What is False Imprisonment?

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By definition, false imprisonment means holding an individual without his or her consent, restricting their locational freedom. The act of false imprisonment is considered an intentional tort, where tort is a wrongful act of causing harm to another person or group of people.

According to the law, an intentional tort can cause either physical or psychological harm to an individual, as well as property damage. Common types of torts include car accidents or medical malpractice, where the person committing the tort is negligent or partakes in reckless behavior. These torts are not considered intentional. False imprisonment is an intentional tort, meaning the defendant who is imprisoning another acts with intent.

In order for the act of restraint to be considered false imprisonment, the following must be true:

1. An individual is held unlawfully

2. An individual is being held against his or her will; and,

3. There is no legal justification for the imprisonment

When filing a false imprisonment claim, the plaintiff (imprisoned party) has to prove three elements to be successful in court. First, the injured party must prove that there was some form of threat or force involved in the imprisonment act (note: actual physical form is not required for detainment to be considered false imprisonment). For example, locking a door to hold an individual in is considered false imprisonment if the imprisoned individual feels threatened or fearful in the situation. Another example would be threatening to injure the detained individual if he or she attempted to escape.

Second, the false imprisonment must be considered imprisonment to a “reasonable person.” For this element, a judge or jury will decide if a reasonable person would believe that they were being detained in the same situation; a jury will look at all of the facts surrounding the imprisonment. For example, if the plaintiff claims that he was being detained against his will because one door was blocked, but there was another door not blocked, the jury may throw this case out. The jury would rule that because there was an available exit, that false imprisonment was not taking place.

The final variable to determine if a person is being detained through false imprisonment is deciding if there was legal justification behind the imprisonment. For example, an individual may be lawfully arrested and detained by a law enforcement official and would not be able to claim false imprisonment if the officer had probable cause to detain them. Another example would be if a store owner suspected that an individual was shoplifting, the store owner has a legal right to detain them for a reasonable amount of time (usually the time it takes for a law enforcement official to arrive and take over) – this is referred to as the Shopkeeper’s Privilege). Also, if an individual turns herself in to authorities for a crime but then is later cleared, she cannot later claim false imprisonment.

Contact an Attorney

If you believe that your or a loved has been unlawfully detained or held against their will, contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Because the laws regarding false imprisonment vary and can be complex, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney. The attorneys at Bighorn Law specialize in personal injury litigation and can help you get the justice that you deserve.

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