False Imprisonment in New York

False Imprisonment

False imprisonment is the act of a person without authority to restrain another person from movement. Unlawful restraint New York is a crime and is punishable as it is against a person’s consent as stated in Penal Law 135.00. There are two types of false imprisonment in New York; first- and second-degree false imprisonment.

First-degree unlawful imprisonment

First-degree unlawful imprisonment has similarities with second-degree unlawful imprisonment. However, if you subject the victim to a condition that causes physical injuries to the victim, the crime becomes first-degree false imprisonment. Undoubtedly, this felony is an intentional tort (a wrongful act that results in physical or emotional harm to another person). Thus, it attracts four years of imprisonment.

Second-degree unlawful imprisonment NY

Second-degree unlawful imprisonment is holding a person from moving freely, against their will. The crime is classified as class A misdemeanor and thus draws one-year imprisonment for the offender.


False Imprisonment and Kidnapping

False imprisonment and kidnapping are often associated. But kidnapping involves taking the victim to another location with the intention of the following;

  • Ask for ransom
  • Facilitate felony
  • Terrorize and cause physical injury
  • Or halt the performance of political or government function.

The difference between the two terms is that kidnapping has a characteristic of moving a victim to another environment and false imprisonment doesn’t necessarily involve moving the victim.

Elements of False Imprisonment

- Intentional tort/imprisonment

Intentional imprisonment is where an offender intentionally limits another person from moving with or without necessarily physically restraining. For example, if you threaten someone because they are trying to leave, you'll be convicted of false imprisonment. Also, if you use deception or pressure, someone, from leaving, you fall under the risk of been convicted of false imprisonment.

- Lack of consent

Another characteristic that defines false imprisonment is non-consensual. Although adults can consent to stay imprisoned to prevent being harmed, children can't and neither can a person with a cognitive disability.

- Lawful justification

Sometimes, restraining another person is not false imprisonment. For example, a merchant or shopkeeper is allowed to restrain someone from leaving if they think you stole something or about to. Nonetheless, the shopkeeper can’t just restrain anyone. They have to prove or have enough reason to restrain someone.

- Using threats

Although it is not necessary to exercise a threat for you to be convicted of false imprisonment, using force or threat will lead to a severe penalty. But the prosecutor does not have to prove you used threats or force for you to be convicted of unlawful restraining.

- Time

Unlawful imprisonment has no minimum time to qualify it as false imprisonment. The restraining could last a few minutes for it to qualify as unlawful imprisonment. However, if an offender restrains a person for more than 12 hours, the penalties will be more severe.

- False imprisonment and kidnapping

False imprisonment and kidnapping are closely related because they involve restraining a person from movement. However, the prosecutor has to prove other elements for the case to be ruled as kidnapping. For instance, the court has to prove the offender had the intention of asking for ransom, half government and political operation, facilitate a felony and cause harm. Also, kidnapping has to involve moving a victim from one place to another no matter how short the distance is.

- Civil unlawful imprisonment

Committing unlawful imprisonment could lead to criminal charges imposed by the court such as jail or fines. However, if the victim decides to sue you, it becomes a civil lawsuit and the offender will have to pay damages to the victim and won’t have to serve jail time or pay a fine.

Unlawful Imprisonment Examples

 - False imprisonment in healthcare whereby a caregiver drugs a patient to detain them.

-  An employer holding an employee for questioning for long.

- A merchant or security guard holding a person for long, based on how that person looks.

- Holding onto something valuable to stop a person from leaving.

- Is it illegal to lock someone in a house? Locking someone in a room without that person’s consent is an excellent example of unlawful imprisonment.



Being convicted of false imprisonment could lead to serious penalties depending on the severity of the crime. If the crime dint involves physical injury or subjecting the victim to an environment that could lead to their injuries, the penalty is up to one year in prison. However, if the crime is a felony, it draws the following penalties.

Jail: while misdemeanor false imprisonment attracts one-year imprisonment, a felony could attract up to 20 years in prison especially if the offender restrained a child from movement.

Fines: false imprisonment sentence could also include paying a fine besides serving jail time. A misdemeanor fine typically doesn't exceed $1000 while felony fine don't exceed $10,000.

Probation: if you’re convicted of unlawful imprisonment, you could be sentenced to probation of 12 months or two to three years. When sentenced on probation, you have to oblige to what entails of the probation. For instance, you have to see the probation officer, ask for permission before leaving your country as well as paying all criminal fines as instructed.


The following are the defenses an offender can use when a victim claims of unlawful imprisonment.

Voluntary consent: If a person consent to stay without duress, fraud, coercion, they can’t claim an offender imprisoned them.

False imprisonment by police: every police officer has the right to hold you if they think you did something unlawful or have probable cause that you did something wrong.

Merchant’s privilege: the law protects shopkeepers from false imprisonment claims if they have a good reason to believe the buyer was stealing or almost. If someone commits retail theft, the shop owner or the security of the shop could restrain you from leaving.

Citizen’s arrest: none lawful enforcement person can conduct citizen's arrest if a crime is committed in their presence and call a peace officer.

Find a Criminal Lawyer

Every crime is complicated because it attracts serious penalties. It is therefore essential to avoid making decisions about false imprisonment before talking to an experienced criminal lawyer in your local environment. Bearing you could spend time in jail and retain a criminal record, talking to a lawyer is an ideal choice as it allows you to prepare and address your situation critically. Moreover, a lawyer understands local criminal cases, judges and intricacies of laws that could substantially help you get shorter jail time or avoid any conviction altogether.


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