False Imprisonment and Unlawful Arrest in North Carolina

unlawful arrest

False imprisonment and unlawful arrest can occur anytime a person is unlawfully detained or restrained without their consent and when someone is deprived of their liberty or freedom without due process of law. False imprisonment claims frequently arise within the context of a domestic dispute. For example, if one partner prevents the other from leaving a room or exiting a building by physically blocking the exit or by threatening them if they try to leave, they could face allegations of false imprisonment. Claims of unlawful arrest, however, involve actions of law enforcement and arise more frequently when police or law enforcement officers arrest someone without sufficient evidence to do so.

While false imprisonment and unlawful arrest often occur in very different contexts, the legal issues presented by these two claims are similar. If you have been charged with false imprisonment, or if you believe you were unlawfully placed under arrest, an experienced attorney can advise you of your rights, explain the elements of false imprisonment or unlawful arrest, and represent you in court.

What Is False Imprisonment?

False imprisonment occurs when someone intentionally restrains someone else’s ability to freely move about without the legal authority to do so.

Examples of false imprisonment include:

  • Locking someone in a room without their permission
  • Grabbing a person and preventing them from leaving
  • A private security guard who detains a suspected shoplifter for an unreasonable amount of time, in a manner that is unreasonable, or based simply on the suspect’s appearance
  • Nursing staff who medicate a patient without the patient’s consent or by using physical or emotional threats

If you have been charged with false imprisonment in North Carolina, you face a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a fine that will be set at the court’s discretion. Charges of false imprisonment are accompanied by allegations of kidnapping, which is a much more serious crime. A kidnapping conviction can lead to even more severe consequences.

What Is Unlawful Arrest?

Unlawful arrest occurs when police officers or other law enforcement agents arrest someone without legal justification to do so. To lawfully detain someone or place them under arrest, police must have probable cause to believe the suspect committed a crime.

Probable cause is more than a mere suspicion that someone committed a crime. It must be supported by credible evidence, and law enforcement agents must be able to point to specific facts or circumstances that caused them to believe a person committed a crime. If the police did not have probable cause when they placed you under arrest, you may be able to challenge any criminal charges you face and even sue the police for unlawful arrest.

What Constitutes “Imprisonment” or “Arrest”?

To be imprisoned or arrested, a person must reasonably believe that they are not free to go. This can be because of physical restraints—handcuffs or being detained in the street by police officers who are telling you that you are not free to go.

In cases of false imprisonment, if a person has a reasonable belief that they are not free to leave, the person detaining them could face charges of false imprisonment. In these situations, an individual may have someone locked in a room, threatening them with a weapon, or even physically restraining them.

How Is False Imprisonment Different from Unlawful Arrest?

False imprisonment and unlawful arrest are similar in that both situations involve circumstances in which a person reasonably believes they are not free to leave. In practice, the difference comes down to who is doing the detaining. In cases of false imprisonment, a person is detained by a private citizen, while in cases of unlawful arrest, a person is unlawfully detained by law enforcement.

How an attorney approaches a case of false imprisonment or unlawful arrest will, of course, depend on who the client is and the circumstances of the situation.

Defenses to Allegations of False Imprisonment

Voluntary confinement is often a defense against allegations of false imprisonment. A person who consented to confinement and was not coerced, under duress, or fraudulently compelled to agree to the confinement cannot claim that they were falsely imprisoned.

In certain situations, a private citizen is lawfully justified in detaining someone. A common example is a shopkeeper or other business owner who detains someone they suspect of shoplifting. In this situation, the merchant can legally detain the suspect in a manner and for a length of time that is reasonable. This is often done while waiting for police to come and address the situation. Similarly, parents can lawfully restrain their minor children, so long as the restraints do not present an unreasonable danger to the child.

If You Were Unlawfully Arrested

If you believe that you or someone you love was unlawfully arrested, stay calm, and contact a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.

The first step in a case of unlawful arrest is to address the underlying criminal charges. Once you have cleared yourself of any criminal wrongdoing, you may be able to pursue a claim for unlawful arrest. However, any kind of plea deal will significantly undermine the likelihood of success in a claim for unlawful arrest.

Police officers and other law enforcement agents have the legal authority to place someone under arrest if they reasonably believe the person committed a crime. In some cases, the arrest is legal, even if the person who was placed under arrest is later found to be not guilty.

The Stowe Law Firm: Your Defense Against Criminal Charges

False imprisonment and unlawful arrest are two sides of the same coin. Both situations involve a person who is unlawfully detained or restrained without their consent. In cases where a person is charged with false imprisonment, an attorney can evaluate the case against you and defend you against these criminal charges.

If you were arrested but believe the police did not have the legal authority to do so, it is likely that you have been charged with a crime. The Stowe Law Firm, PLLC can defend you against the charges and evaluate the possibility of a claim for unlawful arrest.

Regardless of your specific situation, the Stowe Law Firm will evaluate your case, offer candid advice, and protect your best interests. With offices in Salisbury, North Carolina, Ryan Stowe and the Stowe Law Firm defend people who have been accused of crimes in Rowan County, Mecklenburg County, Davidson County, Cabarrus County, and Stanly County.

Learn more about Ryan Stowe and his criminal defense team, read more about the cases we handle, and get answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Then contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case and how we can help.