award of compensatory damages would compensate the victim for both their economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses would be such items as the cost of all of their necessary medical care, and lost wages. If the victim can be expected to lose future income, damages should be compensated for that loss also.
Other possible elements of economic damages would be compensation for lost business or lost employment opportunities. If a victim earns their living by operating a business and loses business due to the injuries, they may ask for damages to compensate for those losses also.
Non-economic damages would cover such items as emotional distress: Emotional distress would include any significant emotional response to the incident, such as shame and humiliation. Another common element of non-economic damages is pain and suffering, which would be the psychological component of physical injury.
If the conduct of the perpetrator was especially reprehensible, a jury may also award punitive damages in a false imprisonment case. In severe cases, an offender may also face criminal charges in addition to civil liability.
Can I Receive Punitive Damages Too?
If the conduct of the perpetrator was especially reprehensible, a jury may also award punitive damages in a false imprisonment case. They are also awarded not to compensate the victim but to punish the perpetrator and serve as an example to others and deter them from doing similar things.
Punitive damages are awarded only rarely and, in many states, are limited to four times the amount of compensatory damages. So, if a victim is awarded $25,000 in compensatory damages, they might receive a maximum of $100,000 in punitive damages.
A perpetrator may also be charged with the crime of false imprisonment or false arrest, depending on the state.
Can More Than One Individual Be Liable for My False Imprisonment?
If more than one person was involved in perpetrating a false imprisonment, then more than one person can be liable. In cases in which more than one person has participated in inflicting a wrong on another, they all have what is known in the law as joint and several liability. Each of them is liable for the full amount of any damages awarded to the victim in a civil lawsuit.
Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for My False Imprisonment Case?
If you have been held or confined without your consent, you want to consult a personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer has the expertise to review the facts of your case and determine if you have been the victim of false imprisonment and what your losses may be.
Your lawyer can protect your rights and your interests in connection with any false imprisonment or false arrest that you may have suffered.