False imprisonment can be defined as the act of restricting another person’s freedom of movement. False imprisonment is classified as an intentional tort, which is a wrongful and purposeful act that causes harm to another. This type of tort is often correlated with false arrest, another intentional tort that involves restricting another individual’s freedom of movement.
A tort is any wrongful act that causes harm to another. A tort can be an act which causes physical harm, or damages another’s property, and it can be a result of negligence or simply reckless behavior. The way an intentional tort differs from any other tort depends on the mental state of the offender; intentional torts are purposefully and intentionally committed. If you can prove you were falsely imprisoned, you could recover personal injury damages. False imprisonment is an intentional tort which has three elements.
The first part false imprisonment is the unlawful restraint of another. Proving this part of the tort involves determining whether there was force or threats used to restrain the victim. Locking a person in a room or otherwise preventing them from leaving is a clear-cut example. However, this tort can also be committed with an implied threat rather than force, for instance, if the offender verbally threatens the accuser with violence if they attempt to leave. Even if the accused to does not physically block the other party from leaving, the threat to injure the other party is enough to prove intent.
The next element of a false imprisonment is that the person was restrained against their will. To prove this part, a judge will apply a “reasonable person” standard. This means that the judge will look at the facts of the situation and determine if a reasonable person would feel they were being restrained against their will. For instance, if the facts of the situation show that the offender blocked an exit, but there was still another exit available the accuser could have reasonably used, then a judge might determine there was no false imprisonment.
The last element of false imprisonment is that a person was unlawfully restrained, against their will,without legal justification. When determining whether this element exists, a judge will look at whether the imprisonment had a legal basis.
Legal bases for intention include:
- a legal arrest made by law enforcement authorities
- an arrest made under Shopkeeper’s Privilege, which holds that a shopkeeper can hold an offender for a reasonable amount of time if they have justified suspicion that you stole something
- voluntary consent; you cannot claim false imprisonment if your consented to the detention without duress.
A tort is considered a civil offense, meaning it is a judgement of liability and could result in monetary damages. However, false imprisonment can also be considered a criminal offense, which is a cause of action brought by the state in defense of public welfare and could result in imprisonment as well as fines. Whether or not false imprisonment is considered a crime depends on the jurisdiction. Still, for false imprisonment to be considered a crime, the prosecutor must prove without a reasonable doubt that every element of false imprisonment was met.