False Imprisonment and False Arrest
False imprisonment and false arrest can be both crimes and civil causes of action. In a civil action, false imprisonment is a tort that occurs when one person intentionally restricts another person’s freedom of movement. False arrest is very similar to false imprisonment. It is also an intentional tort that occurs when someone restricts another’s freedom of movement. However, false arrest involves the added element that the restriction of the victim’s freedom is apparently backed by the weight of the law. When a person has suffered from false imprisonment or false arrest, a good personal injury lawyer from a law firm like Eglet Adams, may be able to help.
False imprisonment is an intentional tort, which means that it is a wrongful act that results in harm to another person. The harm suffered by the victim might be physical harm, emotional or psychological harm, or damage to the victim’s property. False imprisonment has three elements that the plaintiff must prove beyond a preponderance of the evidence in a civil action:
- The defendant unlawfully restrained the plaintiff;
- The defendant did so against the plaintiff’s will; and
- The defendant did so without legal justification.
False imprisonment requires that either force or threat of force was used to restrain the plaintiff. For instance, locking someone inside a room or blocking their exit from the room is clearly false imprisonment. However, actual physical force is not necessary for a successful false imprisonment claim. An implied threat of force, such as threatening to injure the plaintiff if they leave, will typically be enough to prove the defendant’s intent.
False imprisonment also has a “reasonable person” standard. This means that the jury will have to decide whether a reasonable person in the situation the plaintiff was in would have believed they could not leave. For example, if the defendant was blocking the exit, but there was another exit from the room elsewhere, the plaintiff was not falsely imprisoned.
Examples that would likely negate the third element of false imprisonment, which states the defendant acted without a legal justification:
- A valid arrest made by a law enforcement officer
- A shopkeeper detaining a patron for a reasonable amount of time if they have reason to believe that the patron has stolen.
In both of the above situations, the actor was legally justified and did not commit false imprisonment.
The plaintiff must also show that they suffered some sort of injury or damage to their property as a result of their false imprisonment.
False arrest occurs when a person detains or holds another person without probable cause, a warrant, or a court order to do so. Both law enforcement officers and normal citizens can commit false arrest.
The elements of false arrest are:
- The defendant intended to confine the plaintiff;
- The plaintiff was aware of the confinement;
- The defendant confined the plaintiff against the plaintiff’s will; and
- The defendant did not have a legal justification for the confinement.
The most important inquiry is whether the law enforcement officer or citizen had probable cause to make the arrest, which is a fact-specific inquiry that will vary from case to case. The distinction between false arrest and false imprisonment is that the defendant claims that they have the backing of law when restraining the plaintiff’s freedom of movement.
As with false imprisonment, a plaintiff bringing a false arrest claim must prove that they suffered some sort of injury, either physical or psychological, or property damage as a result of the false arrest.