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Criminal Defense Information for False Imprisonment (Cal. Penal Code s. 236)

  1. What is False Imprisonment?
  2. How does False Imprisonment differ from kidnapping?
  3. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of False Imprisonment?
  4. What is the sentence / punishment for False Imprisonment?
  5. What are possible defenses to charges of False Imprisonment?
  1. What is False Imprisonment?

    Girl being restrained against her will

    Girl being restrained against her will

    False Imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty/freedom of another person. Cal. Pen. Code s. 236 Opens in New Window. In other words, restraining someone against their will and without legal cause is false imprisonment.

  2. How does False Imprisonment differ from kidnapping?

    Kidnapping is restraining someone against their will and moving them. False Imprisonment does not have a requirement that the restrained person be moved.

  3. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of False Imprisonment?

    To prove the defendant committed False Imprisonment, the state must show that the defendant:

    1. Violated the personal liberty of another person.; and
    2. Had no legal justification for the restriction (e.g., not legally arresting someone).
  4. What is the sentence / punishment for False Imprisonment?

    Standard, run of the mill False Imprisonment is a misdemeanor and carries up to one year in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. Cal. Pen. Code s. 237 (a) Opens in New Window.

    If the False Imprisonment was achieved through use of violence, fraud, menace, or deceit, the False Imprisonment is deemed a felony under Cal. Pen. Code s. 1170 (h) Opens in New Window. (See Cal. Pen. Code s. 237 (a) Opens in New Window.) In that case, the prison time is either 16 months, 2 years, or three years and/or fines.

    If the False Imprisonment is against an elder or dependent adult and was achieved through use of violence, fraud, menace, or deceit, the False Imprisonment is deemed a felony under Cal. Pen. Code s. 237 (b) Opens in New Window. At that point, Cal. Pen. Code s. 368 (f) Opens in New Window applies and sentencing will be carried out under Cal. Pen. Code s. 1170 (h) Opens in New Window. In that case, the sentence will be two, three, or four years in prison and/or fines.

  5. What are possible defenses to charges of False Imprisonment?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of False Imprisonment, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For False Imprisonment, some of these justifications include:

    • Permission from the other person (e.g., consentual bedroom play);
    • Alibi;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Necessity;
    • Accident;
    • Entrapment; and
    • Statute of Limitations.
See also, Kidnapping.