What Is Unlawful Imprisonment?

Lerner & Rowe Law Group
unlawful imprisonment in Arizona

Are you or a loved one facing charges of unlawful imprisonment in Arizona? If so, it’s crucial that you have a full understanding of what unlawful imprisonment is, its potential criminal consequences, and how you can defend yourself against this charge. Learn more in this blog from the criminal defense attorneys at Lerner and Rowe Law Group.

How Does Arizona Define Unlawful Imprisonment?

Unlawful imprisonment in Arizona is defined by the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S. 13-1303) as “knowingly restraining another person”. This may also sometimes be called false imprisonment. Restraining another person may more broadly be understood as interfering with another person’s liberty by restricting their movements.

Under such a definition, restraint does not necessarily require physical force—simply standing in a doorway and blocking another person’s exit, locking them inside a vehicle, or withholding someone’s cell phone to keep them from leaving may be enough to warrant an unlawful imprisonment charge. 

Although it shares some elements similar to kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment does not include malicious intent and the duration of restraint is often much shorter. Still, being charged with either of these offenses is a serious matter that requires experienced and efficient legal representation.

Unlawful imprisonment can be classified as a domestic violence offense if the person “restrained” is a roommate, significant other, has a child in common with or is pregnant by the accused, or is a prior romantic partner.

Is Unlawful Imprisonment a Felony in Arizona?

By default, unlawful imprisonment is a class 6 felony in Arizona. However, if the victim is released voluntarily by the accused without physical injury in a safe place before police officers arrive and arrest them, the charge may be reduced to a class 1 misdemeanor. Other mitigating factors may cause the charges to be dismissed or dropped.

What Is the Sentence for Unlawful Imprisonment?

If you are convicted of a class 6 felony for unlawful imprisonment in Arizona, you will face a minimum of 3 months in prison and a maximum of 2 years in prison. (A mitigated sentence will result in a 3-month prison sentence.) You will also face up to 3 years of probation, and maximum court fines and fees of up to $150,000. If you are convicted of a felony, you will also forfeit certain civil rights, including the right to vote, own or purchase firearms, hold public office, obtain a business or professional license, and obtain government-secured loans for housing.

If you are convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor for unlawful imprisonment, you will face a maximum of 6 months in prison. You’ll also face up to 3 years of probation and maximum court fines and fees in the amount of $2,500. 

What Defenses Are There Against Unlawful Imprisonment?

A.R.S. 13-1303 outlines two statutory defenses against an unlawful imprisonment allegation, which are as follows:

  • The restraint of a person was carried out by a peace officer or detention officer acting in good faith to perform their lawful duties.
  • The accused person is a relative of the victim, and their only intent was to assume legal custody of the victim. The victim must not have been physically injured during the process.

However, these aren’t the only legal defenses to the crime of unlawful imprisonment. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to uncover additional evidence that nullifies a false imprisonment charge. Other potential defenses may include:

  • The defendant did not knowingly restrain the victim.
  • The defendant was acting in self-defense and believed themselves to be in imminent danger.
  • The defendant was a merchant who reasonably detained a suspected shoplifter for a reasonable amount of time (i.e., to question them or wait for police to arrive). This is often called shopkeeper’s privilege.
  • The defendant was making a lawful citizen’s arrest.
  • The defendant was a parent restraining an unruly child.
  • The defendant takes away an inebriated person’s car keys to prevent them from driving under the influence.
  • The defendant restrained the victim because they believed the person was going to engage in domestic violence.

Facing Unlawful Imprisonment Charges? We Can Help

Unlawful imprisonment charges may be involved in cases related to domestic violence, kidnapping, endangerment, and threatening or intimidating. These are all serious crimes that can result in significant jail time, probationary restrictions, a mountain of fines and fees, and other difficulties.

If you have been arrested or charged with unlawful imprisonment in Arizona, legal help is available 24/7 at Lerner and Rowe Law Group. Give us a call any time day or night at our Phoenix (602-667-7777) or Tucson (520-620-6200) law offices. Our legal team will be happy to arrange your free and confidential consultation to discuss the details of your case. There’s no obligation to hire us, and we offer affordable payment plans should you decide to move forward with our services. 

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.