Though it’s a crime for any individual to hold someone against their will, New Jersey, New York, and United States law deems these acts as especially egregious when they’re committed by certain types of officials.
Therefore, authority figures can be held legally liable for damages if they unlawfully and unreasonably detain someone without justification.
These acts may constitute false imprisonment, one of the most common types of police misconduct. If you were held under such circumstances, you may be wondering: Can I sue for false imprisonment?
The answer to this question is much more complicated than a simple yes or no. Your rights as a victim in a false imprisonment case will depend upon many different factors, so you should discuss your situation with an NJ and NY civil rights attorney. In addition, you may get a general grasp of how these claims work by reviewing some background information on false imprisonment.
What Is False Imprisonment?
Though false imprisonment by police is a crime as defined above, the best result you can expect is that the official will receive criminal penalties. A conviction in such a case does nothing to compensate you for the devastating harm you suffer due to the effects on your civil rights.
Fortunately, New Jersey and New York law also classifies false imprisonment as a tort, a legal term used to describe an act of wrongdoing.
False imprisonment is considered an intentional tort because the offender knowingly, purposefully engaged in wrongful conduct. In civil law, intentional torts qualify as claims because you could sustain bodily harm, suffering, and emotional distress. However, when the situation involves authority figures, false imprisonment also causes harm to your constitutional and civil rights.
As such, you may have a cause of action and can sue for false imprisonment by police officers, governmental employee, or other official acting under the guise of authority. You may be entitled to monetary damages if you can prove the essential elements as described below.
Elements of False Imprisonment
In the practice of law, the “elements” of a civil rights claim refer to the facts you must prove to receive compensation. In a false imprisonment case, you must establish:
- You were confined against your will. It’s not necessary to show physical force, but you must reasonably believe that you were being detained by barriers, threats, duress, or other circumstances.
- The person who falsely imprisoned you did so intentionally, knowingly, and purposefully.
- There were no lawful grounds for the imprisonment since there are some situations where detaining you may be legal and legitimate.
- You were harmed by false imprisonment, physically, financially, and/or emotionally.
If successful in proving these facts, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, emotional distress, pain, suffering, and related losses.
False Imprisonment Examples
Based on the essential elements of false imprisonment, it may be helpful to review some examples that may allow you to file a civil lawsuit. You may have a claim if you were:
- Put in handcuffs for no apparent reason;
- Detained by police without justification or probable cause, such as a random street stop;
- Held for an unreasonable amount of time during a roadside stop;
- Subjected to threats that led you to believe you could not leave;
- Held in a jail cell or interrogation room without being charged;
- Locked in a police car without explanation;
- Prevented from leaving your own home; or
- Sentenced to a prison term for a crime you did not commit
A real-life case involving false imprisonment may also serve as a helpful example. The Netflix miniseries “When They See Us” covers the story of the Central Park Five, teenagers who were arrested for the rape and beating of a woman.
They were convicted in 1989, but the charges were later dropped due to egregious errors and police mishandling of the case. Still, the five had already spent much of their formative years behind bars.
These individuals sued New York City on several grounds, including false imprisonment. In 2014, the parties settled the civil case for $40 million. Attorney David Kreizer, along with co-counsel, represented Korey Wise of the Central Park Five in that landmark civil rights case. Mr. Wise received $12.25 million of the $40 million settlement from New York City.
Discuss False Imprisonment Claims with Our Skilled NJ and NY Civil Rights Attorneys
While this information may be useful, it cannot definitively answer the key question: “Can I sue for false imprisonment?” For a more accurate assessment of your rights, you need to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who has extensive experience dealing with Civil rights cases, particularly false imprisonment matters.
Call us toll-free 1‑(800)-4-JUSTICE® –1-(800)-458-7842 to begin evaluating your case.
To learn more about your rights and legal remedies, please contact Kreizer Law. We can set up a no-cost case evaluation to review your circumstances and determine a strategy for moving forward.