Who Can Be Sued For False Imprisonment?

The civil tort of false imprisonment is usually brought against a police officer or government authority who has arrested or imprisoned a citizen without proper cause. However, private citizens and organizations may also be sued for false imprisonment under certain circumstances.

Security Guards

Private security guards in stores, office buildings, bars, and restaurants do have a legal right to detain patrons in limited circumstances. The guard must reasonably believe that the person being detained has committed a crime, such as shoplifting, assault, or not paying for a meal. Since private security guards are not police officers, they have limited authority, and may not detain anyone unreasonably. A claim for false imprisonment might be made if the security guard:

  • Detains an individual without reasonable cause.
  • Singles out an individual because of their age, race, sex, nationality, or other physical characteristic.
  • Detains the individual for an unreasonable amount of time before calling the police.
  • Tells the individual that they cannot leave until they sign a confession or some other document.
  • Places physical restraints such as handcuffs on an individual without justification.

Other Individuals

Any person may be guilty of the false imprisonment of another if they restrain that person or restrict their movement against their will. This may include:

  • Locking a door to keep someone from leaving a house or room.
  • Threatening a person with violence to keep them from leaving a house, car, or other location.
  • Physically restraining a person with a rope, handcuffs, or other device.
  • Physically restraining a person by holding them with one’s hands or arms.

In order to make a claim for false imprisonment, the restraint must be done without permission, and the person being restrained must know that they have been restrained. If you clearly communicate with a security guard, date, or other person that you want to leave and they prevent you from leaving, you may be able to make a claim against that person for false imprisonment. If you initially give your consent to accompany the security guard or other individual and later change your mind, you may also make a claim for false imprisonment if the person continues to restrain you after you have revoked your permission.

If you believe that you have been falsely imprisoned by the police, a security guard, a date, or any other person or business, call the law firm of Mirman, Markovits & Landau, PC at 212-227-4000 for a free case evaluation. There are strict time limits and other requirements for civil lawsuits against municipal authorities, so it is important to speak with a civil rights lawyer as soon as possible after the incident. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website.