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New Jersey False Imprisonment Law: What You Need to Know

False imprisonment is a serious offense in New Jersey that can lead to criminal penalties as well as civil liability. But what exactly constitutes false imprisonment, and how are these cases handled in New Jersey courts? This article will provide an overview of false imprisonment under New Jersey law – Section 2C:13-3 – including what constitutes the offense, potential penalties, and possible defenses.

What is False Imprisonment in New Jersey?

New Jersey statute 2C:13-3 defines false imprisonment as “knowingly restrain[ing] another unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with his liberty.” In plain English, this means intentionally restricting another person’s freedom of movement against their will.

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Some common examples of false imprisonment include:

  • Locking someone in a room or vehicle
  • Tying someone up or binding them with rope/restraints
  • Physically blocking someone from leaving a room or area
  • Threatening someone to prevent them from leaving

The key elements that must be proven for a false imprisonment conviction in New Jersey are:

  • The defendant acted knowingly and intentionally
  • The victim was confined without consent
  • The confinement substantially interfered with the victim’s liberty
  • The victim was aware of the confinement
  • There was no reasonable means of escape for the victim

False Imprisonment Penalties in New Jersey

False imprisonment is classified as a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. This means it is a minor criminal offense, punishable by:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Up to a $1,000 fine

However, false imprisonment charges can sometimes be accompanied by other more serious charges like criminal coercion (2C:13-5) or interference with custody (2C:13-4). This would expose the defendant to higher criminal penalties, such as several years in prison.

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False imprisonment can also lead to civil liability. A victim could sue for damages like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.

False Imprisonment Defenses

There are some potential defenses that can be raised in a New Jersey false imprisonment case:

  • Lack of intent – The defendant did not knowingly or intentionally confine the victim. It was an accident or misunderstanding.
  • Consent – The victim consented to the confinement or had the ability to leave but chose not to.
  • Lawful authority – The confinement was legally justified, such as a lawful arrest by a police officer.
  • Necessity – The defendant confined the victim out of necessity to prevent a greater harm from occurring.
  • Self-defense – The defendant was acting in self-defense against an assault by the victim.
  • Mistaken identity – The defendant is misidentified and did not actually commit the false imprisonment.
  • Alibi – The defendant has an alibi proving they could not have committed the false imprisonment.
  • Intoxication – The defendant was involuntarily intoxicated and unable to form the requisite intent.

False Imprisonment in Domestic Violence Cases

False imprisonment charges frequently arise from domestic violence incidents in New Jersey. For example, an abusive spouse may lock their partner in a room to prevent them from leaving or threaten them to stop them from going out.

Domestic violence false imprisonment can have serious consequences beyond just criminal penalties. It can also be grounds for the victim to obtain a restraining order against their abuser in family court.

Shopkeeper’s Privilege in New Jersey

Under New Jersey law, shopkeepers and merchants have limited privilege to detain suspected shoplifters. However, this shopkeeper’s privilege does not allow unlimited detention.

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To lawfully detain someone under shopkeeper’s privilege, the merchant must:

  • Have probable cause the person committed theft
  • Detain them in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time
  • Detain them in a reasonable place
  • Use only reasonable force

Excessive detention or use of force could lead to false imprisonment liability for the merchant.

False Imprisonment vs. Kidnapping

False imprisonment differs from the more serious crime of kidnapping (2C:13-1). The main differences are:

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  • Movement – Kidnapping requires moving the victim a substantial distance. False imprisonment does not.
  • Time – Kidnapping requires restraint for a substantial period of time. False imprisonment can occur even with brief restraint.
  • Purpose – Kidnapping often involves holding the victim for ransom or other ulterior purposes. False imprisonment lacks an ulterior motive.
  • Penalties – Kidnapping is a 1st or 2nd degree felony with severe penalties. False imprisonment is a disorderly persons offense with lighter penalties.

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