False Imprisonment: Confining a Person Without Legal Authority

False Imprisonment: Confining a Person Without Legal Authority

What is false imprisonment?

False imprisonment is a tort, and possibly a crime, where a person is intentionally confined without legal authority. It entails the restraint of an individual or the obstruction of their freedom without their consent. This can take many forms, such as:

  • Being tied to a chair
  • Being locked in a room
  • Being locked in a car
  • Being physically held or restrained

The elements of false imprisonment usually involves:

  • The person detained is being held against their will
  • The imprisoned person is unable to move about freely
  • Proof can be provided that the imprisonment was not lawful

False imprisonment can be applicable to private situations as well as government.


Although punishment may vary from country to country, and even state to state, it is generally considered to be a 3rd degree felony, which carries penalties such as:

  • Up to five years in jail
  • A fine of up to $5,000
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Other penalties as defined by the court

If false imprisonment can be proved, damages may be awarded in civil court.

What is a False Arrest?

The term false arrest is sometimes used in relation to false imprisonment, but it actually has a different meaning. Under a false arrest, one person arrests another, but the arresting person does not have legal justification or legal authority to do so. If the arresting person takes the other into custody and restricts their freedom, then it also becomes false imprisonment.

Additional resources related to False Imprisonment

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