False Imprisonment: Confining a Person Without Legal Authority

Person in handcuffs

What is false imprisonment?

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

  • Being tied to a chair or other immovable object
  • 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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