You and your spouse are involved in a heated argument. As they reach for their keys and head for the door, you grab their arm in an effort to convince them to stay. What may seem like an insignificant gesture can actually have ramifications under California law. Such an action could lead to a false imprisonment charge.
What is false imprisonment?
False imprisonment refers to violating someone else’s personal liberty by restraining them in a way that prevents them from freely moving or leaving the situation. There are two key elements required for a prosecutor to prove false imprisonment:
- That you unlawfully detained another person – and this restraint was intentional
- That the alleged victim was unable to move freely due to your actions
What is a wobbler offense?
California law is unique in that certain criminal actions – known as “wobblers” – can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. False imprisonment is a wobbler offense. Other common wobblers include:
- Child endangerment
- Spousal battery
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Grand theft
What determines the charge?
Some factors that the court will consider in determining the appropriate charge for wobbler false imprisonment are:
- Whether you have a prior criminal record
- Whether you have been previously convicted of false imprisonment
- Whether the alleged victim of the crime suffered harm or injury
- Whether the restrained involved violence or force
What are my options?
It’s important to remember that just because you have been charged with a particular crime does not mean that you will be convicted. The state has to prove the above elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many factors that can weaken the prosecution’s case.
For instance, if you can demonstrate that your actions were not intentional, or that you acted in an effort to protect the alleged victim from harm, then the prosecution will have challenges in proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal defense attorney can work with you to create the strongest possible defense for your case.