Holding someone against their will is called false imprisonment and it is against the law. If you are facing false imprisonment charges it could cost you. When a prospective employer or landlord runs your background check, a charge like that would likely be a problem.

Personal freedom is highly valued in this country so when it is threatened, people tend to get upset. Judges and prosecuting attorneys can become very aggressive, and you may find that your freedom is in jeopardy.

The act itself can be associated with some very serious crimes so that should also be considered. 

If you are facing a false imprisonment charge, you need an attorney who will stand beside you and fight for you. It is important that you retain an attorney as soon as you can because you are going to need someone who knows how to protect your rights and fight for you.

The Litvak Law Firm is just what you need to ensure the best outcome of your case.

Mr. Litvak has the experience and skill that is needed to fight for you in criminal court, be it federal or New York State. He will work hard for you on your false imprisonment case and help you get the justice you deserve.

Overview of False Imprisonment

Three factors make false imprisonment a crime:

  • It is the unlawful restraint of someone else
  • They did not give their consent and were held against their will
  • There was no legal justification for the act

Other factors are also considered in a false imprisonment case. The use of force or threats is an important part of a conviction. Another factor is time. While the laws don’t specify a certain time that a person is held – it could be a few minutes, or it could be much longer – lengthier restraint times (often over 12 hours) usually incur charges that are more serious with harsher penalties.

The prosecuting attorney must prove these things in court to get a conviction.

False imprisonment can take many different forms:

  • One person grabs another person without their permission, holds them, and will not allow them to leave;
  • A store owner, loss prevention, or security guard detains a person for an unreasonable amount of time because of the way they look;
  • One person drugs another person to prevent them from leaving;
  • During a bank robbery, the robber who is armed threatens and frightens bank customers, demanding that they lay on the floor and saying they cannot leave, or he will shoot them;
  • A person is kept in jail beyond his or her release date;
  • A person locks an individual in a closet or room without their consent and does not allow them to leave;
  • The staff at a nursing home medicate a patient without their permission under emotional or physical threat;
  • An employer suspects a person of theft and detains them for an unreasonable amount of time for questioning.

False imprisonment can also be part of other crimes such as kidnapping, domestic violence, sexual assault, assault, and battery.

Federal False Imprisonment

Under federal law, false imprisonment is a misdemeanor.

25 CFR § 11.404 – False imprisonment

  • A person commits a misdemeanor if he or she knowingly restrains another unlawfully to interfere substantially with his or her liberty.

Typically, the crime is handled at the state level, but it can be bumped to a federal court if the crime occurs on federal property, a US territory, or a military base, or the victim is a federal agent or employee on duty. Often, it is attached to crimes that are much more severe and carry much heavier penalties.

New York False Imprisonment

In New York, false imprisonment is called unlawful imprisonment and the state is very serious about false imprisonment and whether you are charged with false imprisonment in the first degree or false imprisonment in the second degree, there’s a good chance that you will do jail time if you don’t have great legal representation.

New York Penal Law § 135.00 The following definitions are applicable to this article:

1. “Restrain” means to restrict a person’s movements intentionally and unlawfully in such manner as to interfere substantially with his liberty by moving him from one place to another, or by confining him either in the place where the restriction commences or in a place to which he has been moved, without consent and with knowledge that the restriction is unlawful. A person is so moved or confined “without consent” when such is accomplished by (a) physical force, intimidation, or deception, or (b) any means whatever, including acquiescence of the victim, if he is a child less than sixteen years old or an incompetent person and the parent, guardian, or other person or institution having lawful control or custody of him has not acquiesced in the movement or confinement.

Two New York laws deal with false imprisonment:

New York Penal Law § 135.05 – Unlawful Imprisonment in the Second Degree

  • A person is guilty of unlawful imprisonment in the second degree when he restrains another person.

New York Penal Law § 135.10 – Unlawful Imprisonment in the First Degree

  • A person is guilty of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree when he restrains another person under circumstances that expose the latter to a risk of serious physical injury.

The difference between the two crimes is harm. Unlawful Imprisonment in the First Degree involves harm to the victim. This means that the person charged with the crime exposed the other person to disfigurement, harm to health, or death. Even if none of those things occurs, the fact that the person was exposed to them during the commission of the crime is enough to increase the charge from the misdemeanor of Unlawful Imprisonment in the Second Degree to the more serious felony of Unlawful Imprisonment in the First Degree.

