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Encyclopedia > False imprisonment
Tort law I
Part of the common law series
Intentional torts
Assault  · Battery
False arrest  · False imprisonment
Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Property torts
Trespass to chattels
Trespass to land  · Conversion
Detinue  · Replevin  · Trover
Dignitary and economic torts
Slander and libel  · Invasion of privacy
Fraud  · Tortious interference
Alienation of affections
Breach of confidence  · Abuse of process
Malicious prosecution  · Conspiracy
Defenses to intentional torts
Consent  · Necessity
Self defense and defense of others
Fair comment (as to slander/libel)
Other areas of the common law
Contract law  · Property law
Wills and trusts
Criminal law  · Evidence

False imprisonment is a tort, and possibly a crime, wherein a person is intentionally confined without legal authority. Image File history File links Scale_of_justice. ... // Tort is a legal term that means civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal wrong. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... An intentional tort is a category of torts that describes a civil wrong resulting from an intentional act on the part of the tortfeasor. ... At common law, battery is the tort of intentionally (or in Australia negligently) and voluntarily touching another person without lawful excuse or justification. ... False arrest is a common law tort, where a plaintiff alleges he or she was held in custody without reasonable cause or an order issued by a court of appropriate jurisdiction. ... Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is a common law tort claim for intentional conduct that results in extreme emotional distress. ... Trespass to chattels is a tort whereby the infringing party has intentionally (or in Australia negligently) interfered with another persons lawful possession of a chattel. ... Trespass to land is a common law tort that is committed when an individual intentionally (or in Australia negligently) enters the land of another without lawful excuse. ... In law, conversion is a tort that deals with the wrongful interference with goods. ... In tort law, detinue is an action for the wrongful detention of goods from an individual who has a greater right to immediate possession than the current possessor. ... Replevin is an Anglo-French law term (derived from repletir, to replevy). ... Trover signifies finding. ... Libel redirects here. ... Invasion of privacy is a legal term essentially defined as a violation of the right to be left alone. ... Tortious interference, in the common law of tort, occurs when a person intentionally damages the plaintiffs contractual or other business relationships. ... In United States law, alienation of affections is a tort action brought by a deserted spouse against a third party alleged to be responsible for the failure of the marriage. ... The tort of breach of confidence, is a common law tort that protects private information that is conveyed in confidence. ... Abuse of process is a common law intentional tort. ... Malicious prosecution is a common law intentional tort. ... In the law of tort, the legal elements necessary to establish a civil conspiracy are substantially the same as for establishing a criminal conspiracy, i. ... Consent (as a term of jurisprudence) is a possible justification against civil or criminal liability. ... In tort law, the defense of necessity is divided between private necessity (where a person commits a tort for the defense of his own property) and public necessity (where a person commits a tort for the public good, such as cutting down someone elses trees to stop the spread... This article and defense of property deal with the legal concept of excused (sometimes termed justified) acts that might otherwise be illegal. ... Fair comment is a legal term for a common law defense in defamation cases (libel or slander). ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... Property law is the area of law that governs the various forms of ownership in real property (land as distinct from personal or movable possessions) and in personal property, within the common law legal system. ... In the common law, a will or testament is a document by which a person (the testator) regulates the rights of others over his property or family after death. ... The law of trusts and estates is generally considered the body of law which governs the management of personal affairs and the disposition of property of an individual in anticipation and the event of such persons incapacity or death, also known as the law of successions in civil law. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. ... The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (e. ... // Tort is a legal term that means civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal wrong. ...



The elements of the tort are:

  • Intent to confine another person against their will. In Australia, this element will be fulfilled if the imprisonment is negligently occasioned. In the United States, the possibility of negligent false imprisonment only arises if the imprisonment causes bodily harm.
  • An act pursuant to this intent.
  • The resulting confinement of another person against his or her will.
  • Absence of a reasonable means of escape. A means of escape will not be reasonable if it endangers personal safety, such as leaping from the window of a tall building.
  • In some jurisdictions, awareness of the confinement by the person so confined. In both England and Australia, consciousness of imprisonment is not an element of the tort.
  • Absence of legal authority on the part of the person acting to confine another.


The following are false imprisonment scenarios.

  • The taking hostage of a bank's customers and employees by bank robbers.
  • The detainment of gym-goers by the gym's owner for the failure of the gym-goers to pay their monthly bill.

What false imprisonment is not

Not all detainments constitute false imprisonment.

