False imprisonment under California Penal Code Section 236 is defined as “…the unlawful violation of the liberty of another.” False imprisonment can be further explained as the detaining, restraining, or confining someone against their will.
An example of false imprisonment may include driving off with a passenger in the car after a heated argument with that same passenger whereby the passenger did not want to be kept in the vehicle. Another scenario that would likely qualify as false imprisonment under PC 236 would be if a husband blocked the door, preventing his wife from leaving the room after the couple engaged in a marital fight. A final example of a likely PC 236 violation might involve a college student locking his roommate in a closet and not allowing him to leave despite repeated demands to open the door.
The Penalties Associated with California False Imprisonment Charges
PC 237 provides that false imprisonment may be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor
PC 237 categorizes false imprisonment as a “wobbler” offense, which means the prosecutor may file PC 236 charges as either a misdemeanor or a felony. While a prosecutor will look at the defendant's criminal record (or lack thereof) as well as any other pending charges in order to determine how PC 236 will be charged, a felony charge can often be distinguished from a misdemeanor case as the felony version of PC 236 generally involves the added element of violence or injury.
When false imprisonment is charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty includes up to one year in the county jail. A felony PC 236 charge could lead to a sentence that may mandate up to three years in the state prison. Furthermore, if the felony false imprisonment charge alleges elder abuse or victimizing a co-dependent, the accused may face additional state prison time.
Charges related to false imprisonment may include kidnapping under PC 207 or child abduction per PC 278. As you can see, the prosecutor has discretion as to what specific charges are filed, if any, and if the defendant will be facing misdemeanor or felony allegations. Accordingly, if you are even suspected of being accused of false imprisonment or similar charges, it is important that you contact an experienced false imprisonment defense lawyer right away in order to open lines of communication with the prosecution before a formal filing determination is made.
Defenses to California False Imprisonment Charges
The most common defense to false imprisonment is consent, which is exactly what it sounds like, meaning the alleged victim gave the accused express or implied consent to restrict his or her movement. Another common defense to PC 236 involves the use of self-defense. In this instance, the suspect may be justified in restricting another person's movement if he or she may present a credible danger such as when a wife locks her husband in the garage as he threatens her with a knife in hand.
The other major categories of self-defense may include a shopkeeper's privilege where a store owner may be able to detain a shoplifter caught in the act until law enforcement arrives. Similarly, law enforcement officers are granted certain powers to restrain the movement of others during lawful arrests or detentions. Finally, parents and legal guardians are afforded certain parental powers over their children, which may grant them the ability to restrict the free movement of their children in certain circumstances.
The Aron Law Firm has substantial experience defending false imprisonment allegations as well as various other criminal charges. We are here to help. Give us a call to confidentially discuss your case today: 805-618-1768.