Penal Code Section 236 – False Imprisonment

Elements of the Crime

In Los Angeles a crime commonly associated with domestic violence is the crime of false imprisonment. False imprisonment, requires the prosecution to prove:

(1) You intentionally and unlawfully restrained, confined, or detained someone or caused a person to be restrained or confined by violence or menace; AND

(2) That you made the other person stay or go somewhere against that person’s will.

Under Penal Code Section 236 – False Imprisonment vocabulary:

1. Violence is defined as using physical force that is greater than the force reasonably necessary to restrain someone.

2. Menace is defined as a verbal or even a physical threat of harm, including the use of a deadly weapon. The threat of harm may be express or implied.

3. Against a person’s will is defined as a person not consenting to the act. In order to consent, a person must act freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act.

False Imprisonment under penal code section 236 does not require that the person restrained be confined in jail or prison.

It is important to note that false imprisonment is a general intent crime. A general intent crime exists when the definition of the crime consists of only the description of a particular act, without reference to intent to do anything else. The essential element of false imprisonment whether it is felony or misdemeanor is the restraint of a person.

Penalties of the Crime

False Imprisonment is known as a wobbler offense, which means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor offense or a felony offense. The penalties for misdemeanor false imprisonment can include a maximum of one year in jail. The penalties for felony false imprisonment can include a maximum of three years in state prison.

False Imprisonment is commonly found in domestic violence cases. For example, if during an argument you block an exit, preventing your significant other from leaving, you can be charged with false imprisonment.

The following are examples that Courts have found to violate penal code section 236 – False Imprisonment:

1. Defendant put a finger to his mouth and told victim to hide from police.

2. Defendant grabbed victims arm preventing her from exiting the house.

3. Defendant threatened, “If you leave, I’m going to hurt you.”

4. Defendant pointed a gun to victim and said, “Don’t move.”

Common Defenses

False Accusations

The most common defense in domestic violence related crimes is false accusations. False accusations simply means that the alleged victim is actually lying and the crime never took place.

Parental Authority

A parent who confines his or her child with the intent to endanger the health and safety of the child or for an unlawful purpose can be prosecuted for false imprisonment. If there is sufficient evidence that the parent’s restraint or confinement was a reasonable exercise of parental authority.


Consent actually means that the alleged victim actually agreed to being confined and it was not done against the victims will.

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