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False Imprisonment

Penal Code 236 PC - False Imprisonment in California

California Penal Code 236 PC defines false imprisonment as unlawfully restraining, detaining, or confining someone against their will, a wobbler that the district attorney can file as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.

Simply put, it's a crime to detain, restrain, or confine another person without their consent and not allow them to leave when they want, with or without the use of force.

PC 236 false imprisonment is similar to the more severe crime of Penal Code 207 kidnapping, which requires moving a victim a substantial distance. Under PC 236, the victim is not required to be moved to another location. Rather, simply holding or restraining someone against their will is considered false imprisonment.

False imprisonment often occurs during domestic violence incidents. For example, suppose a boyfriend grabs and holds the arms of his girlfriend during an argument, and she is attempting to leave the home. Since she is being detained and confined, even for a short time, the boyfriend could be charged with the crime of PC 236 false imprisonment.

PC 236 says, "False imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another."

Notably, to violate someone's liberty, there must be a sustained restriction of their freedom by using violence, duress, fraud, deceit, or a threat of unlawful injury that the victim reasonably believes. California has two types of false imprisonment: misdemeanor and felony.

What Factors Must be Proven for a Conviction?

For a prosecutor to convict a defendant of Penal Code 236 PC false imprisonment, they must be able to prove several different factors beyond a reasonable doubt, known as elements of the crime, such as the following:

  • You intentionally detained, restrained, or confined someone.
  • Your act made the victim stay or go somewhere for some time.
  • The victim did not give their consent and was harmed.
  • Your conduct was a significant factor in causing the victim's harm.

Regarding "restraint, detention, or confinement," a victim does not have to be locked in a room or closet. Instead, it's considered false imprisonment when someone is detained or confined by force, fraud, or threat of force. This could include using physical barriers, such as furniture, to prevent them from leaving.

For a felony false imprisonment conviction, the district attorney must prove that you intentionally and unlawfully restrained, confined, or detained someone by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, and you made them stay or go somewhere against their will.

False Imprisonment - Quick Facts

  • PC 236 PC is a "general intent" crime, meaning a defendant doesn't have to have the intent to falsely imprison someone literally, but instead only that their deliberate conduct caused it.
  • A defendant does not have to physically hold and restrain someone to be found guilty of false imprisonment.
  • False imprisonment can occur in any location.
  • You can be charged with a felony false imprisonment even if you didn't use any actual violence against the victim but only caused them fear of potential violence if they attempted to leave by their deliberate conduct.
  • An act is done against someone's will if that person does not consent.
  • To consent, someone must act freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act.
  • The term "violence" in the context of law means using physical force that is more significant than the force reasonably necessary to restrain someone. Violence can include forms of domestic violence.
  • The term "menace" means a verbal or physical threat of harm, including using a deadly weapon. The threat of harm may be expressed or implied. It doesn't have to be communicated verbally but simply implied by the defendant's conduct.

What are PC 236 Related Crimes?

  • Penal Code 210.5 PC - false imprisonment of hostage to avoid arrest. False imprisonment of a hostage is a crime where you falsely imprison someone to prevent an arrest or use them as a human shield. It is always a felony that carries up to eight years in jail.
  • Penal Code 422 PC - criminal threats. This crime involves making death threats or threats of significant bodily injury meant to place victims in reasonable and sustained fear for their safety or their family's safety.
  • Penal Code 207 PC - kidnapping. In this crime, you move a victim a substantial distance using force or fear. A conviction also carries harsh penalties.
  • Penal Code 215 PC - carjacking. This crime involves taking a motor vehicle from someone using force or fear. This felony carries up to nine years in prison, but the penalties are increased if you injured someone, used a gun, committed carjacking for the benefit of a gang, or kidnapped someone during the carjacking.
  • Penal Code 209.5 PC - kidnapping during a carjacking. This offense is a type of aggravated kidnapping that carries up to life in prison.
  • Penal Code 368 PC - elder abuse. This crime includes abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of adults 65 years old or older.

What are the Penalties for a False Imprisonment?

California Penal Code 237 PC lists the penalties for false imprisonment, which can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony.

False imprisonment is usually a misdemeanor crime that carries:

  • Up to one year in county jail, and
  • A fine of up to $1,000.

If convicted of a felony false imprisonment case, which usually means the crime included violence, fraud, menace, or deceit, then you are facing:

  • 16 months, two, or three years in county jail,
  • A fine of up to $10,000.

Notably, a false imprisonment conviction can have some sentencing enhancements, such as the following:

  • The county jail sentence could be increased to four years if the false imprisonment victim was elderly or dependent.
  • If the elderly victim suffered a significant bodily injury, then the sentence can increase based on their specific age, either above or below 70 years old.
  • If the false imprisonment was for the benefit of a criminal street gang, then the defendant is facing 15 years to life enhancement under California Penal Code 186.22.
  • In a false imprisonment case where a gun was used, ten years can be added to the sentence. If the firearm was discharged, 25 years could be added to the jail sentence. If a gun injured the victim, the sentence could be life in prison

The victim of false imprisonment could file a civil lawsuit to recover damages, such as lost wages and any resulting physical illness or injury.

What are the Best Defenses?

If you were accused of violating Penal Code 236 PC false imprisonment laws, our California criminal defense lawyers might be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed. Some of the common defenses are discussed below.

We can argue there was no force or fear. Maybe the victim was at the location voluntarily, and you didn't use force or fear to get them to stay. Perhaps they were not restrained against their will and could leave anytime. If we can create reasonable doubt on this critical element of the crime, you have a better chance of avoiding a conviction.

False Imprisonment in California
False imprisonment means to restrain, detain, or confine someone against their will.

We can argue there was a good faith belief. Your actions may have been in good faith, meaning the victim's restraint was due to a reasonable belief that the victim could endanger themselves or others.

Perhaps the alleged victim was the spouse who had been making threats to commit suicide for harm themselves while they were in an argument.

Perhaps we argue that you are the victim of a false allegation. We might be able to discuss whether the false imprisonment allegations were untrue and were made by an alleged victim motivated by jealousy or revenge.

Let's make a self-defense argument. The victim's restraint was necessary, and simply an act of self-defense or defense of others, and the force used was reasonable under the circumstances.

Depending on the specific details of PC 236, a false imprisonment case, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid filing formal criminal charges.

Contact us for a free case evaluation if you are under investigation or have already been arrested and charged with false imprisonment under Penal Code 236 PC. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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