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Breaking Down the Charge of False Imprisonment in DC

False imprisonment is defined as the illegal confinement of an individual in the absence of consent. In this article, we will scrutinize Washington’s laws and regulations regarding false imprisonment and what a civil rights attorney needs to prove the charge.

Breaking Down the Charge of False Imprisonment 

The crime of false imprisonment is also referred to as “unlawful imprisonment” in the Revised Code of Washington, a compilation of all permanent laws in effect in Washington State. RCW 9A.40.040 states that a person is guilty of unlawful imprisonment in Washington if they “knowingly restrain another person.”

A prosecutor must prove that you knowingly confined another person to be found guilty of unlawful confinement. The phrase “knowingly” is a legal term that refers to the level of culpability—the degree to which society will hold a person accountable for their acts—to show each material element of an offense. 

A person acts “knowingly” in one of two conditions, according to RCW 9A.08.010(1)(b):

  • They are aware of the facts or conditions that make up an offense’s specific behavior; or
  • They have knowledge that would persuade a reasonable person in the same position that such facts or conditions exist.

To behave “knowingly,” you must have been aware of the circumstances that the legislation prohibits, or a reasonable person in your situation would have been aware of them. 

One cannot simply argue that they had no idea what they were doing because of the presence of the “reasonable person” scenario. The attachment of “knowingly” will be satisfied if the prosecutor can persuade a judge or jury that a reasonable person in your circumstances would have understood what they were doing.

The prosecutor will have to establish that you “restrained” the other party in the disagreement if you are charged with unlawful confinement. Under RCW 9A.40.010(6), “restraint” is defined as “to restrict a person’s movements without consent and without legal authority in a manner which interferes substantially with his or her liberty.”

The Difference Between False Imprisonment and Kidnapping

The graver crime of kidnapping is linked to the crime of illegal imprisonment. A perpetrator is unlawfully detaining a victim in both circumstances by using force or threats. 

Kidnapping necessitates the inclusion of an element that illegal imprisonment does not: abduction. In Washington, a person must have “intentionally kidnapped” another person to be found guilty of kidnapping. To “abduct” someone implies to confine them in a specific manner. Based on RCW 9A.40.010(1), An individual “abducts” another person when they restrain that other person by either:

  • Hide him in a location where he is unlikely to be discovered, or
  • Using or threatening to use lethal force.

Learn more about the difference between the two by seeking the top civil rights attorneys in DC.

Penalties for Unlawful Imprisonment

Under Washington law, unlawful imprisonment is a class C felony. Class C offenses carry a maximum sentence of five years in a state penitentiary prison (see RCW 9A.40.040(2) and RCW 9A.20.021(1)(c) for more information.) 

Adult offenders may be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 in place of, or in addition to, the possible prison sentence associated with this crime. 

Conclusion 

It might be jarring to be accused of false imprisonment in Washington. When the charge is delivered, they are left unclear of what to do next. Requesting help from a civil rights lawyer in DC can assist in this situation. 

Zukerberg & Halperin are top civil rights attorneys in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Do you need legal help? Call our civil rights firm today at (202) 875-6326!

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Paul Zukerberg has been a frequent legal commentator on TV and radio and is a trusted voice listeners turn to for the latest legal developments.