California “False Imprisonment” Laws – Penal Code 236 PC

January 7, 2018

In California, false imprisonment is charged under Penal Code 236 pc making it a crime to knowingly restraining the personal liberty of another.[1] The crime is a wobbler allowing the prosecutor to file misdemeanor or felony charges. However, false imprisonment can be either a misunderstanding or perhaps argued as a lesser offense when someone is charged with kidnapping because both offenses are closely related. And contrary to popular belief, false imprisonment does not require the alleged victim to be restrained or detained in jail or prison.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove?

For the felony level of false imprisonment under Penal Code 236 pc, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. You intentionally and unlawfully restrained or confined another person with violence or menace;
  2. You made the other person stay or go somewhere against that person’s will.[2]

Under a misdemeanor charge level for false imprisonment, the prosecution must prove:

  1. You intentionally and unlawfully restrained, confined, or detained someone;
  2. You made the person stay or go somewhere against that person’s will.[3]

What is the Punishment for False Imprisonment – PC 236?

The punishment for PC 236 depends on whether you were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.

  • A felony conviction carries a sentencing range of 16 months, 2, or 3 years in jail.
  • A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in jail.

Either conviction level carries a fine amount up to $1,000.[4]

What are the Legal Defenses to CA False Imprisonment

  • Consent: An act that is done against a person’s will is when the person did not consent to the act. A person must freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act in order to render consent. If the alleged victim exercised a free choice, then this will serve as an absolute defense because the alleged imprisonment was not unlawful.
  • Intent: Intent occurs when someone acts willfully or on purpose to restrain the other. By lacking the intent based on a misunderstanding could be argued on your behalf. Additionally, the act could have been a misunderstanding, occurred on accident, or was the product of misfortune – all factors and defenses negating that you harbored the requisite intent to confine.
  • False Allegations: False allegations are common among person relationships. For instance, spouse is claiming false imprisonment to gain an unfair advantage with respect to child custody, divorce, or seeking charges for revenge purposes after an affair is revealed.
  • Violence/Menace: With respect to felony accusations, you may not have been with the required menace or violence to commit the act. Menace requires a verbal or physical threat of harm. If no weapon was used; there was no verbal threat – express or implied; then you are not guilty of felony false imprisonment. Furthermore, the force you used was perhaps reasonable under the circumstances and not greater than necessary to restrain the other person.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been charged or arrested for CA false imprisonment under PC 236 or PC 237, then contact an experienced Newport Beach criminal defense attorney. The Law Offices of John D. Rogers provides free confidential consultations and we can guide you through the process and inform you of your rights and defenses. We handle false imprisonment cases all throughout southern California including Ventura, Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.

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Legal References:

[1] Penal Code 236 defined (“False imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.”)

[2] See CALCRIM 1240:

[3] See CALCRIM 1242:

[4] Penal Code 237 et seq – defined (“(a) False imprisonment is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. If the false imprisonment be effected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, it shall be punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

(b) False imprisonment of an elder or dependent adult by use of violence, menace, fraud, or deceit shall be punishable as described in subdivision (f) of Section 368.”)


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