In New York, there is a very fine line between Unlawful Imprisonment and Kidnapping. Another reason you need a good attorney on your side.

Kidnapping is a very common charge that accompanies Unlawful Imprisonment in New York.

New York Penal Law § 135.20 – Kidnapping in the Second Degree

The abduction of another person

Class B Felony

New York Penal Law § 135.25 – Kidnapping in the First Degree

The abduction of another person and

Intent to demand ransom

Restrains the person in excess of 12 hours and intends to

Violate, inflict physical injury, or abuse them sexually

Advance or accomplish the commission of a felony

Terrorize the victim or another person

Interfere with the operation or performance of a political or governmental function

The person who is abducted dies during the abduction or before the victim can be returned to safety

Class A-I Felony

Penalties for Federal False Imprisonment

Under federal law, Unlawful Imprisonment is a misdemeanor. A federal misdemeanor is charged through the Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13 or the Code of Federal Regulations.

The majority of federal misdemeanor cases are heard by United States Magistrate Judges. These judges have statutory authority to impose sentences that are a maximum of one year in prison. 

Penalties for False Imprisonment in New York

An unlawful imprisonment conviction in New York is likely to carry some jail time – even the misdemeanor charge. The law takes this crime very seriously and the penalties can be steep.

Unlawful imprisonment in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor in New York and Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree is a Class E felony. Both of these can carry some prison time, fines as well as restitution, but there is an option for probation as well. The judge could just give you probation without any jail time, especially if this is the first offense.

The penalties for Unlawful Imprisonment in New York are:

New York Penal Law § 135.05 – Unlawful Imprisonment in the Second Degree

Class A Misdemeanor

Maximum 1 year in jail

Maximum 3 years probation

Maximum $1,000 fine or twice the amount of the gain that the person benefitted from the crime

New York Penal Law § 135.10 – Unlawful Imprisonment in the First Degree

Class E Felony

Maximum 4 years in prison

Maximum 5 years probation

Maximum $5,000 fine

There may be other charges that are added to your Unlawful Imprisonment charge. Kidnapping, Assault and Battery, and other charges can increase your penalty and require more prison time, higher fines, and longer probation.

A criminal defense attorney may be able to get your sentence reduced so it pays to get legal counsel.

Defenses for False Imprisonment

There is one statutory defense for Unlawful Imprisonment:

New York Penal Law § 135.15 – Unlawful Imprisonment: Defense

In any prosecution for unlawful imprisonment, it is an affirmative defense that:

(a) the person restrained was a child less than sixteen years old, and 

(b) the defendant was a relative of such child, and 

(c) his sole purpose was to assume control of such child.

There are other defenses that your attorney may use as well:

  • Voluntary consent – the person who claims to have been falsely imprisoned consented to the confinement without fraud, coercion, or duress
  • The person had a way out – the person who was unlawfully imprisoned had means of escaping, such as an unlocked window or open door.
  • Police privilege – all states give police officers the legal right to detain a person as long as they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed or that the person has been involved in wrongdoing
  • Shopkeeper’s privilege – most states have laws that protect merchants from being charged with unlawful imprisonment claims. Under these laws, merchants are able to briefly detain patrons when the merchant has a reason to believe that the person has committed theft. This typically takes place in a retail setting. Usually, the merchant is able to ask for the person’s ID or verify their ID, hold the person in their custody until the police arrive, and reasonably ask if the person purchased the merchandise.
  • Citizen’s arrest – sometimes a person who is not a police officer can make a citizen’s arrest by calling for the police when a felony crime is attempted or committed in their presence. 

An unlawful imprisonment charge in New York can lead to prison time, fines, and probation. It would be wise to get a good criminal defense attorney who will fight for you and make sure you are fairly represented in court. This is not something you should try to do on your own.

When you are looking for an attorney who has the skill, knowledge, and experience to take your case and ensure your best outcome, call New York criminal defense lawyer Igor Litvak of The Litvak Law Firm at (718) 989-2908.

He will stand up for you and make sure your rights are protected.