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False Imprisonment - California Penal Code PC 236 and PC 237

Posted by Raoul Severo | Oct 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

When we hear of the word “prison”, the first things that probably pop up in our minds are the picture of metal bars, a bright orange uniform, and the faces of scary-looking people. In this article, however, we will be dealing with a different type of “imprisonment”, one that does not necessarily involve any of the aforementioned objects. 

Under California Penal Code PC 236, false imprisonment is a crime wherein an individual violated the personal liberty of another. This is somehow related to kidnapping , but false imprisonment is typically a less serious case. There are two main takeaways in this law, wherein a crime is only categorized as such if:

  • The suspect unlawfully and deliberately restrained, detained, or confined another person, or
  • The suspect made the victim stay or go to another place that he/she wouldn't have gone to otherwise.

The first case can often be observed during arguments between spouses or couples. For example, the woman attempts to walk out of the room but the man keeps on blocking her way. The man wants to settle things with her but she refuses. After more than an hour of convincing, the woman still hasn't changed her mind and expresses that she needs to go out. The man, however, has had enough with her and decides to lock her inside the room. He tells her that she can only be released if she agrees to make up with him. 

Meanwhile, the second bullet point can only happen if the victim does not consent to staying or moving to another place. For instance, a bully points a knife to his classmate's back and orders her to step inside an empty locker. She reluctantly refuses, but she is pushed inside the locker anyway and the bully locks her inside. She then realizes that the locker is filled with bugs and other disgusting stuff. The poor girl screams and begs to be let out while the bully laughs menacingly, ignoring her plead. 

With the examples above, it is quite easy to understand why false imprisonment is a crime on its own and not under kidnapping. Still, we have listed the main differences between false imprisonment vs. kidnapping below:

  • Kidnapping involves abduction and moving the victim to another place for the purpose of hiding him/her, while false imprisonment is merely an unlawful detainment of another person without the element of movement.
  • Kidnappers usually demand something in exchange for the abducted person, while suspects of false imprisonment rarely do that; and
  • Kidnapping often involves violence, while false imprisonment can be relatively inoffensive or harmless.

Punishments for False Imprisonment Under PC 237

One of the factors that dictate the difference between kidnapping and false imprisonment is punishment. As stated in California Penal Code 237, false imprisonment can either result in a misdemeanor or a felony conviction

It becomes a misdemeanor if:

  • The suspect unlawfully and deliberately restrained, detained, or confined another person against his/her will using minimal force (i.e: grabbing the person's arm).
  • The victim suffered no injuries due to the crime

Furthermore, the consequences of a misdemeanor false imprisonment are:

  • A fine not more than $1,000, and
  • A maximum county jail sentence of one year.

Meanwhile, it becomes a felony if:

  • The suspect unlawfully and deliberately restrained, detained, or confined another person against his/her will using force, menace, fraud, or deceit, or
  • The victim suffered an injury due to the crime.

Furthermore, the consequence for a felony false imprisonment is a county jail sentence of either:

  • 16 months;
  • 2 years; or
  • 3 years

California Penal Code 237 has been enhanced to include specific punishments for false imprisonment committed to an elder or a dependent adult. 

If the victim suffered great bodily injuries due to the unlawful detainment done by another person to him/her, then the consequences are as follows:

  • 3 years if the elder or the dependent adult is below the age of 70. 
  • 5 years if the elder or the dependent adult is over the age of 70.

If the victim died due to the unlawful detainment done by another person to him/her, then the consequences are as follows:

  • 5 years if the elder or the dependent adult is below the age of 70.
  • 7 years if the elder or the dependent adult is over the age of 70.

Talk to a Criminal Defense Lawyer Now

A false accusation is a different kind of “false” that needs the assistance or guidance of a well-rounded and professional criminal defense attorney. If you or your loved one is currently facing a false imprisonment lawsuit, we have plenty of experienced lawyers who are more than ready to help you. 

Send us a message! We'll get back to you ASAP

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