False Imprisonment Examples

False Imprisonment

To violated someone’s liberty as required by the false imprisonment statute may comprise any form of confinement including detaining a person in a room, building, street, or moving vehicle, or forcing a person to go from one place to another. 1

However preventing a person from entering a location, or from going somewhere is not false imprisonment. Often a false imprisonment is accomplished by an assault, although this is unnecessary. Neither force nor violence is required, nor is the threat of either necessary, implied is sufficient.

“Any exercise of force, or express or implied threat of force, by which in fact the other person is deprived of his liberty or is compelled to remain where he does not wish to remain, or to go where he does not wish to go, is an imprisonment. The wrong may be committed by acts or by words, or both, and by merely operating upon the will of the individual or by personal violence, or both. … If an act is done with the intention of causing the confinement of the person actually confined or of another and such act is a substantial factor in bringing about a confinement, it is immaterial whether the act directly or indirectly causes the confinement.2” In one case the perpetrator made a citizen’s arrested and the police took the person into custody. Since the detention was the natural consequence of defendant's announcement, and it was at his implied direction, it was a false imprisonment. 3

However an unlawful arrest is not false imprisonment if it is privileged. A lawful arrest, with or without a warrant, by a police officer, public officer, or private person, is privileged. But an unlawful arrest is false imprisonment.4 Unreasonable detention following an arrest may also constitute false imprisonment.

The actions of a private person making an arrest may also be privileged. For example a merchant or library employee with reasonable cause to believe that a person has unlawfully taken or attempted to take merchandise or library materials may detain in a reasonable manner that person for a reasonable time to investigate. A motion picture theatre owner with probable cause to believe that a person is attempting to operate a video recording device in the theatre without the theatre owner's permission may similarly detain the person. 5

1 People v. Agnew (1940) 16 C.2d 655, 659, 107 P.2d 601; People v. Wheeler (1887) 73 C. 252, 256, 14 P. 796
2 People v. Agnew, supra, 16 C.2d 659, 660
3 People v. Agnew, supra
4 (People v. Agnew (1940) 16 C.2d 655, 107 P.2d 601 [People v. Sagehorn (1956) 140 C.A.2d 138, 147, 294 P.2d 1062
5 Section 490.5(f) of the California Penal Code.