False Imprisonment

False imprisonment is a crime in California under Penal Code 236 PC. It is defined as “the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another person.” This means that it is illegal to detain, restrain, or confine someone against their will.

The elements of the crime of false imprisonment in California are:

  • The defendant intentionally and unlawfully restrained, detained, or confined another person.
  • The defendant made the person stay or go somewhere against that person's will. (If the victim was forced to go somewhere else, it may be charged as kidnapping.)

False imprisonment includes the elements of the crime of kidnapping in that it also involves the unlawful deprivation of a person's personal liberty. Both crimes require intent. However, there are some key differences between the two crimes.

False imprisonment occurs when the victim is prevented from leaving a particular place against his or her will. False imprisonment can occur in any location, as long as the victim is restrained or confined. Kidnapping, on the other hand, is more serious as it involves the unlawful taking and carrying away of a person by force, fraud, or deception. This means that the victim is moved from one location to another against his or her will. Kidnapping typically involves a greater level of force or coercion than false imprisonment.

False imprisonment is a “wobbler.” It is charged as a misdemeanor unless the offense is carried out by the use of violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, it is a felony. Under this statute, terms “violence” and “menace” have specific meanings. “‘Violence’ is a force greater than that reasonably necessary to effect the restraint. (People v. Hendrix (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 1458, 1462”) (CALCRIM 1240) “Menace” is an express or implied “verbal or physical threat.” (CALCRIM 1240.)


During an argument with his wife, Jacob closes and blocks the door to the room they are both in and refuses to let his wife exit. Even though Jacob’s intent may have been to force a conversation with his wife, he still committed misdemeanor false imprisonment.

A driver runs into Darrin’s car. As the driver makes an attempt to flee the scene of the accident. Darrin grabs a gun out of his glove compartment, points it at the driver and tells the driver he’ll shoot if he tries to leave the scene. Since Darrin threatened the driver with the threat of harm (menace) if he leaves, he has committed felony false imprisonment.


Your Orange County false imprisonment defense attorney may, as appropriate to the facts of your case, raise a number of defenses to a charge of false imprisonment in California. These defenses include:

  • Consent: The victim consented to the restraint or confinement.
  • Mistake of fact: You mistakenly believed that the victim was consenting to the restraint or confinement.
  • Necessity: You restrained or confined the victim in order to prevent a greater harm.
  • Self-defense: You restrained or confined the victim in order to protect themselves from harm.
  • Intent: You did not intend to restrain the victim.

Misdemeanor false imprisonment is punishable a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in county jail, or both the fine and imprisonment. Felony false imprisonment is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment (or up to four years if the false imprisonment was effected against an elder or dependent adult).


If you have been charged with, or believe you are being investigated for false imprisonment or kidnapping, it is important that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. False imprisonment (and certainly kidnapping, which is always a felony) can be a serious charge.

Attorney William Weinberg is highly experienced, with over 30 years defending individuals who have been charged with a crime. He invites you to contact him for a complimentary consultation at which time he will review the facts of your case and offer his assessment of your defense options. He may be reached at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.

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