Sadly, accusations of unlawful imprisonment in Washington state almost never tell the whole story. You were there when the alleged incident occurred, but what you did doesn’t match the crime you are now accused of.
The words “unlawful imprisonment” sound serious, and that’s because they are. If you have been accused of this crime, we want to be clear with you: What you do now can have either a detrimental or beneficial impact on your life and future.
At Will & Will, we are here to help people in situations like yours. That’s why we have written this guide about unlawful imprisonment (often referred to as false imprisonment) and how to fight this charge. Contact our skilled and knowledgeable defense attorneys for help with your case.
What Does Unlawful Imprisonment Mean in Washington State?
What does unlawful imprisonment mean in Washington state? This term is applicable to many real-life situations, but it describes a specific criminal charge that has a relatively brief definition in the Revised Code of Washington.
Under Washington law, the term unlawful imprisonment is used when you “knowingly restrain someone.” Here are some examples of what that somewhat vague definition might look like:
- Locking someone in a room. Locking or barricading a door in your home or even a public place could be interpreted as unlawful imprisonment. Situations like this often occur in domestic violence disputes.
- Tying someone up. Whether you allegedly used a rope, handcuffs, zip ties or anything else, if you tied someone up so that they couldn’t move freely, they might be able to accuse you of unlawful imprisonment.
- Threatening force or violence if someone leaves a room. False imprisonment charges can sometimes accompany other charges, like armed robbery. That’s because threatening force or violence to keep someone from leaving a room can be considered unlawful imprisonment.
- Not allowing someone to exit a vehicle. Even if the person willingly entered your vehicle, if you don’t allow them to exit when they want to, they can accuse you of unlawful imprisonment.
These are only a few examples of actions that could lead to a false imprisonment charge. If you have been accused of this crime, it’s important to understand the penalties you could face. We cover those below.
Unlawful Imprisonment Penalties in Washington State
The definition of unlawful imprisonment that Washington state uses places this crime as a Class C felony. If you are convicted, it can permanently mark you as a felon. You might also be subject to the following penalties under the Revised Code of Washington, Section 9a.20.021:
- Up to five years in prison
- Fines up to $10,000
Keep in mind that this charge often comes alongside other allegations or charges, such as assault, robbery, or kidnapping. Additional charges increase the potential penalties you could face.
How to Defend Against an Unlawful Imprisonment Charge
As you know well by now, unlawful imprisonment in Washington state is a serious charge. Because the penalties can be so steep, many who are accused of this crime choose to fight their charge with the help of a criminal defense lawyer.
While the defense you use will depend on the details of your case, understanding some common defense strategies can give you a better idea of how to fight a false imprisonment charge.
Some common defenses against unlawful imprisonment charges include the following:
- Shopkeeper’s privilege. In many states, including Washington, business owners are allowed to detain people if they believe they were trying to shoplift or commit theft. Washington state’s rule for situations like this holds that you must have “reasonable grounds” to detain the person, and you can only detain them for a “reasonable time.”
- Citizen’s arrest. Private citizens in Washington can conduct a citizen’s arrest of someone they saw commit a crime. The person you arrested can still accuse you of false imprisonment, but the citizen’s arrest defense may be the key to beating the charge.
- Consent. This is a common defense against false imprisonment. If the person who accused you of this crime told you they wanted to be tied up, locked in a room or otherwise restrained, you can use this as a defense against your charge. A lawyer can help you show that you did, in fact, get consent.
- Police privilege. Police officers have a right to detain those who they believe have committed a crime. If you are a police officer and you arrested your accuser because you had probable cause to believe that they had committed a crime, this can be a strong defense against your charge.
Your criminal defense lawyer can help you determine the best defense for your case.
Accused of Unlawful Imprisonment? Will & Will Can Help
Being accused of unlawful imprisonment in Washington state can be a shock. In so many cases, the accused has no idea this charge is coming. And when the charge does come, they are left unsure of what they should do next.
This is where the attorneys at Will & Will can step in and help. Our seasoned criminal defense team can help you understand what unlawful imprisonment means, what the possible penalties are, the best defense for your case, and how to fight your charge. We can do it all while keeping you informed, treating you like family, and reducing your stress.
If you’re ready to start building your defense, schedule a free consultation with us. Give us a call at 206-209-5585 or contact us online.