Most often when people think about false imprisonment, they think about people being falsely arrested by the police. Most people don’t know that non-police officers can be liable for false imprisonment under many different circumstances.
The purpose of this article is to give a brief synopsis of the civil tort of false imprisonment in the state of California.
A basic definition of civil false imprisonment is; “a person intentionally holding another person within the bounds of a fixed area, without the consent of the person being held, and without a privilege that would excuse the conduct.”
For instance, let’s say that a man locks a woman in a room without her permission. This would be a classic case of civil false imprisonment.
Another example would be a person holding something of value to another person with the intent to make them stay in a certain place, and without the consent of the person whose valuables are being held.
Civil false imprisonment could also include one person grabbing onto another person without their consent, and holding them so that they cannot leave.
There are many other examples of false imprisonment that I can provide, however, the above examples are meant to give you an idea of what the civil tort of false imprisonment is in the state of California.
One key element of the civil tort of false imprisonment is that the person being held must reasonably believe that they cannot leave. Reasonable is a legal term of art used in the legal world. What reasonable basically means is: what would a reasonable prudent person do or believe under similar circumstances.
Another key element of the tort of false imprisonment is that the person doing the imprisoning, must not have a privilege to do so.
Examples of privileges that would allow a person to hold another person within the bounds of a fixed area are: shopkeepers who are investigating shoplifting at a store; civilians who have witnessed a felony, and place the person who committed a felony under citizen’s arrests; or police officers who have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed.
As with other intentional torts, victims of false imprisonment are entitled to not only compensatory damages, but they may also recover punitive damages. (Punishment)
By Norman Gregory Fernandez, ESQ. Copyright 2006