In October of 2013, 19-year old Trayon Christian bought a $350 belt from the Barney’s Department Store. Soon after he was accosted by undercover police officers and detained on suspicion of theft even after he produced a receipt, identification, and a debit card. He describes the experience as humiliating.

What is False Imprisonment?

False imprisonment is an intentional tort where someone is detained against their will without any legal justification. With an intentional tort the person who injures must have intended to commit the act. Note that this is different from intending to do harm. Without proving the intent then there is no intentional tort. There can be criminal or civil liability for this claim and there are pluses and minuses for when you might want to do one or the other (or both). With a civil case, a person would be seeking monetary damages for their injury; in a criminal suit the public would seek criminal fines or imprisonment. There are three main elements in a civil false imprisonment case:

  1. A person was restrained unlawfully;
  2. Against their will;
  3. And without legal justification.

The first element can be difficult to prove because it really is based on the circumstances surrounding the situation. Most people assume that false imprisonment is confined to situations where law enforcement is called or when someone is physically restrained in an extreme manner as in a citizen’s arrest. But there can be less extreme instances where a person does not feel free to leave but is not being touched. These are harder to determine and in a court of law the facts surrounding the accusation will be very important to the final determination.

The second element will be based on what is known as the “reasonable person” standard. This means that a reasonable person in the same situation would have believed that the restraint was against their will. This is an objective standard and it is not based upon the sensitivities that any particular individual would have.

The final element is that there has to be no legal basis for the imprisonment. There are obvious legal bases like legitimate arrest, but there are also less known ones like the shopkeeper’s privilege. Those who own or manage retail stores have a right to detain those suspected of shoplifting for a reasonable amount of time. Then there is voluntary consent. Note that just because an officer is making an arrest does not mean the imprisonment is justified.

With a civil suit for false imprisonment, it is possible to recover damages for physical and mental pain and suffering. There may be a claim for economic damages if the imprisonment was severe enough to affect employment or cause severe mental anguish. It is imperative to seek an attorney immediately after a suspected instance of false imprisonment.

This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases.

When to Reach our False Imprisonment Lawyers?

Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you believe you were falsely imprisoned please call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.