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What to Know About False Imprisonment

Posted on April 28, 2023

Under Colorado law, false imprisonment occurs when a person knowingly confines or detains another individual without their consent, using force or threats of force, or by any other means. False imprisonment can occur in many situations, such as domestic violence, kidnapping, and unlawful arrest.

Elements of False Imprisonment

One of the key elements of false imprisonment is that the victim must be aware of their confinement and must not have given their consent. For example, if a person is locked in a room but is not aware of it, then they have not been falsely imprisoned. Similarly, if a person consents to their confinement, it is not considered false imprisonment.

Is False Imprisonment a Felony in Colorado?

False imprisonment can be charged as a felony in Colorado. The severity of the charge will depend on the specific circumstances of the case, for example:

  • The length and nature of the confinement;
  • Whether force or threats were used; and,
  • Whether the victim was particularly vulnerable or harmed in some way.

Under Colorado law, false imprisonment is classified as a class 2 misdemeanor. However, if the confinement involves the use of force, threats, or deception, or if the victim is a child, elderly person, or a person with a disability, the charge can be elevated to a class 5 felony. A conviction for a class 5 felony can result in a prison sentence of 1-3 years and a fine of up to $100,000.

Potential Defenses to a False Imprisonment Charge

There are several potential defenses that can be raised in response to a false imprisonment charge in Colorado. The specific defense strategy will depend on the circumstances of the case, but some of the most common ones include:

  • Consent: If the alleged victim consented to the confinement or detention, it cannot be considered false imprisonment.
  • Self-defense: If the confinement or detention was necessary to defend against an imminent threat of harm.
  • Lack of intent: False imprisonment requires that the accused acted knowingly or intentionally. If the confinement was accidental or unintentional, it may not meet the legal definition of false imprisonment.
  • Lawful authority: If the accused had a lawful authority to detain or confine the alleged victim, such as a police officer making a lawful arrest, it may be a valid defense.
  • Mistaken identity: If the accused believed that they had the right person, but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
  • Duress: If the accused was threatened with harm if they did not detain or confine the alleged victim.

Is False Imprisonment and Kidnapping the Same?

False imprisonment and kidnapping share similarities but are not the same in Colorado. Both involve the unlawful confinement or restraint of an individual against their will, but kidnapping is a more serious offense. Kidnapping is typically charged as a felony in Colorado and carries significant penalties, including potential prison time.

It is possible for false imprisonment to be offered as a plea bargain to reduce or eliminate kidnapping charges in Colorado. Still, it ultimately depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the case, as well as the discretion of the prosecutor and judge.