Woman in fear of domestic abuseWhat happens if you decide to restrain somebody? Let’s say that your spouse is adamant about leaving the house because of an argument. However, you tell her that she is not allowed to leave and lock her inside the bedroom until she “comes to her senses” about the matter. However, the police are called and suddenly you are under arrest for something known as False Imprisonment. In California, this is a very serious crime that can bring severe penalties.

False imprisonment falls under California Penal Code 236, which states that it is “the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.” However, for you to be found guilty of this crime, the prosecution in your case must find that you intentionally restrained or confined a person, and your act made the person go somewhere against his or her will. You should know that false imprisonment could happen really anywhere – in a room, on the streets, or even in a moving vehicle. When you make the decision to detain somebody to the point where they cannot move freely, then you have committed this serious crime.

In some of these cases, physical force is used – but it is not a necessity to prove the crime. Just words alone made in a threatening manner to detain could be enough to make a case. The person who makes the claim against you must have reasonably believed that they were being confined, which the court will determine when all is said and done.


In California, False Imprisonment is typically viewed as a misdemeanor crime. If you are convicted, you could spend almost an entire year in county jail or a fine of $1,000. In some cases, if the crime was severe enough, you may spend prison time and pay a fine. However, you could also be charged with a felony if your act occurred with violence, menace, fraud, or deceit. In this case, you may spend as many as three years in prison.


Did the plaintiff actually consent to the imprisonment? Were things not exactly as they seem in the courtroom? This may be a reason to use a defense in your case. Here are some of the most common defenses regarding false imprisonment:

Voluntary Consent: If a person consents to confinement, they cannot claim false imprisonment down the line.

Police Privilege: Police officers may detain somebody when there is probable cause. If a crime is committed, this is not illegal.

Shopkeeper’s Privilege: If a merchant believes that someone has committed retail theft, they can reasonably detain a person until the police arrive. The courts will determine whether or not this was reasonable under the circumstances.

Citizen’s Arrest: People who are not law enforcement officers can make a “citizen’s arrest” when the situation calls for it. When they watch a crime take place, they can detain a person until the police arrive. However, they can never step in and take the place of law enforcement, which should be remembered.

False imprisonment is a serious crime carrying serious charges. This is why, if you believe your situation calls for it and you want to use a defense in a case, you should speak to an attorney about your options. This is not the end of the line and we can help you with your case.