Unlawful Imprisonment is a felony offense in which a person restrains another person temporarily. Though a serious felony, an unlawful imprisonment charge does not mean the offender possessed malice in detaining the victim. In kidnapping cases, the offender knowingly, and with some degree of malice, detains another. Kidnappers also mean to hold their victim captive for a relatively long duration. Unlawful Imprisonment is an offense that can arise from seemingly innocuous and everyday circumstances. An argument, for example, may result in one individual grabbing the cell phone of another to prevent the person from leaving the room. That act of physically taking the cell phone and refusing to relinquish it, forcing the other person to remain, is unlawful imprisonment.
In this short video David Cantor explains Unlawful Imprisonment in Arizona:
Arizona Unlawful Imprisonment Statute
The 2012 Arizona legislature revised the unlawful imprisonment statute (§ 13-1303). A person commits unlawful imprisonment by “knowingly restraining another person.” This definition does not require any intent to harm the person. You can be guilty of unlawful imprisonment even if your intentions are to restrain a person, for what you consider positive reasons. The prosecutor and the judge will discern whether the restraining falls under the statute.
Unlawful Imprisonment, as mentioned, is a serious offense. Arizona law considers the crime a class 6 felony, meaning, if convicted, the accused faces at least a year in state prison. First time offenders sentenced to incarceration usually receive a one-year sentence, actually spending six months in prison. A class 6 felony denotes a crime considered by the state serious enough to warrant prison, yet still one of the least serious offenses for which a lengthy prison sentence is a possibility. Hence, many lawyers will attempt to persuade courts to reduce charges of other “restraining” crimes, especially kidnapping, to unlawful imprisonment.
This crime is unique in that until authorities arrive, the perpetrator can still avoid a charge of felony unlawful imprisonment. If the defendant, prior to officers arriving, releases the victim in a clearly safe manner and environment, then the crime becomes a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor can eventually be expunged, or permanently purged, from your criminal record.
Defenses Against an Unlawful Imprisonment Charge
There are some affirmative defenses listed in the statute. Affirmative defenses are elements that preclude a conviction of a crime. Even if the defendant fulfills every other element of the crime, these defenses mean there can be no conviction. Police officers performing their official duties, and relatives of the victim using force to resume lawful custody, are not guilty of the charge under most circumstances.
If you’ve been suspected of Unlawful Imprisonment in Arizona then call our offices at (602) 307-0808 to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. If you’d like to send us an email, do it here.