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Family Violence Offenses: False Imprisonment

West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Lawyer

The crime of false imprisonment, also known in Florida as criminal restraint or criminal confinement, occurs when one person forcibly or by threat, confines, abducts, imprisons, or restrains another without lawful authority and without the victim’s consent. The elements of false imprisonment are similar to those required for a conviction of kidnapping. The main difference between the two, however, is that the crime of kidnapping occurs when a victim is moved from one location to another while confined.

Because it is so similar to kidnapping, the crime of false imprisonment is one of the lesser-known domestic violence offenses, but it can still have severe and lifelong consequences for victims and their family members. If you or someone you know has been the victim of family violence, contacting a West Palm Beach domestic violence lawyer can help you better protect your rights, your safety, and your family.

Elements of False Imprisonment

The crime of false imprisonment in Florida requires:

  • Intentional imprisonment: A person must intentionally limit or restrict another individual’s personal freedom. Physical restraint is not always necessary. Threats of violence, coercion, and deception can all satisfy this requirement.
  • Lack of consent: A person must restrict the victim without his or her consent. Children and individuals with cognitive disabilities can never consent to restraint.
  • Legal justification: To be convicted of this crime, a defendant can have had no lawful justification for restraining the victim. Examples of individuals who are exempted from liability include: judicial officers, certain government officials, attorneys, and doctors as long as all are acting within their lawful capacities.


False imprisonment is a third-degree felony in Florida. If convicted, a defendant can receive any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to five years in prison;
  • Up to five years of probation; and
  • Up to $5,000 in fines.

Aggravating Circumstances

A defendant who commits the offense of false imprisonment upon a child under the age of 13 and during the commission of the crime commits a separate offense. Such defendants may be charged with:

  • Aggravated child abuse or aggravated battery on a child, in which the accused wilfully tortures, punishes, or cages a child, or knowingly or wilfully abuses a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability;
  • Sexual battery against a child;
  • Lewd or lascivious battery, molestation, conduct, or exhibition of a child;
  • Prostitution or trafficking of a child; or
  • Exploitation of a child.

Civil Penalties

Aside from prosecution by the State, a defendant charged with committing false imprisonment can be sued civilly. The damages awarded in this type of suit may include compensation for loss of earnings, physical and mental suffering, and attorney’s fees. A jury may also award punitive damages if the required proof of malice is shown. A plaintiff seeking compensation must do so within five years of the commission of the crime.

If you have been the victim of false imprisonment, having the advice of an attorney with family law experience is vital. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.

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