False imprisonment is defined as the act of intentionally confining
a person without the legal authority to do so. Some scenarios
that may include false imprisonment are the taking of hostages
during a bank robbery or the detainment of a customer by the business
owner for failure to pay the bill.
There are different elements to the false imprisonment
tort law and those include:
- a purpose to detain another individual against their will
- the act of carrying out this purpose
- the resulting detainment of the individual against their will
- no means of escape, which does not include a means that endangers
- the person confined must also be aware of the confinement
- the person committing the act must not have legal authority
to do so
A law enforcement official has the authority to detain a person
if there is reason to believe that the person has committed a
crime. A police officer can also confine a person if they have
reason to believe that the person detained has been, or will be,
involved in a crime. The police officer must have facts to support
A storeowner also has a shopkeeper's privilege, which allows
him to hold an individual that is suspected to have committed
the act of theft on the premises of the business for a short period
of time. The storeowner must have cause to believe that the person
detained has or will commit or attempt to commit theft of store
This detainment must only last for a short period-of-time and
is not as broad as the police officer's right to detain. In order
for a storeowner to detain a suspected shoplifter and not instigate
false imprisonment, all the following criteria must be met:
- Investigating the individual on or near store property.
The detention must be held on the store property or nearby.
Actual detainment must be done on the store premises but the
owner is allowed to chase the suspected person if the person
runs from the store or property. The detainment's only purpose
must be to decide if property of the suspect is stolen goods.
It is not lawful to try to force a confession from the person.
- Reasonable belief. The owner must have reason to believe
that the person detained has or is about to steal property.
- Use of reasonable force only. Using force is allowed
if the suspected person runs or tries to resist detention. The
force must be reasonable and non-deadly. The owner may not handcuff
the person, force them to lie or sit on the ground, and they
also must allow the person to look for a receipt.
- Short time period and reasonable manner of detainment.
The detention may only be for a very short time, and usually
never more than fifteen minutes. The detainment must also be
held in a reasonable manner.
If a person feels that they have a case for false imprisonment,
they must prove wilful detention without their consent, and that
the person detaining them did not have lawful authority.