is a restraint of a person in a bounded area without justification or consent. False imprisonment is a common-law felony and a tort. It applies to private as well as governmental detention. When it comes to public police, the proving of false imprisonment is sufficient to obtain a writ of habeas corpus
is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...
The following are false imprisonment scenarios.
- The taking hostage of a bank's customers and employees by bank robbers.
- The detention of a customer by a business owner (e.g., hotel operator, apartment owner, credit card company) for the failure to pay a bill. However, there is something known as the "merchant's exception." A store operator may detain a suspected thief for a reasonable period of time to conduct an investigation of the facts or situation.
- Certain situations arising from controversial legislation, like California's Assembly Bill 1421, Laura's Law
Laura's Law is a California state law that allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. To qualify for the program, the person must have a serious mental illness plus a recent history of psychiatric hospitalizations, jailings or acts, threats or attempts of serious violent behavior...
- A robber in a home invasion ties hostage up and takes them to a separate room.
What false imprisonment is not
Not all detainments constitute false imprisonment; whether or not false imprisonment is the case is based heavily on the context of the situation.
Under United States law, the police have the right to detain someone if they have probable cause
In United States criminal law, probable cause is the standard by which an officer or agent of the law has the grounds to make an arrest, to conduct a personal or property search, or to obtain a warrant for arrest, etc. when criminal charges are being considered. It is also used to refer to the...
to believe a crime has been committed, and that the person is so involved, or if the officer has reasonable suspicion
Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard of proof in United States law that is less than probable cause, the legal standard for arrests and warrants, but more than an "inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or 'hunch' ";...
that the person has been, is, or is about to be, engaged in criminal activity based on specific and articulable facts and inferences.
Many jurisdictions of the United States recognize the common law shopkeeper's privilege
In some jurisdictions of the United States, the courts recognize a common law shopkeeper's privilege, under which a shopkeeper is allowed to detain a suspected shoplifter on store property for a reasonable period of time, so long as the shopkeeper has cause to believe that the person detained in...
, under which he is allowed to detain a suspected shoplifter on store property for a reasonable period of time, with cause to believe that the person detained in fact committed, or attempted to commit theft of store property. The shopkeeper's privilege, although recognized in most jurisdictions, is not as broad a privilege as that of a police officer's, and therefore one must pay special attention to the temporal element that is, the shopkeeper may only detain the suspected criminal for a relatively short period of time. This is similar to a general right in many jurisdictions of citizen's arrest
A citizen's arrest is an arrest made by a person who is not acting as a sworn law-enforcement official. In common law jurisdictions, the practice dates back to medieval Britain and the English common law, in which sheriffs encouraged ordinary citizens to help apprehend law breakers.Despite the...
of suspected criminals by the public in limited circumstances.
This privilege has been justified by the very practical need for some degree of protection for shopkeepers in their dealings with suspected shoplifters. Absent such privilege, a shopkeeper would be faced with the dilemma of either allowing suspects to leave without challenge or acting upon his suspicion and risk making a false arrest.
The privilege for the most part is to be able to return the stolen goods. The shopkeeper may not force a confession. They do have a right to conduct a contemporaneous search of the person and the objects within that person's control.
Claim of false imprisonment
To prevail under a false imprisonment claim, a plaintiff must prove: (1) willful detention; (2) without consent; and (3) without authority of law.(Restatement of the Law, Second, Torts)
The test of liability is not based on the store patron's guilt or innocence, but instead on the reasonableness of the store's action under the circumstances; the trier of fact usually determines whether reasonable belief is established. A guilty shoplifter can still sue for false imprisonment then if the detention was unreasonable.
In a Louisiana case in the United States, a pharmacist and his pharmacy were found liable by a trial court for false imprisonment. They stalled for time and instructed a patient to wait while simultaneously and without the patient's knowledge calling the police. The pharmacist was suspicious of the patient's prescription, which her doctor had called in previously. When the police arrived, they arrested the patient. While the patient was in prison, the police verified with her doctor that the prescription was authentic and that it was meant for her. After this incident, the patient sued the pharmacy and its employees. She received $20,000 damages. An appeals court reversed the judgment, because it believed the elements of false imprisonment were not met.
In Enright v. Groves
, a woman sued a police officer for false imprisonment after being arrested for not leashing her dog. The plaintiff was in her car when she was approached by the officer, and when she was asked to produce her driver's license and failed to do so, she was arrested. She won her claim, despite having lost the case of not leashing her dog. The court reasoned that the officer did not have proper legal authority in arresting her, because he arrested her for not producing her driver's license (which itself was not a crime) as opposed to the dog leash violation.
In the United Kingdom, a case was brought to the High Court
The High Court of Justice is, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales...
concerning the alleged unlawful detention of hundreds of members of the public during the May Day riots of 2001 in London, England. The police, using the tactic of "kettling
Kettling is a police tactic for controlling large crowds during demonstrations or protests. It involves the formation of large cordons of police officers who then move to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters are left only one choice of exit, determined by the police, or are completely...
", held a large crowd in Oxford Circus
Oxford Circus is the area of London at the busy intersection of Regent Street and Oxford Street, in the West End. It is served by Oxford Circus tube station, which is directly beneath the junction itself.- History :...
for several hours without allowing anyone to leave. Lois Austin, a peaceful protestor who had not broken the law, and Geoffrey Saxby, an innocent passer-by who was not involved in the demonstration, claimed that they were falsely imprisoned by the London Metropolitan Police
The Metropolitan Police Service is the territorial police force responsible for Greater London, excluding the "square mile" of the City of London which is the responsibility of the City of London Police...
and that their detention was in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights. The pair lost their court action in 2005, when the High Court ruled that the police had not acted unlawfully. An appeal against the ruling also failed in 2007. A ruling by the House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....
declared that even in the case of an absolute right, the High Court was entitled to take the "purpose" of the deprivation of liberty into account before deciding if human rights law applied at all.
- Brain washing
- Child abduction
Child abduction or Child theft is the unauthorized removal of a minor from the custody of the child's natural or legally appointed guardians....
- False accusations
False accusations can be in any of the following contexts:* informally in everyday life* quasi-judicially* judicially.-Types:...
- False arrest
False arrest is a common law tort, where a plaintiff alleges they were held in custody without probable cause, or without an order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction...
A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war...
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...
Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort money or property to secure their release, or it can refer to the sum of money involved.In an early German law, a similar concept was called bad influence...