False Imprisonment 2C:13-3 in New Jersey
“A criminal charge for false imprisonment is a disorderly persons offense, carrying up to 6 months of jail time. In NJ, this offense is also considered an act of domestic violence which can be used to obtain a restraining order.”
You might be surprised at how easy it is to commit an illegal act just by engaging in an argument with a loved one that spirals out of control. For example, say you get in a heated argument with your wife, and she tries to walk away from you. The act of grabbing her arm and keeping her from leaving the house may be an illegal offense. You may find you need the help of a criminal defense attorney after such a fight if your wife presses charges criminally for false imprisonment or files for a restraining order civilly in a domestic violence family court action based on false imprisonment. This little known offense can spell serious repercussions for those convicted in New Jersey, carrying possible jail time and fines in criminal court, plus a criminal conviction on your record. Then, there is the fact that false imprisonment is considered an act of domestic violence and thus, grounds for a temporary and/or final restraining order.
Don’t take matters into your own hands when defending yourself against false imprisonment or any other domestic abuse accusations for that matter. Contact the renowned criminal and domestic violence defense attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm to get the most solid defense in place. You can call (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation or reach out by sending a message to get the tailored legal assistance you’re looking for.
What is Considered False Imprisonment in NJ?
False imprisonment is intentionally restraining or confining someone against their will, so that they are not free to escape. For an extreme example, a mother locks her 18-year old drug-addicted daughter in a room or ties her up with restraints to prevent her from leaving the room to buy drugs. She could also threaten the daughter with harm or violence if the daughter leaves the room. This statute, however, does not apply to minors who are merely being kept under control by a parent, guardian, or caretaker. In other words, a kicking and screaming five-year-old may be confined to his room with no exit to calm down, without the restraining parent getting arrested for false imprisonment.
To be convicted in criminal court, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intentionally and unlawfully confined a victim against their will and that the victim knew they were imprisoned without any means of escaping. Unlawful means confinement by threat, force, or deceit. The interference with another’s freedom must be substantial, meaning the victim was unable to escape without injury, fear for their life or others’ lives, or that they physically could not escape because of locks, ropes, or bodily constraint. And the defendant must have knowingly acted, meaning they did not accidentally lock someone in a room. Knowledge may be inferred from a person’s actions that show they intended to restrain someone based on the person’s words and actions. Basically, the totality of the circumstances are examined to justice the charge and conviction.
Jail Time and other Penalties for False Imprisonment in New Jersey
When it comes to the penalties for false imprisonment, false imprisonment alone qualifies as a disorderly persons offense, which carries a 6 month jail sentence and up to $1,000.00 in fines. However, the punishment depends upon the circumstances, with variability in sentencing when comparing a mere arm grab leading to a misunderstanding, to chaining someone to a bed. If this is the sole conviction on a person’s record, the charge can be expunged from the convicted person’s record after five years. Notably, if false imprisonment leads to a restraining order in a domestic violence case, the defendant’s name will become part of the Domestic Violence Central Registry, a separate repository of names and information about domestic violence offenders that is always available to law enforcement and is checked when someone applies for a firearms permit.
Additionally, they may be charged with crimes that are typically charged along with false imprisonment, such as kidnapping, criminal restraint, interference with custody, and criminal coercion, all of which could add up to years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. False imprisonment is often charged with other crimes that carry fourth degree criminal sentences, like criminal coercion, which means the defendant is looking at up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000.00 fine in addition to a disorderly persons offense. Criminal restraint is likewise an unlawful restraint but the circumstances of the restraint threaten to seriously injure the victim. Kidnapping charges, a second degree crime if the victim is unharmed, may be filed if someone is held against their will for the payment of ransom. If convicted, the defendant faces 5 to 10 years imprisonment and $150,000.00 in fines. Interference with custody is another charge often filed in domestic disputes, when one party kidnaps the child or children from the other parent. Interfering with custody is typically a third degree crime unless the kidnapped individuals are taken out of the country, in which case it becomes a second degree crime.
The superior court handles indictable crimes and if false imprisonment is filed in conjunction with felony charges, the entire case is sent to the county superior court. Moreover, false imprisonment can also be a cause of action in a civil case, where damages can be higher than the criminal fines.
False Imprisonment in a NJ Domestic Violence Case
False imprisonment often comes into play in domestic violence situations. Say, a jealous husband does not want his wife to go out of the house while he is gone and so, locks her in the house with no way to get out, or threatens to harm their children if he finds out she did leave. It could also be false imprisonment to keep a partner deprived of money, food, or water, so that they cannot go anywhere for fear their children will starve without the intimate partner controlling the situation. In other words, threats may constitute false imprisonment also.
If convicted of false imprisonment in a domestic violence situation, the accused may be subject to a restraining order, which prevents them from contacting the person unlawfully imprisoned and probably their kids if the defendant and victim have kids together. They will also be prevented from possessing firearms and court-ordered to surrender any weapons they possess to law enforcement. If a judge decides the restraining order is final/permanent, this means the person subject to the FRO can never own, purchase, or possess a firearm. It is important to note though, that you may be able to get the restraining order removed and successfully petition the court to get your guns back if they have been seized in connection with a restraining order case.
Officers and Security Guards can also be Charged with False Imprisonment
Not only domestic relations can be charged and convicted of false imprisonment in New Jersey. Police officers can commit the offense if they detain someone without probable cause or for longer than reasonable during a traffic stop. Security guards also can commit false imprisonment if they detain someone at a mall or in a store without probable cause that someone committed a crime, like shoplifting. Even if they have probable cause, they cannot hold someone for an unreasonable time or use force without reason.
Charged with False Imprisonment? Defend Your Case
Although it seems frighteningly easy to be charged with false imprisonment in New Jersey, there are defenses. Defenses to false imprisonment depend upon the facts of the case and how the real version of events is told to a jury or judge. If the story is told in a different light than the prosecutor puts it, the court can decide which version is true. In other words, a defendant can show that the other person was not trapped, could go freely, and stayed where they were of their own free will. And it makes a difference how long the person was restrained, ten minutes versus ten hours. This is where a strong criminal defense lawyer can be invaluable when you are facing false imprisonment charges and any related criminal or domestic violence allegations.
Your attorney can show that you had no intention to imprison the victim, that things got carried away in the heat of the moment, which is different from a pre-planned imprisonment based on long-term relationship inequalities and abuse. Your criminal history will likely play into the story version that is accepted, whether your record is clean, or you have a history of violence. In addition, some cases just simply don’t meet the burden of proof or satisfy the material elements needed for a conviction.
New Jersey False Imprisonment Defense Lawyers
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Tormey Law Firm to discuss your case and start crafting your best defense against false imprisonment. Our New Jersey law firm handles all aspects of criminal and restraining order matters arising statewide in New Jersey, including Essex County, Bergen County, Passaic County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and everywhere in between. Contact (201)-556-1570 24/7 for a free consultation today.