man imprisoned

What Is False Imprisonment in North Carolina?

By Joel Hancock

While you may think of “imprisoning” someone as locking them in a room, your actions need not be so extreme for you to be guilty of a crime. In North Carolina, the common law crime of false imprisonment is the unlawful restraint of another person. 

In order to be convicted of false imprisonment, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, if there is any reasonable possibility that you may not have committed the crime, the jury or judge must acquit you of the charges. 

Elements of False Imprisonment in North Carolina

False imprisonment occurs when an individual:

  1. Intentionally or unlawfully
  2. Restrains or detains
  3. Another person
  4. Without that person’s consent.

Consequences for False Imprisonment

As a stand-alone crime, false imprisonment is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor and therefore follows the state guidelines for misdemeanor sentencing. However, false imprisonment is often charged along with the crime of kidnapping, which could raise the class to something more serious.

How Does False Imprisonment Often Occur?

When you get into an argument with a friend or significant other, you may block the doorway in an attempt to get them to stay and finish the conversation. However, this is a common manner in which false imprisonment is seen. Often false imprisonment occurs in relation to domestic disputes in which someone prevents their partner from leaving by physically blocking their exit or by threatening them in some manner if they try to leave.

Exceptions to False Imprisonment

While the aforementioned elements equate to false imprisonment, there are certain exceptions in which these actions are excused.

Law Enforcement

It is not false imprisonment when a police officer has probable cause to arrest and charge someone with a crime but later finds that the individual was not guilty or the charges against him or her were dismissed. 

When a police officer is guilty of misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, or judicial misconduct that leads to wrongful imprisonment it’s generally considered a civil matter that must be resolved with a lawsuit. 

Shopkeepers Privilege

Sometimes a shopkeeper (merchant) has the legal right to detain someone whom he or she suspects has shoplifted something from the store. However, this detention must be done in a manner and length of time that is reasonable. This can be done while waiting for the police to come and deal with the situation. 

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with False Imprisonment

A conviction for false imprisonment can have a relatively significant impact on you. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Joel Hancock is a native of Carteret County, NC. He devotes 100% of his practice to defending those accused of traffic infractions, DWI, misdemeanors, and felonies in Carteret County, NC.