Studies suggest that up to 5 percent of people in the U.S. prison system are actually innocent. False imprisonment – along with false arrest — is a civil rights violation that can result in legal compensation for the victim.

False imprisonment is defined as the intentional restraint of an individual against his or her will without a lawful justification to do so. The term “restraint” does not imply that the victim has to be bound or limited by physical barriers, but rather denied the liberty to move about freely.

False imprisonment defined

In the eyes of the court, a person’s freedom of movement is limited if he or she believes there is no way of escape without causing an unreasonable risk of personal harm. The use of force or threats is not necessary to be deemed false imprisonment if there was an intentional confinement of an individual against their consent without a legal basis. If physical force or threats of violence are used as a means to retrain a victim, this can lead to stronger penalties.

In order for victims to prove they were falsely imprisoned, they must demonstrate that the other party intended to or actually restricted their movements and that there was no legal justification for the restraint. In other words, there had to be a willful detention, and this must have been conducted unlawfully, and without the victim’s consent.

Making an actionable claim for false imprisonment takes legal skill and guidance. A New York civil rights attorney at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley can help victims understand their rights and pursue fair monetary damages.

Capable legal counsel is essential to winning a false imprisonment claim. Without representation, it can be exceedingly difficult to go up against the police, a government agency, or a business. In situations where the imprisonment was proven to be particularly egregious, the courts may also award punitive damages against the defendant.

What constitutes a false imprisonment

Bear in mind that you need not have been locked in a room or cell, but rather detained without your consent. It doesn’t matter if you were confined for 10 minutes or three hours if the action was not performed within the scope of the law, and you were denied liberty to move about freely or feared that leaving would result in harm, your civils rights were violated.

False imprisonment can take place in many settings. Some examples include:

  • An employer who locks the doors, preventing workers from leaving
  • A shopkeeper detaining you for an unreasonable length of time because of how you dress or look
  • Holding something another person values without their consent to keep them from leaving
  • A caregiver drugging a patient without their consent to restrict their movements
  • Grabbing another person so they physically cannot leave

Shop owners may employ security guards who can legally detain individuals if they have probable cause that the person shoplifted or committed a crime. However, in order to detain you legally, they must not utilize force or threat of force, or confine you for an ‘unreasonable’ amount of time.

Proving elements of false imprisonment

To secure monetary compensation for false imprisonment, you must be able to prove that another reasonable person would not have performed the same actions in the same situation. Your attorney will also need to demonstrate the following elements:

  • There was a willful restraint that prevented you from leaving
  • The detention was without your consent
  • The restraint was illegal and without justification

Eyewitness accounts of the detention may be utilized to strengthen your claim, in addition to evidence that documents your losses and suffering. A successful lawsuit can net compensation for:

  • Mental anguish and trauma from the imprisonment
  • Associated medical expenses
  • Lost income from missed work
  • Punitive damages if the defendant was malicious

An NYC law firm focusing on civil rights

If you believe you were falsely imprisoned, reach out to Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley for a free consultation. Our firm has a proven reputation as distinguished litigators in matters involving civil rights and can help you pursue just compensation for the damages you incurred.

The sooner you speak with a New York City civil rights lawyer, the better, as victims have just one year to file a civil action based on false imprisonment. We are proud to serve residents throughout the greater NYC metro area, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Long Island.