False Imprisonment

Under § 787.02, Fla. Stat., false imprisonment means:

  • the accused acted without legal authority to do so;
  • forcibly, secretly, or by threat;
  • confined, abducted, imprisoned, or restrained the victim;
  • against the victim’s will.

False imprisonment is a crime of violence charged as a third-degree felony and punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If you are formally charged with any felony offense, including false imprisonment, you are not allowed to possess a firearm or ammunition while the charge is pending.

The best result in this type of case is keeping the prosecutor from filing any formal charge within the first twenty-one (21) days after the arrest or getting the prosecutor to drop the charges if they were already filed. You might be eligible to expunge the record if the charges are dropped, or the case is dismissed.

You are entitled to be represented by a criminal defense attorney at every stage of the case. The sooner you hire an attorney, the more options you might have to resolve the case on the best possible terms.

What is the statute of limitations for the crime of false imprisonment? As a third-degree felony, a prosecution for false imprisonment must be commenced within three years after it has been committed. § 775,15(2)(b), Fla. Stat., unless the time for prosecution is extended under the provisions of § 775,15(5), Fla. Stat.

Attorney for a False Imprisonment in Tampa, FL

If you were arrested for the felony offense of “False Imprisonment” in Tampa, FL, then you should immediately seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, represent men and women charged with violent crimes.

We work hard during the first 21 days after the arrest to present evidence to the State Attorney’s Office showing why no formal charges should be filed. If you are formally charged, we fight the charges aggressively by taking the deposition of the alleged victim, any witness, and any investigating officer.

After we complete our investigation, we file all viable motions to suppress evidence or to dismiss the charges. If self-defense is an issue, which it is in many of these cases, we can file a “stand your ground” motion to ask that the court throw the charges out completely.

We represent clients in Hillsborough County, St. Petersburg or Clearwater, Pinellas County, Bartow, Polk County, and New Port Richey or Dade City, Pasco County, FL. Our main office is in downtown Tampa, FL. We have additional offices in New Port Richey in Pasco County and Clearwater in Pinellas County, FL.

Let us put our experience to work for you.

Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case.

What Happens in the Typical False Imprisonment Case?

Many cases involve fights between a husband and wife, a girlfriend and boyfriend, or former lovers. Many people are surprised to learn that false imprisonment may be completed by simply grasping another person’s arm against their will under certain circumstances.

In other words, the crime does not have to be prolonged for any significant amount of time. Instead, the essence of false imprisonment is the act of depriving the victim of personal liberty or freedom of movement for any length of time.

The statutory elements of the offense of false imprisonment do not necessarily involve the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual. Duress can substitute for force, and the force or duress used to retrain the victim need not be substantial. It must simply be sufficient to restrict the victim’s movement.

False imprisonment does not require specific intent. Instead, false imprisonment is a general intent crime encompassing all forms of unlawful restraints effected without the specific intents enumerated in Florida’s kidnapping statute.

Related offenses include aggravated battery and aggravated assault, which can be charged as separate offenses.

The Faison test for determining whether a particular confinement or movement during the commission of another crime constitutes kidnapping does not apply to false imprisonment. Sanders v. State, 905 So. 2d 271 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).

Elements of False Imprisonment under Statute 787.02

Florida’s False Imprisonment statute contains the following elements which must be proven at trial beyond all reasonable doubt:

  1. the defendant confined, abducted, imprisoned, or restrained the victim by an intentional act;
  2. the victim was conscious of the confinement, abduction, imprisonment, or restraint;
  3. the victim (or the victim’s parent or guardian if the victim is under the age of 13) did not consent to the confinement, abduction, imprisonment, or restraint;
  4. the confinement, abduction, imprisonment, or restraint was not otherwise privileged; and
  5. the defendant had no lawful authority to commit the act.

In those false imprisonment cases in Florida that involve a child under the age of 13 years old, it is a defense to the crime that the confinement was with the approval or consent of the child’s legal guardian or parent.

Although the statute does not define “confinement,” the word is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary as follows: “The state of being confined; shut in; imprisoned… Confinement may be by either a moral or physical restraint, by threats of violence with a present force, or by physical restraint of the person.” Black’s L. Dict. 298 (6th ed. 1990).

The terms “confinement,” “abduction,” “imprisonment,” and “restraint,” connote a significant interference with a person’s freedom of movement that requires some degree of deliberate physical or psychological restraint on the victim, or other action, preventing the victim from leaving the place of confinement, abduction, imprisonment, or restraint. See, e.g., School Bd. Of Miami-Dade County, Florida v. Trujillo, 906 So. 2d 1109 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005).

Penalties for False Imprisonment Crimes in Florida

False imprisonment under Florida Statute Section 787.02(2) is a third-degree felony when the restraining is for purposes other than those listed in Section 787.01. This felony is categorized as a Level 6 offense under the criminal guideline scoresheet, with 36 points as the primary offense.

If the offense is scored as an additional offense, it adds 18 points to the Florida Felony Scoresheet. If the offense is listed as a prior felony conviction when it would score nine (9) more points under the Florida sentencing guidelines.

