Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/12/15: False Imprisonment v. Kidnapping

False imprisonment is the act of confining or detaining someone with no legal justification and against their will, and is treated as a felony in some (but not all) states In contrast, kidnapping involves moving a person against their will, through use of force or threats, to another location. The location may be only nominally distanct from the victim’s current location. A simple example will help to illustrate the difference: if you don’t like my class and lock me in the classroom, that’s false imprisonment. If you drag me into a classroom–even a short distance–and lock the door, that’s kidnapping.

Generally, kidnapping is considered a more serious offense and is usually punished as a felony. Both false imprisonment and kidnapping can be subject to aggravating circumstances that heighten the penalites, such as if the victim was a minor. A charge of kidnapping can include a charge of false imprisonment, as well. False imprisonment can lead to civil claims–for example, a person wrongly charged with shoplifting might file a civil suit for damages. False arrest is related to false imprisonment, but the distinction is that false arrest is premised on the actor claiming he or she has a legal basis for the detention which proves to be false. Examples of false arrest would include someone detaining a victim while impersonating a police officer, or an actual law enforcement officer conducting an invalid arrest (e.g., lacking probable cause, without warrant, etc). False arrests can also result in civil liability.


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