False imprisonment, like kidnapping, is a crime of violence committed when the defendant forcibly or by threat confines a person against their will. Any person alleged to have committed this crime may face stringent penalties associated with the charge.
Typically false imprisonment is not prosecuted alone. In fact, the Prosecution may choose to include additional criminal charges such as aggravated battery or aggravated assault, resulting from the commission of the primary offense. Therefore, an individual charged with false imprisonment may end up facing other serious charges, which also increase the risk of conviction.
As such, if you or your loved one is facing a false imprisonment charge in Florida, it is imperative to act quickly to retain a qualified Florida criminal defense attorney. At the Meltzer & Bell law firm, we have experience handling criminal charges in Florida, and we will work hard to ensure that your charges are reduced or dropped altogether.
Understanding False Imprisonment under Florida Law
Section 787.02 of Florida’s statutes defines false imprisonment as a crime committed when a person, acting without legal authority, forcibly, secretly, or by threat, either confined, abducted, restrained, or imprisoned the victim against the victim’s will.
What’s more, the crime also covers the unlawful confinement of a child. Put briefly, you may be charged with false imprisonment if you confined a child under the age of 13 against their will and without the consent of a parent or legal guardian.
Examples of False Imprisonment
Going by the definition under section 787.02, it is apparent that the statutory elements of the offense of false imprisonment do not involve the use of threat of physical force against the victim. What’s more, the offense doesn’t require specific intent. Therefore, the prosecution only needs to demonstrate unlawful restriction of the victim’s movement in order to sustain the charge.
Some examples to shed light on this include the following:
- Putting the victim in a bear hug.
- A person locking another person in a room without their permission
- Grabbing the victim by the arms and trying to drag her into the apartment.
False Imprisonment v Kidnapping: What’s the Difference?
False imprisonment and kidnapping are crimes that are almost similar in many ways. However, they are actually distinct and have different penalties.
To put this into context, section 787.01 of the Florida statutes defines kidnapping as a crime that is committed when the offender forcibly, secretly, or by threat confines, abducts, or imprisons another person against their will and without lawful authority, with the intent to do one or more of the following:
- Commit or facilitate the commission of a felony.
- Inflict bodily harm or terrorize the victim
- Hold the victim for ransom or reward or as a shield or hostage.
It is imperative to note that the two required elements for false imprisonment are also two of the three elements required for kidnapping. This means that an experienced prosecutor is capable of adding on a kidnapping charge if the initial charge was false imprisonment only. For this reason, it is imperative to have a criminal defense attorney to help ensure the charges are not aggravated.
What elements of false imprisonment must the Prosecution prove?
False imprisonment is a criminal charge that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, in order to sustain a false imprisonment charge in Florida, the Prosecution must prove to the court that the following essential elements exist:
- The defendant confined, captured, restrained, and trapped the victim without the victim’s consent.
- The defendant had no legal authority to commit the act.
As mentioned earlier, the confinement of a child below 13 years without the parent or guardian’s consent also constitutes false imprisonment. Therefore, if you are charged with this offense, it would be a defense to the crime if the child’s parent or a guardian approved the confinement.
What are the potential penalties for false imprisonment in Florida?
As per section 787.02(2) of Florida’s statute, a false imprisonment charge is classified as a third-degree felony. This means that a person convicted of the offense is likely to face up to five years in prison and, at the same time, pay a fine of up to $ 5,000.
Also, false imprisonment involving a child under the age of 13 is classified as a felony of the first degree if the alleged offender committed other offenses and there are other aggravating factors. As such, a fine not exceeding $ 10,000 is imposed, and they are likely to face up to 30 years in prison.
Moreover, if a kidnapping charge is added to the false imprisonment charge, you risk facing up to life in prison and paying a fine not exceeding $ 10,000.
Defenses to a False Imprisonment Charge in Florida
If you are facing a false imprisonment charge in Florida, it is imperative to act promptly to safeguard your rights and interests throughout the criminal proceedings. Quite frankly, it would be best to hire a criminal defense attorney who will evaluate your case and build a robust defense designed to ensure that the charges are reduced or dropped altogether.
Some of the potential defenses that are likely to be invoked in your case include the following:
- Consent to the confinement: If the confinement is not unlawful and, at the same time, not against the will of the victim, then no crime is deemed to have been committed. In simpler terms, voluntary confinement can’t be prosecuted.
- Legal authority to arrest: It is a legal defense to a claim of confinement if the restraint is under lawful authority. In this case, the defendant only needs to prove that they were exercising their legal rights and duties, and the restraint is justified.
- Merchant defense: This unique defense might exist for a merchant who detained a person accused of retail theft or shoplifting. To succeed in this defense, the merchant must demonstrate that there were reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed retail theft or shoplifting.
Admittedly, a false imprisonment charge can have severe implications on the defendant’s life. As such, it is imperative to seek legal counsel from a competent and qualified criminal defense attorney immediately after arrest.
Need help? Contact a Criminal Defense attorney Today
If you or your loved one is facing a false imprisonment charge in Florida, it is imperative to find a competent and qualified criminal defense attorney to represent you throughout the criminal proceedings.
The attorneys at the Meltzer & Bell law firm have experience handling false imprisonment charges in Florida and will work hard to ensure that the charges are reduced or dropped altogether.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.