False Imprisonment in California – What You Need to Know

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One of the most horrifying and humiliating scenarios is to be arrested and jailed on charges as a suspect in a crime you did not think you committed.

The best advice in the early hours is to avoid answering any questions until that certain person can hire a criminal defense attorney to help navigate the murky waters of the legal system.

The first step is for the attorney to find out what the exact charges are and the circumstances of the arrest, such as a statement from a witness that implicates that personas being the suspect who committed the crime.

Citizen’s Arrest and False Imprisonment

California’s Penal Code 837 gives the conditions under which you can make a citizen’s arrest, such as in a robbery of a store or of a woman’s purse while out in public.

You can make a citizen’s arrest if you saw the crime when it occurred.

You can also do it when a suspect committed a felony, even though it was not in your presence.

The third condition is if the felony occurred, and you have reasonable cause for believing that person to have committed it.

One scenario is if an individual yells that a person running away, stole a purse or a bag.

You can then make a vocal non-violent citizen’s arrest.

The Emotionally Charged Scenario

In one example scenario, a person may claim that you restrained him/her from leaving your car during an argument.

If that person, merely placed a hand on the arm to stop from leaving so you two could talk further, this is a case of false imprisonment that is covered by the California Penal Code 236.

If you reach across and hold the door closed so the person cannot leave the car, then this also false imprisonment even without touching the other person.

If you used force or exhibited a menacing attitude to stop the other individual from leaving, thus keeping him/her in the car against their will due to the threat of violence, then the charges can be upgraded to a felony with more severe outcomes.

That person can also sue you in civil court for violation of her personal liberty.

It is unfortunate that you may not have done any of these things, yet a person can still accuse you of having done them and there were no witnesses to see what happened.

That is why you need an expert criminal defense attorney to handle your case and find a way to uncover the truth. It is also why you should not answer questions to the police until you have seen your attorney first, and that he or she is present during all questioning sessions.

It is also the duty of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that you did commit this crime by showing that you did intentionally restrain an individual and force what you wanted against their own desire to leave the car.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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