Lesser Included Offenses to False Imprisonment

The Florida courts have determined that certain lesser offenses exist under the false imprisonment statute including:

  • attempted false imprisonment under Florida Statute Section 777.04(1);
  • battery under Florida Statute Section 784.03; and
  • assault under Florida Statute Section 784.011.

Additionally, false imprisonment is classified as a lesser-included offense of the more serious crime of kidnapping under Florida Statute Section 787.01.

False Imprisonment Against a Child is Punishable by Life in Prison

Although false imprisonment is normally charged as a third degree felony, under certain circumstances, false imprisonment committed against a child is punishable by life in prison as a first-degree felony.

The enhanced penalties apply if the crime is allegedly committed against a child under the age of 13 years old when during the course of the false imprisonment the defendant commits one of the following offenses:

  • aggravated child abuse as defined in Section 827.03;
  • the exploitation of a child or allowing a child to be exploited under Florida Statute Section 450.151;
  • lewd or lascivious conduct;
  • lewd or lascivious battery;
  • lewd or lascivious exhibition;
  • lewd or lascivious molestation;
  • sexual battery as defined in Chapter 794; or
  • a crime of prostitution upon a child under Florida Statute Section 796.03 or 796.04.

If the offense is charged under Florida Statute Section 787.02(3)(a) then it is a first-degree felony punishable by life (PBL) when it involves a child under age 13 and the perpetrator also commits aggravated child abuse, sexual battery, or lewd or lascivious battery, molestation, conduct, or exhibition.

The offense of kidnapping is classified as a Level 9 offense under Florida’s criminal guideline scoresheet.

Section 787.02(1)(a) defines the term “false imprisonment” as “forcibly, by threat, or secretly confining, abducting, imprisoning, or restraining another person without lawful authority and against her or his will.”

When the crime involves the confinement of a child under the age of 13, the act is considered to be against the child’s will within the meaning of this section if such confinement is without the consent of her or his parent or legal guardian.

Keep in mind that a person can also be charged with and punished for any separate crime list above such as aggravated child abuse.

Defenses to False Imprisonment

The most commonly asserted defenses for allegations of false imprisonment include:

  • Consent to the Confinement: If the confinement is not against the will of the alleged victim, then no crime has occurred. In other words, when a person freely and voluntarily consents to confinement, there is no false imprisonment.
  • Probable Cause to Effect an Arrest:  Probable cause to effect an arrest might result in a type of privilege that bars a prosecution. Probable cause is defined as the existence of facts that would lead a man of ordinary caution and prudence to believe or entertain an honest and strong suspicion that the person accused is guilty of the offense charged.
  • Legal Authority to Arrest: Florida law provides a complete defense to a claim of false imprisonment if the restraint or arrest is under legal authority or justification. For example, when the accused is exercising his/her legal rights and duties, the restraint or imprisonment is justified.

A special defense against civil or criminal accusations of false imprisonment (known as the merchant defense) might exist for a merchant detaining a person accused of retail theft or shoplifting.

The merchant defense applies when a shop owner or merchant has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed retail theft or shoplifting. Under those circumstances, the shop owner or merchant is legally permitted to detain the person for the purpose of:

  • requesting identification;
  • verifying the identification;
  • making reasonable inquiries into whether the person is in possession of unpurchased merchandise or to investigate the ownership of such merchandise; and
  • to inform a law enforcement officer of the detention and surrender that person to the custody of the law enforcement officers.

False Imprisonment as a Form of Domestic Violence

Many false imprisonment cases are classified as “domestic violence.” False imprisonment is included within the definition of “domestic violence” found in Florida Statute Section 741.28, which provides, in part:

“‘Domestic violence” means any false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.”

Additional Resources

Section 787.02 for False imprisonment – Visit the website for the Florida legislature to find the legislative history and read the entire statutory language of Title XLVI, Chapter 787.02 for False Imprisonment and False Imprisonment of a child under the age of 13 years old.

“Double Offense” Problem in Kidnapping and False Imprisonment Cases – Visit the Florida Bar Journal to read an article by Richard Sanders dated December 2003 and last revised on February 10, 2012, discussing the well-known “Double Offense” Problems in Kidnapping and False Imprisonment Cases. The problem exists because these statutes define the constraint element of the offense so broadly that the type of constraint inherent in the commission of other offenses often provides an additional offense of kidnapping or false imprisonment, dramatically increasing the potential penalties and punishments for the offense.

Finding a Tampa Lawyer for False Imprisonment Charges

After an accusation of False Imprisonment under Florida law, find an experienced and aggressive Tampa criminal defense attorney to represent you at every stage of the case.

After the arrest, a prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, FL, will take only twenty-one (21) days to make a filing decision.

Although the prosecutor making the filing decision will attempt to talk to all of the witnesses to the alleged offense, talk with the alleged victim, and review the police reports, a criminal defense attorney is often in the best position to present the prosecutor with additional background information and exculpatory or favorable evidence.

Call an attorney at Sammis Law Firm to discuss your arrest for false imprisonment under Florida law throughout the greater Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, New Port Richey, Dade City, Bartow, or Bradenton, about possible defenses to fight this serious felony charge.

Call (813) 250-0500 to speak with an attorney in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, about the facts and circumstances of your case today.

This article was last updated on Thursday, June 8, 2023.