False Imprisonment Described

False Imprisonment Described

The crime of false imprisonment is a violation section 236 of the California Penal Code and is committed when a person is restrained through, “[a]ny exercise of express or implied force which compels [the] . . . person to remain where he does not wish to remain, or to go where he does not wish to go . . . , “ either threats or acts of violence or both might accomplish the act.1

The term “personal liberty,” as used in section 236 relates to the right to be free from physical control.2

False imprisonment can be a misdemeanor or felony, if filed as a misdemeanor the sentence is a $1000 fine, one year in jail or both. If filed as a felony is punishable by imprisonment under P.C. 1170(h)

If committed against an elder or dependent adult, the sentence for false imprisonment is prison for 2, 3, or 4 years.3

Consent can be a defense unless it was “induced by coercion or deception or where the victim is incapable of consenting due to unsoundness of mind or tenderness of years.” 4

Whether a felony or misdemeanor it involves the use or threat of force. If a felony the force is more than necessary to committed the restraint. 5

Because kidnaping also involves a violation of the victim's liberty, the crime of false imprisonment is also committed during the commission of a kidnapping. 6

The force used in the kidnaping of a small child is also that necessary in false imprisonment. “[T]he amount of force required to kidnap an unresisting infant or child is simply the amount of physical force required to take and carry the child away a substantial distance for an illegal purpose or with an illegal intent.” false imprisonment of a child is accomplished by moving an unresisting child a substantial distance for an illegal purpose or with an illegal intent. 7

Several misdemeanors deal with special categories of people and unlawful restraint, or false imprisonment

  • A person who is a police officer, or falsely claims to be a police officer, who illegally arrests, or detains a person. 8
  • A person who falsely claims to be a deputy or clerk in a state department arrests or detains a person, or threatens to do so.9
  • A person who as a member of a court “. . . knowingly and unlawfully “recommits, imprisons, or restrains” a person discharged on a habeas corpus petition.10
  • A person having legal custody of another who avoids or attempts to avoid the service of a petition of writ of habeas corpus for the release of the person in custody. 11
  • A person who leaves another locked in a car, “who cannot readily escape therefrom.” 12
  • A person who confines another in a health care facility solely for nonpayment of a bill. 13
Means Employed.

False imprisonment can be accomplished through several methods. For example a police officer who arrests a person without probable cause who then physically abuses the person arrested can be guilty of felony false imprisonment.14 Pointing a firearm at another person to prevent them from moving under some circumstances can be an unlawful restraint.15 Grabbing or pulling someone to a place which the person does not wish to go and where the force used exceeds that necessary for the commission of a misdemeanor is a felony.16


1 People v. Fernandez Cal. App. 4th (1994)
2 People v. Bamba 58 Cal. App. 4th 1117
3 Sections 237(b), 368(f) of the California Penal Code
4 Parnell v. Superior Court (1981) 119 C.A.3d 392, 409, 173 C.R. 906
5 People v. Hendrix (1992) 8 C.A.4th 1458, 1462, 10 C.R.2d 922; People v. Bamba, supra, 58 C.A.4th 1123.
6 People v. Moreland (1970) 5 C.A.3d 588, 594, 85 C.R. 215; People v. Gibbs (1970) 12 C.A.3d 526, 547, 90 C.R. 866; People v. Magana (1991) 230 C.A.3d 1117, 1121, 281C.R. 338
7 People v. Dominguez, 180 C.A.4th 1358
8 Section 146(a) of the California Penal Code.
9 Section 146a(a)(1) of the California Penal Code.
10 Section 363 of the California Penal Code
11 Section 364 of the California Penal Code
12 Section 22516 of the California Vehicle Code
13 Section 1285(a), (d) of the California Health and Safety Code
14 People v. Brock (1963) 220 C.A.2d 605, 34 C.R. 113
15 See People v. Henderson (1977) 19 C.3d 86, 97, 137 C.R. 1, 560 P.2d 1180
16 People v. Castro (2006) 138 C.A.4th 137, 143, 41 C.R.3d 190