In this article, we will look at the definition, elements and examples of false imprisonment .

This occurs when a person is restricted in their personal movement within any area without justification or consent. Actual physical restraint is not necessary for crime to occur. It applies to private as well as governmental detention. For detention by the police, the proving of the subject matter is sufficient to obtain a writ of habeas corpus.

One can also say that it occurs when a person (who doesn’t have legal authority or justification) intentionally restrains another person’s ability to move freely. For example, an armed bank robber yells at the customers to get down on the floor, threatening to shoot them if they try to leave. Since they know they might be killed if they try to leave, they are being held against their will. The captive bank customers may be able to claim damages, and the bank robber may be charged with the crime. Even the police may be charged with this charge if they exceed their authority (such as detaining someone without justification). Within the context of the topic, 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

In fact, any person who intentionally restricts another’s freedom of movement without their consent may be liable for wrong detention, which is both a crime and a civil wrong just like other offenses including assault and battery. It can occur in a room, on the streets, or even in a moving vehicle.

Similarly, “false arrest” is when someone arrests another individual without the legal authority to do so, which becomes wring detention the moment he or she is taken into custody (but this is not our area of concentration today).



All states have laws to protect against unlawful confinement. To prove a claim in a civil lawsuit, the following elements must be present:



  • There was a willful detention: This simply means that the person acted on his will, i.e he willfully detained the person who is bringing the charge against him.
  • The detention was without consent: This simply means that there was no consent of the person before he was imprisoned.
  • The detention was unlawful: he also have to prove that the detention was unlawful. That means that there was no legal backing to that detention.

This can come in many forms; physical force is often used, but it isn’t required. The restraint of a person may be imposed by physical barriers (such as being locked in a car) or by unreasonable duress (for example, holding someone’s valuables, with the intent to coerce them to remain at a location).

To claim, you must reasonably believe that you were confined; a court will determine whether the belief is reasonable by determining what a reasonable person would do or believe under similar circumstances. Additionally, the actor must have the intent to commit the confinement without the privilege to do so.




  • A person locking another person in a room without their permission
  • A person grabbing onto another person without their consent, and holding them so that they cannot leave
  • A security guard or store owner who detains someone for an unreasonable amount of time based on their appearance
  • An employer who detains someone for questioning for an unreasonable amount of time for suspected theft
  • Nursing home staff who medicates a patient without their consent under physical or emotional threat

Even when a person is involuntarily detained, not all acts of detention amount to wrong detention. The law may privilege a person to detain somebody else against their will. A legally authorized detention does not constitute false imprisonment. Likewise, it requires an intentional act and an accidental detention will not support a claim of the topic of discussion.

Having know what constitutes the subject matter, it will be good to also note that there are things that do not constitute the subject matter, I will give a list of it

  • A claim that you were falsely imprisoned simply because you were found innocent of a crime
  • A person who grabs your arm but you know you can free yourself from his grip without fear of retaliation
  • A storekeeper who detains you for a reasonable amount of time for questioning based on probable cause, such as if she saw you take a concealed item out of the store without paying for it
  • A person who closes the front door and asks you not to leave, but you know you can leave through an open side door

We have carefully looked at the definition, elements and examples of subject matter of our discussion. In my next article, I will discuss the defenses.




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