The terms “false imprisonment, “wrongful imprisonment” and “unlawful dentention” are often used interchangeably. Below are some frequently asked questions in relation to these terms:
What is false imprisonment? The crux of a person’s claim for False Imprisonment “is the imposition of unlawful restraint upon another’s freedom of movement.” Lucas v. J.C. Penney Co., 233 OR 345, 353; 378 P2d 717 (1963). In Christ v. McDonald, 152 Or 495, 52 P2d 655 (1936), the Court defined the elements of false imprisonment:
1. The detention and restraint on the freedom of movement of the person; and
2. The unlawfulness of the detention or restraint.
In Roberts v. Coleman, 228 Or 286, 365 P2d 79, (12961), the court ruled that the confinement may be accomplished by:
1. Actual or apparent physical barriers;
2. Compulsive physical force;
3. A threat to apply physical force; and/or
4. The assertion of legal authority.
Can someone other than a police officer be found civilly liable for a false imprisonment claim? Yes. If someone kidnaps you and locks you in a dungeon, they have not only committed a crime, but they can be liable in a civil suit for false imprisonment. If someone refuses to let you leave a room using physical force, they have wrongfully imprisoned you.
Can a police officer be found civilly liable for false imprisonment but not wrongful arrest?: Yes. Let me give an example: This often happens in the context of DUII allegations. Sometimes a person won’t pass the field sobriety tests and the officer suspects drugs and makes an arrest based upon probable cause. However, once the person is tested for drugs and/or alcohol, none are found. Usually the person is complaining about some medical condition and the officer is finally convinced that the person really does have a migraine or whatever other medical condition that the person is complaining about. In these sorts of situations, a person should be immediately let go so they can obtain proper medical treatment. It isn’t right to keep the person falsely imprisoned once it is established the person was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but merely sick or injured. Although it is not illegal to drive unmedicated with a migraine, I don’t recommend it. I have handled cases where people have been given field sobriety tests after their vehicle is totaled and amazingly enough they don’t pass. I think it is questionable whether the arrests are based on probable cause. However, it is definitely a case of false imprisonment if the person is not freed once he/she passes the breathalyzer and any drug tests.
Disclaimer: Any legal information on this site is not necessarily updated in a timely manner; neither is it a substitute for a legal analysis in relation to your case. I do not represent you and I am not your lawyer, unless you have a fee agreement with me.