There are two kinds of false imprisonment offenses – one that is a felony and one that is a misdemeanor, both under Penal Code 237(a). Either of these offenses may be charged in a domestic violence case, depending on the circumstances.
If you are charged with misdemeanor false imprisonment, under Penal Code 237(a), the Prosecutor must prove:
If you are charged with felony false imprisonment the Prosecutor must prove a more serious first element – that is:
To prove this element of the offense, the Prosecutor must prove that the defendant acted on purpose in keeping the alleged victim restrained, confined, or detained. The offense of false imprisonment is not about someone being confined to a jail or a prison, it can take place anywhere. So, for example, it can be false imprisonment to tie someone up, or to lock them in a room with no means of escape, or even to force them to stay in a house with no way of leaving. The size of the area does not matter, nor does the time period during which they are imprisoned, as long as the person is not free to leave for some period of time – even a minute or two.
Keep in mind that, if some kind of violence or menace is used to imprison the person, then this offense can be elevated to a felony. Menace means some kind of verbal or physical threat, or a threat made with a weapon, either made explicitly or implied. The kind of violence used must be more than the force that is necessary to restrain someone.
For example, imagine a couple that are fighting in a bedroom. They both try to leave the room, but one jostles the other out of the way and forces the door closed behind them, locking the other person in the room. That could be an act of false imprisonment, however no more physical force than was necessary to keep the person in the bedroom was used. However, if the person doesn’t just jostle the other person out of the way, but shoves them across the room and pushes them into a wall before leaving and locking the door, then that might be considered additional violence – and that person may then be charged with felony false imprisonment.
The Prosecutor must show that the alleged victim was forced to stay somewhere, or go somewhere, without their consent. In a case where the use of violence or menace is alleged, it could be that the person agreed to stay or go somewhere – but only because of the threat made or the violence used against them.