In order to amount to false imprisonment, there must be intentional and illegal confinement or detention of a person. The defenses available to a defendant charged with false imprisonment generally are:
- good motive/faith;
- lack of illegal intention,
- confinement or detention made with authority; and
- insufficiency of evidence.
Consent is also a defense available in a prosecution for false imprisonment.
Arrest and detention may be made by an officer without a warrant if an offense is committed in his/her presence. A jury has to consider the motives, good faith, and purpose of a defendant while passing verdict on false imprisonment cases. Good motive and good faith are legitimate defenses that a jury will consider because they negative an element of criminality[i].
If a person is confined by another in order to protect his/her life even without his/her consent, it will not amount to false imprisonment. The good intention behind the confinement will be accepted by the court.
Parental authority is another defense available to a person charged with false imprisonment of his/her child. A parent has a legal authority to restrain his/her child[ii]. The defense of parental authority is a privilege which may be asserted for any crime by a parent against his/her child if the conduct was necessary to reasonably discipline the child[iii].
However, all parental disciplinary acts are not completely immune from prosecution for false imprisonment. Where a parent confines his/her child in a way that it leads to danger to the health and safety of the child, a parent is not immune from prosecution for false imprisonment on the basis of parental authority. Also, where a child is confined for an unlawful purpose, a parent cannot raise the defense of parental authority[iv].
While considering a defense of insufficiency of evidence, an appellate court will verify whether after viewing all the evidence admitted at trial, there is sufficient evidence to enable a court to find every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt[v]. Allegations of error not raised at trial will not be considered in appellate review of a case[vi].
Each and every confined person need not be examined as witness in a case where a number of people are confined in a single incident. Examination of a few victims is sufficient to sustain a conviction of false imprisonment[vii]. In order to convict an accused for false imprisonment, it is sufficient to show that an unlawful restraint of a person without his/her consent was committed[viii].
The defense of consent is available to a person prosecuted for false imprisonment. Restraint is without consent if it is achieved by physical force, intimidation, or deception[ix]. If any of these factors exists, then consent cannot be taken as a defense.
[i] Henderson v. State, 95 Ga. App. 830, 1957 Ga. App. LEXIS 928.
[ii] State v. Lawrence, 135 Ariz. 569, 1983 Ariz. LEXIS 177.
[iii] Nixon v. State, 773 So. 2d 1213 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2000).
[iv] People v. Checketts, 71 Cal. App. 4th 1190, 1999 Cal. App. LEXIS 442.
[v] Commonwealth v. Ratsamy, 594 Pa. 176, 2007 Pa. LEXIS 2433.
[vi] Lewis v. State, 511 N.E.2d 1054 (Ind. 1987).
[vii] Smith v. State, 296 Ark. 451, 757 S.W.2d 554 (1988).
[viii] Perrey v. State, 824 N.E.2d 372 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005).
[ix] State v. Viramontes, 163 Ariz. 334 (Ariz. 1990).