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What Constitutes False Imprisonment?

In the state of Pennsylvania, a person can be criminally charged with false imprisonment. This happens when a person knowingly restrains another in ways that interfere with the victim's liberty. You can also seek full and fair compensation for any losses you suffered when someone wrongfully detained you. This blog post identifies the situations where you may pursue damages for false or wrongful imprisonment.

What is False Imprisonment?

False imprisonment takes place when a person is unlawfully confined against his or her will. It is typically defined under the law as willful detention without consent or authority of law. Though law enforcement officers are frequently defendants in lawsuits alleging false imprisonment, there are a number of other contexts where being held against your will may give rise to a claim for false imprisonment:
  • In a retail setting—If you have been locked in a room in a store, mall or other retail establishment by an owner or employee, against your will, you may have a claim, even if the person detaining you thought you were shoplifting.
  • In a hospital or nursing home—If you have been tied to a bed or otherwise restrained without your permission, or that of your legal guardian, you may have a claim for false imprisonment.
  • In a kidnapping or hostage situation
  • In an arrest where there is an invalid warrant, or other constitutional requirements are not met
In most instances, false imprisonment is accompanied by the use of force or by a threat of force. It is not a valid defense that the victim consented because of the use or threat of force. If the false imprisonment is accomplished by the threat of force, the threat must be reasonable and imminent. False imprisonment also generally requires that the victim know or reasonably believe that their freedom of movement is restricted or limited. For example, if a person was locked in a room for hours, but did not know the door was locked and did not try to leave, there will likely be no damages available for false imprisonment.

Contact Metzger & Kleiner

At Metzger & Kleiner, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment to discuss your concerns about false imprisonment, contact our office online or call us at 215 622-2210 in Philadelphia, 610 563-2186 in the Lehigh Valley, or toll free at 800 228-1760.

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