An crime as well as an intentional tort. A a person commits false imprisonment when he commits an act of restraint on another person which confines that person in a bounded area. An act of restraint can be a physical barrier (such as a locked door), the use of physical force to restrain, a failure to release, or an invalid use of legal authority. Threats of immediate physical force are also sufficient to be acts of restraint. An area is only bounded if freedom of movement is limited in all directions. If there is a reasonable means of escape from the area, the area is not bounded.
An example of an invalid use of legal authority is the detainment or arrest of a person without a warrant, with an illegal warrant, or with a warrant illegally executed. So long as the person is deprived of his personal liberty, the amount of time actually detained is inconsequential. See, e.g. Schenck v. Pro Choice Network, 519 U.S. 357 (1997)
Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
A crime in which the perpetrator intentionally restrains another person without having the legal right to do so. This can literally mean physical restraint, such as locking someone in a car or tying the person to a chair. However, it's not necessary that physical force be used; threats or a show of apparent authority are sufficient. False imprisonment is a misdemeanor and a tort (a civil violation). If the perpetrator confines the victim for a substantial period of time (or moves the victim a significant distance) in order to commit a felony, the false imprisonment may become a kidnapping. People who are arrested and get the charges dropped, or are later acquitted, often think that they can sue the arresting officer for false imprisonment (also known as false arrest). These lawsuits rarely succeed: As long as the officer had probable cause to arrest the person, the officer will not be liable for a false arrest, even if it turns out later that the information the officer relied upon was incorrect.
Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.
August 19, 2010, 5:16 pm