To restraint a person without justification or consent.  The term false imprisonment refers to a common law misdemeanor (see also “false arrest”) and also a tort.  Both private as well as governmental detention could be considered false imprisonment.


“The action for false imprisonment is derived from the ancient common-law action of trespass and protects the personal interest of freedom from restraint of movement. Whenever a person unlawfully obstructs or deprives another of his freedom to choose his own location, that person will be liable for that interference (Restatement, 2d, Torts, § 35, comment h).  To establish this cause of action the plaintiff must show that: (1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement, (3) the plaintiff did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged (Restatement, 2d, Torts, § 35; but see Prosser, Torts [4th ed], § 11, which rejects the requirement that the plaintiff must be conscious of the confinement). The great weight of authority, including New York, recognizes the rule that neither actual malice nor want of probable cause is an essential element of an action for false imprisonment (Marks v Townsend, 97 N.Y. 590; Malice and want of probable cause as element or factor of action for false imprisonment, Ann., 19 A L R 671; Ann., 137 A L R 504; 32 Am Jur, False Imprisonment, § 27).”

Source: Broughton v. State of New York, 3 N.Y.2d 451 (1975)


“False imprisonment was a misdemeanor at common law and is recognized by some states today.  It differs from kidnapping in that asportation is not required.  If the imprisonment is secret, some jurisdictions treat it as kidnapping.”

Source: Arnold H. Loewy, Criminal Law in a Nutshell 65 (2d ed. 1987)


“Some courts have described false arrest and false imprisonment as causes of action which are distinguishable only in terminology.  The two have been called virtually indistinguishable, and identical.  However, the difference between them lies in the manner in which they arise.  In order to commit false imprisonment, it is not necessary either to intend to make an arrest or actually to make an arrest.  By contrast, a person who is falsely arrested is at the same time falsely imprisoned.”

Source: 32 A.m. Jur. 2d False Imprisonment § 3 (1995).


Any unlawful restraint of a man’s liberty, whether in a place made use of for imprisonment generally, or in one used only on the particular occasion, or by words and an array of force, without bolts or bars, in any locality whatever. 1 Bish. Or. Law § 553 ; Webb’s Poll. Torts 259; State v. Rollins, 8 N. H. 550; Smith V. State, 7 Humphr. (Tenn.) 43; Moyd V. State, 12 Ark. 43, 54 Am. Dec. 250; 7 Q. B. 742; Wood v. Kinsman, 5 Vt. 588; Adams v. Freeman, 9 Johns. (N.Y.) 117; Webber v. Kenny, 1 A. K. Marsh. (Ky.) 345; Fotheringham v. Express Co., 36 Fed. 252, 1 L. R. A. 474 ; Moore v. Thompson, 92 Mich. 498, 52 N. W. 1000; CaUahan y. Searles, 78 Hun 238, 28 N. Y. Supp. 904.

The total, or substantially total, restraint of a man’s freedom of locomotion, without authority of law, and against his will. Big. Torts 113. Partial and conditional restraint is held not to constitute false imprisonment; Crossett v. Campbell, 122 La. 659, 48 South. 141, 20 L. R. A; (N. S.)- 967, 129 Am. St. Rep. 36