False Imprisonment

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
INDEX
FREE EXCERPT

Page 311

The illegal confinement of one individual against his or her will by another individual in such a manner as to violate the confined individual's right to be free from restraint of movement.

To recover damages for false imprisonment, an individual must be confined to a substantial degree, with her or his freedom of movement totally restrained. Interfering with or obstructing an individual's freedom to go where she or he wishes does not constitute false imprisonment. For example, if Bob enters a room, and Anne prevents him from leaving through one exit but does not prevent him from leaving the way he came in, Bob has not been falsely imprisoned. An accidental or inadvertent confinement, such as when someone is mistakenly locked in a room, also does not constitute false imprisonment; the individual who caused the confinement must have intended the restraint.

False imprisonment often involves the use of physical force, but such force is not required. The threat of force or arrest, or a belief on the part of the person being restrained that force will be used, is sufficient. The restraint can also be imposed by physical barriers or through unreasonable duress imposed on the person being restrained. For example, suppose a shopper is in a room with a security guard, who is questioning her about items she may have taken from the store. If the guard makes statements leading the shopper to believe that she could face arrest if she attempts to leave, the shopper may have a reasonable belief that she is being restrained from leaving, even if no actual force or physical barriers are being used to restrain her. The shopper, depending on the other facts of the case, may therefore have a claim for false imprisonment. False imprisonment has thus sometimes been found in situations where a storekeeper detained an individual to investigate whether the individual shoplifted merchandise. Owing to increasing concerns over shoplifting, many states have adopted laws that allow store personnel to detain a customer suspected of shoplifting for the purpose of investigating the situation. California law, for example, provides that "[a] merchant may detain a person for a reasonable time for the purpose of conducting an investigation ? whenever the merchant has PROBABLE CAUSE to believe the person ? is attempting to unlawfully take or has unlawfully taken merchandise" (Cal. Penal Code § 490.5 [West 1996]).

False arrest is a type of...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP