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False imprisonment or unlawful imprisonment occurs when a person intentionally restricts another person’s movement within any area without
legal authority Rational-legal authority (also known as rational authority, legal authority, rational domination, legal domination, or bureaucratic authority) is a form of leadership Leadership, both as a research area and as a practical skill, encompasses th ...
, justification, or
the restrained person's permission
the restrained person's permission
. Actual physical restraint is not necessary for false imprisonment to occur. A false imprisonment claim may be made based upon private acts, or upon wrongful governmental detention. For detention by the police, proof of false imprisonment provides a basis to obtain a writ of
habeas corpus (; from Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin '' ...
. Under
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
, false imprisonment is both a
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper ...

crime
and a
tort A tort, in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the most-used legal dict ...

tort
.


Imprisonment

Within the context of false imprisonment, an imprisonment occurs when a person is restrained from moving from a location or bounded area, as a result of a wrongful intentional act, such as the use of force, threat, coercion, or
abuse of authority Abuse of power or abuse of authority, in the form of "malfeasance in office Malfeasance in office is often grounds for a just cause removal of an elected official by statuteA statute reffers to the body of law that are made by legislature of t ...
.


Detention that is not false imprisonment

Even when a person is involuntarily detained, not all acts of detention amount to false imprisonment. The law may privilege a person to detain somebody else against their will. A legally authorized detention does not constitute false imprisonment. For example, if a parent or legal guardian of a child denies the child's request to leave their house, and prevents them from doing so, this would not ordinarily constitute false imprisonment. False imprisonment requires an intentional act, and an accidental detention will not support a claim of false imprisonment.


By country


United States

Under
United States law The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unif ...
, police officers have the right to detain individuals based on
probable cause In United States criminal law, probable cause is the standard by which police authorities have reason to obtain a warrant for the arrest of a suspected criminal or the issuing of a search warrant. It is also the standard by which grand jury, gra ...
that a crime has been committed and the individual was involved, or based on
reasonable suspicion Reasonable suspicion is a legal burden of proof, legal standard of proof in Law of the United States, United States law that is less than probable cause, the legal standard for arrests and Warrant (law), warrants, but more than an "inchoate and unp ...
that the individual has been, is, or is about to be engaged in a criminal activity.


Elements

To prevail under a false imprisonment claim, a plaintiff must prove: # Willful detention in a bounded area # Without consent; and # Without authority of lawful arrest. (Restatement of the Law, Second, Torts)


Shopkeeper's privilege

Many jurisdictions in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
recognize the common law known as
shopkeeper's privilege Shopkeeper's privilege is a law recognized in the United States under which a shopkeeper is allowed to detain a suspected Shoplifting, shoplifter on store property for a reasonable period of time, so long as the shopkeeper has cause to believe th ...
under which a person is allowed to detain a suspected shoplifter on store property for a reasonable period of time. The shopkeeper has cause to believe that the detainee in fact committed, or attempted to commit, theft of store property. The shopkeeper is allowed to ask the suspect to demonstrate that they have not been
shoplifting Shoplifting is the theft Theft is the taking of another person's property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature o ...
. The purpose of the shopkeeper's privilege is to discover if the suspect is shoplifting and, if so, whether the shoplifted item can be reclaimed. The shopkeeper's privilege, although recognized in most jurisdictions, is not as broad a privilege as that of a police officer's. Therefore, one must pay special attention to the temporal element: the shopkeeper may only detain the suspected criminal for a relatively short period of time. This is similar to a general right in many jurisdictions, and in limited circumstances, of
citizen's arrest A citizen's arrest is an arrest An arrest is the act of apprehending and taking a person into custody (legal protection or control), usually because the person has been suspected of or observed committing a . After being taken into custod ...
of suspected criminals by private citizens. In those jurisdictions, if someone detains an innocent person or unreasonably detains the suspect, uses excessive force to detain the suspect, or fails to notify the police within a reasonable time after detaining the suspect, then the detention may constitute false imprisonment and can result in an award of
damages At common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary ...
for the illegal detention. In jurisdictions without the privilege, detaining someone may constitute false imprisonment, even if the suspect is detained for doing something illegal without using excessive force and doing something illegal in the process, and the police gets notified within a reasonable time after the suspect is detained.


=Rationale

= This privilege has been justified by the very practical need for some degree of protection for shopkeepers in their dealings with suspected shoplifters. Absent such privilege, a shopkeeper would be faced with the dilemma of either allowing suspects to leave without challenge or acting upon their suspicion and risk making a
false arrest False arrest is a common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black' ...
.See § 120A


=Requirement

= In order for a customer to be detained, the shopkeeper must: # Conduct the investigation on the store premises, or immediately near the premises. # Have reasonable cause to believe the person detained was shoplifting. # Use reasonable (non-excessive) force to detain the suspected individual. # Not prolong the detention longer than a reasonable amount of time needed to gather all the facts.


Examples


=Colorado

= In ''Enright v. Groves'', a woman sued a police officer for false imprisonment after being arrested for not producing her
driver's license A driver's license is a legal authorization, or the official document confirming such an authorization, for a specific individual to operate one or more types of motorized vehicles—such as motorcycles A motorcycle, often called a mot ...
. The plaintiff was in her car when she was approached by the officer for not leashing her dog; she was arrested after being asked to produce her driver's license and failing to do so. She won her claim, despite having lost the case of not leashing her dog. The court reasoned that the officer did not have proper legal authority in arresting her, because he arrested her for not producing her driver's license (which itself was legal) as opposed to the dog leash violation.


=Indiana

= In a Clark County, Indiana Circuit Court case, Destiny Hoffman was jailed for 154 days, during which "no hearing was conducted to determine the validity of such sanction and the defendant was not represented by counsel" according to deputy county prosecutor Michaelia Gilbert. An order by Judge Jerry Jacobi in the Clark County Circuit Court case was supposed to be a 48-hour jail stay for Hoffman, pending drug evaluation and treatment, "until further order of the court." After a motion by Prosecutor Gilbert, Special Judge Steve Fleece ordered Hoffman released and said Hoffman’s incarceration was “a big screw up".


=Louisiana

= In a Louisiana case in the United States, a pharmacist and his pharmacy were found liable by a trial court for false imprisonment. They stalled for time and instructed a patient to wait while simultaneously and without the patient's knowledge calling the police. The pharmacist was suspicious of the patient's prescription, which her doctor had called in previously. When the police arrived, they arrested the patient. While the patient was in jail, the police verified with her doctor that the prescription was authentic and that it was meant for her. After this incident, the patient sued the pharmacy and its employees. She received $20,000 damages. An appeals court reversed the judgment, because it believed the elements of false imprisonment were not met.


United Kingdom

This tort again falls under the umbrella term "Trespass to the person" 'alongside battery and assault'. The definition of False imprisonment under UK law and legislation is the 'Unlawful imposition or constraint of another's freedom of movement from a particular place.' False imprisonment is where the defendant intentionally or recklessly, and unlawfully, restricts the claimant's freedom of movement totally.Timon Hughes-Davies and Nathan Tamblyn, ‘Tort law.’ (2nd edn, Routledge 2020) ISBN 9781138554597 During which there is no time limit, false imprisonment could occur for seconds and still be false imprisonment. '''Any restraint of the liberty of a free man will be an imprisonment.' - Lord Denman CJ''


Elements


Intentional or reckless

An example of reckless imprisonment may be a janitor locking up a school for the night, knowing that someone ''might'' still be inside, but without bothering to check. Whereas, regarding intention, intention to imprison a person is what matters and not necessarily an intention to falsely imprison someone. For example, in ''R v Governor of Brockhill Prison'', it does not matter if the decision to imprison the claimant was in good faith, or considered lawful, it can still constitute false imprisonment. False imprisonment does not require a literal prison, but a restriction of the claimant's freedom of movement (''complete restraint''), 'according to the ''Termes de la Ley,'' 'imprisonment is the restraint of a man's liberty, whether it be in the open field, or in the stocks, or in the cage in the streets or in a man's own house, as well as in the common gaole' Imprisonment does not have to involve seizure of the claimant; touching and informing him that he is under arrest are sufficient.' Tagging and an imposed curfew can be false imprisonment (''R (Gedi) v Secretary of State for the Home Dept
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''. The restriction must also be total, meaning that the claimant is restricted to an area delimited by the defendant. The larger the area, the less likely the claimant will be deemed to be imprisoned. I.e. confining a person to a house would constitute as the tort of false imprisonment. However, confining someone to the land mass of the USA would not. Therefore, false imprisonment is not just about locking someone within a room, the following examples have all been found liable false imprisonment: * Where a defendant might position themselves in a doorway to prevent someone leaving a room, as in ''Walker v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
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014
.'' * Where a defendant might threaten violence if the claimant leaves, which could thus be both false imprisonment and assault. * Where a defendant ensures someone stays in a room simply by asserting their authority, as in ''Harnett v Bond'' and ''Meering v Grahame-White Aviation.'' Finally, where a claimant accedes to authority that does not necessarily mean they consent to being detained, as in ''Warner v Riddiford (1858).''


Complete restraint

'Imprisonment is, as I apprehend, a total restraint of the liberty of the person, for however, short a time, and not a partial obstruction of his will, whatever inconvenience it may bring on him.'Austin v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
007 The ''James Bond'' series focuses on a fictional British Secret Service The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain ...
EWCA Civ 989
There must be complete restraint, therefore, if there are alternative routes that can be taken this is not false imprisonment. Such as in ''Bird v Jones
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'Bird v Jones
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EWHC 7 QB 742
where the claimant wanted to walk over Hammersmith bridge but the defendant had cordoned off the public footpath, however, this did not constitute false imprisonment because, through using a longer route, the claimant could have still reached their destination. Therefore, if there is a means of escape, this is not false imprisonment. There must be no reasonable means of escape and you may be compensated for any damages caused in order for you to escape reasonably. However, if you have not taken a reasonable route of escape/reasonable action you will not be awarded damages.


The claimant does not need to be aware they are being imprisoned

It is still false imprisonment even where the claimant does not know at the time. So secretly locking someone in a room is false imprisonment. It may also be false imprisonment where a person is rendered unconscious, for example, by being punched (also a battery), or when their drink is spiked by drugs (also wilful harm or negligence), because their freedom of movement is thereby restricted. For example, in the case of ''Meering v Grahame-White Aviation
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' the claimant was told to stay in an office because property was going missing and if they tried to leave the office they would have been stopped. This was held to be a false imprisonment even though the claimant did not know they were being imprisoned.


Omission

''Can the tort of false imprisonment be committed by omission?'' In the majority of circumstances/generally, the answer is no, as there must be a positive act. Yet, in certain circumstances defendants may still be found liable if they are under a positive obligation to release the claimant and the claimant has the legal right to be released. In the case of ''Prison Officer's Association v Iqbal'' Prison Officer’s Association v Iqbal
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/ref> where a defendant could not leave their cell due to the prison officers being on strike, it was held at that: '''It seems to me that the general rule that an omission or refusal to release the claimant from confinement will not amount to false imprisonment should not be overridden save in circumstances where the claimant has a legal right to be released and the defendant is under a positive obligation to release the claimant. Thus, the defendants were liable for omission under the tort of false imprisonment. Moreover, in the case of ''R v Governor of Brockhill Prison,'' where the claimant should be released from prison and they weren't, due to a genuine mistake meaning they were held in prison for longer, this was still held to be false imprisonment.


Lawful imprisonment


= Performance of a Contract

= This can be looked at as consent, therefore, the imprisonment is not unlawful nor false imprisonment, for example, when flying, you consent to be on the plane for that duration of time through contract. The courts have said it is not unlawful to refuse to open a train door when the train is on a bridge, even though the passenger is thereby restricted inside the train. Likewise, a master of a ship, or the pilot of a plane can detain people during a voyage or flight when they have a reasonable cause or grounds to believe it necessary for the safety of their other passengers. Suddenly saying "I would like to leave now" is dangerous and thus, they have no reason to let you leave, moreover, you are contractually obligated to remain onboard. Therefore, this would not constitute false imprisonment. Additionally, when a claimant is following a work contract the employer may not be held for false imprisonment for not allowing them to leave early due to a breach of contract and potential losses financially resultant of them leaving, I.e. in the case of ''Herd v Weardale Steel Coal,'' where the claimant was in a mine, they were working and they wanted to leave the mine. The employer refused to let them leave at that time and the court held that the employer was under no obligation to allow them to do so. Hence, this controversially was not held to be false imprisonment.


= Police

= Under
English law English law is the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Blac ...
, police have the right to arrest under a warrant issued by a magistrate, and following conditions set out in PACE Code G. Or without a warrant, police may make an arrest pursuant to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984:Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 'anyone who is about to commit, is committing or has committed an offence or is so suspected on reasonable grounds may be arrested.' Also, arrest may be lawful if the police have reason to believe that the person arrested poses an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others. Private citizens can also make an arrest for crimes being committed/that have been committed but only in relation to indictable offences ('Citizen's arrest'). When a prisoner is lawfully held, it is not false imprisonment just because the conditions are unsanitary such as in the case of ''R v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison'', 'although this may instead be found to be
negligence Negligence (Lat. ''negligentia'') is a failure to exercise appropriate and/or ethical ruled care expected to be exercised amongst specified circumstances. The area of tort A tort, in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial ...

negligence
or the tort of misfeasance in a public office.' Another example would again be the case of ''Austin v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
007 The ''James Bond'' series focuses on a fictional British Secret Service The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain ...
'' a case concerning the alleged unlawful detention of hundreds of members of the public during the in London, England. The police, using the tactic of "
kettling Kettling (also known as containment or corralling) is a police Riot Control, tactic for Crowd control, controlling large crowds during Demonstration (people), demonstrations or protests. It involves the formation of large cordons of police offi ...
", held a large crowd in
Oxford Circus Oxford Circus is a road junction A junction is where two or more road A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two Location (geography), places that has been Pavement (material), paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by f ...