Police Privilege

A police officer has the right to detain someone if he has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, and that the person is so involved, or if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person has been, is, or is about to be, engaged in criminal activity based on specific and articulable facts and inferences. Reasonable suspicion, less stringent of a standard than probable cause, is the basis for the investigatory Terry stop. In United States criminal law, probable cause refers to the standard by which a police officer may make an arrest, conduct a personal or property search or obtain a warrant. ... In United States law, a reasonable suspicion is an articulable reason to suspect that a person has engaged in or is planning to engage in a criminal act. ... Generally speaking police/law enforcement officers in the United States can stop (see Terry stop) and detain a person(s) when they have reasonable suspicion to suspect that the person(s) have committed a crime, or were about to commit a crime, and incident to such a stop can search...

Shopkeep's Privilege

A store owner holds the common law shopkeep's privilege, under which he is allowed to detain a suspected shoplifter on store property for a reasonable period of time, with cause to believe that the person detained in fact committed, or attempted to commit theft of store property. The shopkeep's privilege, although recognized in most jurisdictions, is not as broad a privilege as that of a police officer's, and therefore one must pay special attention to the temporal element -- that is, the shopkeep may only detain the suspected criminal for a relatively short period of time.

In America to properly exercise this privilege all the following conditions must be satisfied: (a) Investigation on or near premises The detention itself must be effected either on the store premises or in the immediate vicinity thereof. (b) Reasonable suspicion The shopkeeper must have reasonable grounds to suspect the particular person detained. (c) Reasonable force Only, reasonable, nondeadly force may be used to effect the detention (d) Reasonable period and manner of detention The detention itself may be only for the period of time necessary for reasonable investigation (usually very short) and must be conducted in a reasonable manner. US courts have found that it may be only for 10 to 15 minutes.

If one of the conditions is not satisfied the shopkeeper loses the privilege and can be liable for false imprisonment.

Note: Reasonable mistake protected: Where these conditions are established, the shopkeeper is immune from liability for false arrest, battery, etc. - even though it turns out that the person detained was innocent of any wrongdoing.


In Louisiana, a pharmacist and his pharmacy were found guilty of false imprisonment when they instructed a patient of theirs to wait around while a police officer was being called without her knowledge, because they were suspicious of a prescription that was meant for her. Before she came in, her doctor had called in a prescription, but for several reasons, the pharmacist was suspicious of the prescription, and when she came in, he and fellow employees asked the patient to wait while they were supposedly working on the prescription. When the police arrived, they arrested the patient. While the patient was in prison, the police verified with her doctor that the prescription was authentic and that it was meant for her. After this incident, the patient sued the pharmacy and its employees receiving $20, 000. An appeals court reversed the judgement, because it believed the elements of false imprisonment were not met.

In Colorado, a woman sued a police officer after being arrested for not leashing her dog for false imprisonment. The plaintiff was in her car when she was approached by the officer, and when she was asked to produce her driver's license and failed to do so, she was arrested. She won her claim, despite the fact having lost the case of not leashing her dog. The court reasoned that the officer did not have proper legal authority in arresting her, because he arrested her for not producing her driver's license as opposed to the dog leash violation.

See also


  • Virginia Code - Exemptions
  • False Imprisonment Alleged When Patient Is Detained with Suspicious Rx
  • Enright v. Groves

  Results from FactBites:
False imprisonment - definition of False imprisonment in Encyclopedia (525 words)
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away of a person against the person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment (confinement without legal authority) for ransom or in furtherance of another crime.
In the past (and presently in some parts of the world), kidnapping was a common means used to obtain slaves; in more recent times, kidnapping in the form of shanghaiing men was used to supply American merchant ships in the 19th century with sailors, whom the law considered unfree labour.
Writ of habeas corpus is a legal means in which an inmate can petition a court to gain his freedom on the basis of false imprisonment.
False imprisonment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (253 words)
False Imprisonment is a common law tort, and possibly a misdemeanor crime, wherein a person is intentionally confined without legal authority.
With regard to conviction and incarceration of the innocent, the term is often associated with the notion that the police or prosecution knows the person is (or is likely) being falsely imprisoned.
In common law countries, the writ of habeas corpus is a legal means in which an inmate can petition a court to gain his freedom on the basis of false imprisonment; systems with different names but fulfilling the same functions are in place in most civil law countries.
  More results at FactBites »



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