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Posted on November 12, 2020 in Arizona Law

What is Unlawful Imprisonment?

In the state of Arizona, unlawful imprisonment refers to a crime that is most often charged in domestic disputes. If one person holds another in a particular location against their will, he or she could be charged with unlawful imprisonment.

The statute that defines unlawful imprisonment, Arizona 13-1303, reads as follows:

“A person commits unlawful imprisonment by knowingly restraining another person.”

Statutory Defenses to Unlawful Imprisonment

As you can see this is an extremely broad definition. Fortunately, two legal defenses are also listed in the statute.

Good Faith Execution of Duties: The first is if the restraint was carried out by a peace officer or a detention officer who was acting in good faith in order to perform their duties. This would apply to police officers on the street and corrections officers in jails and prisons.

Assuming Lawful Custody of a Family Member: The other legal defense stated in the statute says that the imprisonment is not unlawful if the defendant is restraining a relative of the person they are restraining, they are assuming lawful custody of that person, and the restraint is carried out without causing physical injury to the person they restrain.

It should be noted that restraint does not necessarily mean the defendant used physical force. A person can be charged with unlawful imprisonment if they use threats of violence or deceive the other party in some way.

Penalties for Unlawful Imprisonment

The penalties for unlawful imprisonment can be quite severe and the charges should not be taken lightly. There are two possible unlawful imprisonment charges, felony unlawful imprisonment and misdemeanor unlawful imprisonment.

  • Felony unlawful imprisonment: A class six felony that is punishable by anywhere from four months to two years in jail, three years of probation, and a fine of up to $150,000. A felony conviction also carries the potential loss of various civil rights.
  • Misdemeanor unlawful imprisonment: If the defendant voluntarily releases the restrained party in a safe place and there is no evidence of physical injury, the defendant could be charged with a class one misdemeanor. A class one misdemeanor carries with it a maximum of six months in jail, three years of probation, and a fine of up to $2500.

It should be added here that in addition to facing the above penalties, convictions will be added to a permanent record that could make seeking employment and housing opportunities more difficult.

What to Do If Charged with Unlawful Imprisonment

If you have been charged with unlawful imprisonment contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. A good criminal defense attorney will know how to analyze your case and mount the most effective defense possible.

Your lawyer will investigate the charges against you and determine if there was any wrongdoing on the part of the police when they arrested you. A lawyer will also:

  • Work to discredit witnesses whose testimony seems coerced or biased against you in some way
  • Interview witnesses who will testify to your moral character or shed light on other aspects of the case
  • Challenge evidence that was obtained unlawfully
  • Seek to get charges against you dismissed if arresting officers violated your civil rights in some way

It is also extremely important that you never resist arrest. At the same time, you don’t have to defend yourself to the police. You can answer factual questions about who you are, but beyond that, inform them that you will not be answering any of their questions without your lawyer present. Know that anything you say to police will be used against you in court.

If your case is headed to trial, a good criminal defense attorney will also be an invaluable ally and help make sure the trial is conducted fairly. He or she will present your case effectively, rebut any statements, evidence, or witnesses that don’t reflect the truth, and work toward the best possible outcome, whether that be dismissed charges, lowered charges, a plea deal, or a not guilty verdict.