Unlawful imprisonment is the crime where a person knowingly restrains someone else. The offense is a serious felony under Washington law that can lead to a state prison term of up to five years. If you or a loved one is facing an unlawful imprisonment charge, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney now for assistance.

What is Unlawful Imprisonment Under Washington Law?

Unlawful imprisonment is sometimes referred to as “false imprisonment.” According to RCW 9A.40.040, people commit this crime if they intentionally restrain another person. The two key components to this offense are:

  • Acting with “knowledge,” and
  • “Restraining” someone else.

Under RCW 9A.08.010(1)(b), a person acts “knowingly” if he/she either:

  • Is aware of the facts or circumstances that make up a particular offense, or
  • Has information that would lead a reasonable person in the same situation to believe that such facts or circumstances exist.

For purposes of false imprisonment, “knowingly” essentially means that an offender was either aware of the illegal restraint, or a reasonable person in the same situation would have been so aware.

Under RCW 9A.40.010(6), “restrain” means to restrict a person’s movement without his/her consent and without legal authority. A restraint also requires that an offender substantially interfere with a “victim’s” liberty. The facts of a particular case determine whether a person actually restrained someone else.

Note that false imprisonment is not the same crime as kidnapping. The latter requires a person to abduct another, as opposed to simply restraining that person.

What are the penalties?

Unlawful imprisonment is a class C felony. Washington criminal law says that a class C felony is punishable by:

  • Custody in state prison for up to five years, and/or
  • A fine of up to $10,000.

Are there Defenses to False Imprisonment Charges?

Fortunately, people accused of unlawful imprisonment can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. For example, recall that this offense requires both knowledge of an illegal act and an actual restraint. Further, both “knowledge” and “restrain” have precise legal definitions under Washington law. A defense, then, is for a defendant to say that he/she did not act with knowledge or never restrained someone else.

Defendants can also contest a charge by showing that police violated their constitutional rights in some way. Maybe, for example, law enforcement:

  • Conducted an illegal search or seizure,
  • Failed to read a defendant his/her Miranda rights,
  • Stopped a defendant without probable cause, or
  • Coerced a confession.

If any of the above are true, a judge can reduce a criminal charge or drop one altogether.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a false imprisonment charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 25 years of combined experience defending clients on unlawful imprisonment charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these types of cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!