False imprisonment is the act of depriving another person of their personal liberty. Under California Penal Code Section 236, false imprisonment occurs when a person is detained, restrained, or confined without consent. A violation of PC 236 can occur with or without the use of force.
If convicted of violating California PC 236, you could face serious penalties, including a prison sentence. Do not take any chances if you face this charge. At the Simmrin Law Group, we have the experience necessary to fight back against a PC 236 charge. We may be able to get you a reduced sentence or avoid a conviction altogether.
Defining False Imprisonment Under PC 236
Under California law, false imprisonment is the act of restricting another person’s freedom through the use of violence, duress, deceit, fraud, or threat of unlawful injury.
In order to convict a defendant of a violation of PC 236, the prosecutor must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt. To convict, they must show that the defendant:
- Intentionally detained, restrained, or confined another person
- Held the person against their will for a period of time
- Did not have consent from the victim
- Harmed the victim (this can be physical, emotional, or psychological harm)
Does False Imprisonment Have to Be Intentional?
A victim does not have to be locked up for false imprisonment to have occurred. Any means used to detain a person against their will can be considered false imprisonment.
Under Penal Code Section 236, there is no requirement that the defendant does not have to have had the direct intent of falsely imprisoning the victim. As long as their actions caused the person to be unlawfully imprisoned, they can be convicted of this crime.
False imprisonment is similar to the more serious crime of kidnapping, which is prosecuted under Penal Code 207. The main difference between the crimes is that, with kidnapping, a person must be moved a substantial distance.
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The Penalties for a Conviction Under Penal Code 236
False imprisonment is a “wobbler” offense in California. That means that it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the details of the alleged offense and the prosecutor’s discretion.
A misdemeanor conviction for a false imprisonment charge under PC 236 can result in:
- Up to one year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Summary probation
To be convicted of a felony charge, the prosecution must prove that a defendant used violence or caused the victim to fear the potential of violence. Felony charges are much more severe and can result in:
- Up to three years in prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Formal probation
Certain factors can lead to enhancements of your sentence. For example, if the false imprisonment was against a victim who was elderly or dependent, a felony prison sentence could increase from three to four years. If an elderly victim suffered significant bodily injury, the sentence can further increase depending on the victim’s age.
If the false imprisonment was carried out for the purpose of benefiting a criminal street gang, the sentence could increase to 15 years to life.
If a gun was involved, 10 years could be added to the prison sentence. If the gun was fired, that enhancement could increase all the way up to 25 additional years.
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There are several crimes that a defendant might face in connection with a false imprisonment charge. In addition to the crime of kidnapping under Penal Code 207, a defendant could face other related charges, including:
- California Penal Code 209.5: Kidnapping During Carjacking
- California Penal Code Section 210.5: False Imprisonment of a Hostage
- California Penal Code Section 215: Carjacking
- California Penal Code Section 278: Child Abduction
Defenses Against a Penal Code Section 236 Charge
There are many potential defenses that you may be able to use against a PC 236 charge for false imprisonment. The specific circumstances of your case will dictate which approach is best for your situation. Common arguments in these cases include:
- False accusations
- No force or fear used
- Good faith belief
If you were wrongfully accused of detaining someone against their will, this could be a solid defense. False accusations get made for a variety of reasons. You may have been misidentified, or the alleged victim may not have been imprisoned at all.
Instead, they may have been attempting to hurt you with these allegations. Common motivators for false accusations include jealousy and revenge.
No Force of Fear Used
If evidence helps back up this claim, arguing that the alleged victim was held by force or fear but instead remained voluntarily can be a strong defense. If they were not restrained and had the option to leave at any time, you will likely be able to avoid a conviction.
Good Faith Belief
With this defense, the defendant admits to detaining the victim but asserts that they did so because they had a reasonable belief that the victim could be a danger to themselves or others.
If you felt threatened by the alleged victim, you may be able to make a self-defense claim for your actions. For example, if you were being attacked and ended up locking your attacker in a bathroom as you attempted to escape, you should not be convicted of false imprisonment.
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Talk to an Anaheim Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is essential if you face charges of false imprisonment under California PC Section 263. You do not want to take any chances regarding your future and a possible conviction for this serious crime.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we work to provide our clients with experienced legal representation. Give us a call or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with a member of our team.