Oxford Circus
without allowing anyone to leave. Lois Austin, a peaceful protester who had not broken the law, and Geoffrey Saxby, an innocent passer-by who was not involved in the demonstration, claimed that they were falsely imprisoned by the London
Metropolitan Police The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), formerly and still commonly known as the Metropolitan Police (and informally as the Met Police, the Met, Scotland Yard, or the Yard), is the territorial police force A territorial police force is a poli ...
and that their detention was in breach of the
European Convention of Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe Europe is a con ...
. The pair lost their court action in 2005, when the High Court ruled that the police had not acted unlawfully. An appeal against the ruling also failed in 2007. A ruling by the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
declared that 'even in the case of an absolute right, the High Court was entitled to take the "purpose" of the deprivation of liberty into account before deciding if human rights law applied at all.'


Defences

Defences for false imprisonment include consent and performance of a contract. Moreover, the defence of illegality may also apply, therefore if the defendant was acting illegally and you locked them in a room to protect yourself whilst you called the police this defence could also apply. However, if the use of force or in this case imprisonment was unreasonable, this would not be a viable defence, as is shown in the case of ''Revil v Newbery'' where a home owner fired a shotgun to the burglar and ended up injuring him, this was held to be an unreasonable use of force and thus, the defence of illegality was void.


Damages

See main article:
Damages At common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary ...
If the false imprisonment was for a minimal amount of time, the claimant could be entitled to
nominal damages At common law, damages are a legal remedy, remedy in the form of a money, monetary award to be paid to a claimant as compensation for loss or injury. To warrant the award, the claimant must show that a breach of duty has caused foreseeable loss. ...
, as this tort is actionable per se. I.e. in ''Walker v Commissioner of the police of the Metropolis
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014
'Walker v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis
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014
EWCA Civ 897
where someone was stopped in a doorway for a couple of seconds this was still held to be false imprisonment. Additionally, if the applicant was injured through trying to escape using reasonable methods they may be entitled to
compensatory damages At common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary ...
. Finally, if the claimant suffered an 'affront to their dignity', they may be awarded aggravated damages (these are very rare). For example, in the case of ''Hook v Cunard Steamship Co Ltd''Hook v Cunard Steamship Co Ltd
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1 Lloyd’s Rep 413
the sailor was confined to his quarters and accused for child molestation but with 'no vestige of grounds in support', this was held to be false imprisonment and aggravated damages were available due to this causing humiliation and injury to the claimant's feelings.


See also

*
Damages At common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary ...
*
Child abduction Child abduction or child theft is the unauthorized removal of a minor Minor may refer to: * Minor (law), a person under the age of certain legal activities. ** A person who has not reached the age of majority * Academic minor, a secondary fiel ...
*
False accusations A false accusation is a claim or allegation of wrongdoing that is untrue and/or otherwise unsupported by facts. False accusations are also known as groundless accusations or unfounded accusations or false allegations or false claims. They can occur ...
*
False arrest False arrest is a common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black' ...
*
Hostage A hostage is a person seized by an abductor in order to compel another party such as a relative Relative may refer to: General use *Kinship and family, the principle binding the most basic social units society. If two people are connected by c ...
*
Kidnapping In criminal law, kidnapping is the unlawful confinement of a person against their will, often including transportation/asportation. The asportation and abduction element is typically but not necessarily conducted by means of force or fear: the ...
* List of child abuse cases featuring long-term detention *
Ransom Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort Extortion is the practice of obtaining benefit through coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threat A threat is a ''comm ...

Ransom


References


External links


Prosser on Torts website


{{DEFAULTSORT:False Imprisonment
Abuse of the legal system{{Cat main, Legal abuse Articles that pertain, directly or indirectly, to improper use of the legal system, or to abuse ''by'' the legal system, or to allegations thereof. Law by issue Legal ethics Practice of law Sociology of law Lawsuits Abus ...
Imprisonment and detention Police misconduct Tort law