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What is False Imprisonment Charges in California?

Posted by Alan Eisner | Sep 14, 2017

California Penal Code 236 PC  – False Imprisonment
California Penal Code 236 PC false imprisonment law makes it a crime to unlawfully deprive another individual of their personal liberty.

A false imprisonment offense is covered under California Penal Code Section 236. In basic terms, false imprisonment charges can be filed if you unlawfully deprive another individual of their personal liberty.

This means if you intentionally detain another person without a legal right to do so, and they are not allowed to leave when they want, they are considered falsely imprisoned.

It's similar to kidnapping charges under California Penal Code Section 207, but kidnapping requires a defendant to move the individual a substantial distance.

When a person is simply held or restrained against their will, it's considered a false imprisonment offense.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm has seen many different situations where someone was charged with false imprisonment. Some common examples include domestic violence situations. For example, during a heated argument, the husband grab's his wife's arms and prevents her from leaving.

Another example includes situations where someone is riding as a passenger in a car, becomes involved in an argument with the driver and asks to be let out.

If the driver refuses, this conduct could be considered false imprisonment. False imprisonment can be charged when the confinement, detention, or restraint only last for a short time.

Even though a false imprisonment charge is not on the same level as a kidnapping charge, it's still a serious crime with potentially harsh legal consequences. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, false imprisonment can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.

If you have been accused of false imprisonment, you need to contact the experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately. Do not talk to police detectives as you risk making incriminating statements.

Let's examine the legal definition of false imprisonment below.

California Penal Code Section 236 – False Imprisonment

Under California Penal Code Section 236, the legal definition of false imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.

Violating another person's liberty means sustained restriction or their liberty through violence, duress, fraud, deceit, or a threat of unlawful injury under circumstances where the individual receiving the threat reasonably believes that the person making the threat can carry it out.

In order to be convicted of false imprisonment, the prosecutor must prove certain elements of the crime, including:

  • That you intentionally and unlawfully detained, restrained, or confined another individual;
  • Your act made the individual stay or go somewhere against their will.

What are the Legal Penalties?

As you can see under Penal Code 236, it's a crime to restrain another person's freedom or movement against their will. False imprisonment is typically a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, the legal penalties include up to one year in a county jail and a $1,000 fine.

You could be charged with a felony false imprisonment offense if violence, menace, fraud, or deceit was used in the restraint. Menace means a threat of violence that does not have to be communicated verbally, but could simply be implied by your behavior.

If convicted of a felony crime, you could receive up to three years in a California state prison and a $10,000 fine.

If the victim was elderly or dependent, the jail sentence could increase to four years. If the false imprisonment was for the benefit of a criminal street gang, there could be a 15 year to life enhancement added under California Penal Code Section 186.22.

Furthermore, if a gun was used in the false imprisonment, 10 years can be added to the sentence. If the gun was actually discharged, 25 years can be added to the sentence. Call our top-rated Los Angeles criminal defense law firm for more information. 

What Are Some Possible Legal Defenses?

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can use a variety of legal defenses against charges of false imprisonment. These include:

  • The alleged victim was there voluntarily – If a criminal attorney can prove you did not force the victim to stay and they were not restrained at the location against their will, you can't be convicted of false imprisonment.
  • Your actions were in good faith – It may be possible to prove your restraint was due to a reasonable belief the victim might endanger themselves or others. A common example includes a situation where a spouse makes statements about committing suicide or harming another person during a heated argument.
  • False Accusation – In some cases, a criminal defense attorney may be able to show the allegations of false imprisonment were simply not based on facts. There has been cases where the accusations involved ulterior motives, such as revenge or jealously. 
  • Self Defense – In certain cases, it may be possible to prove the restraint of the victim was an act of self defense or defense of others and the force used was reasonable under the circumstances.  

Important Information about False Imprisonment

It's important to make note that false imprisonment is known as a “general intent” crime. How does that relate to false imprisonment? It means you don't have to literally intend to falsely imprison someone; just that your act that caused them to be falsely imprisoned was deliberate.

This means you do not have to actually physically restrain someone to be guilty of false imprisonment. It's also important to make note that you can be charged with a felony false imprisonment offense even you did not commit actual violence on the victim.

If you just caused the victim to feel fear of potential physical violence through your actions if they attempted to leave the location, you can be charged with a felony crime. It's also possible to face felony charges if you restrained someone against their will using deceit or fraud. 

Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Are you or a family member facing a false imprisonment allegation in Los Angeles County? We know from experience that a false imprisonment case is rarely an open and shut case.

Without a skilled criminal defense attorney, your story may go untold and you could be facing harsh legal consequences, including years behind bars.

Don't let your case spiral out of control. Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Eisner Gorin LLP to review all the details and discuss immediate options.

We offer a free immediate response. Call our law firm at 877-78-1570.

About the Author

Alan Eisner

Alan Eisner  Van Nuys, California (818) 781-1570 (818) 788-5033 Email Me  Alan Eisner has practiced criminal law for over 28 years in Los Angeles County . Mr Eisner is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. (The California State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization has designated Mr. Eisner as a...

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