Understanding False Imprisonment Charges in Pennsylvania

Posted by Joseph Lento | Sep 15, 2023 | 0 Comments

"False imprisonment" sounds like a scenario from an exciting action movie, but it's much less complicated than you might think. In Pennsylvania, it simply means the unlawful restraint of another person that substantially interferes with that person's liberty or freedom.

This is one of the crimes that can lead to issuing a PFA, or Protection from Abuse, order. Let's look at what false imprisonment is and how a PFA can result.

Defining False Imprisonment

For some folks, the idea of "unlawfully restraining" a person conjures up images of handcuffs, chains, ropes, and basement dungeons. But false imprisonment occurs when a father locks his son in a room as punishment or when a woman blocks the home's doorway so that her wife cannot leave. Even just grabbing a person's arm as they attempt to leave the room can be considered false imprisonment.

Additionally, the use of threats, or "menace," that forces someone to do something against their will can be considered false imprisonment too. For example, a person forces their partner into a car by pretending to have a gun, or threatens to hurt a pet or child to prevent someone from exiting the home.

PFA and Domestic Violence

False imprisonment falls under the heading of "domestic violence," which can be used to obtain a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. That's an order issued by a judge that makes it unlawful for the named party to contact or even be near the person who has been abused or falsely imprisoned.

A temporary PFA can be issued at any time of the day or night. The judge will also schedule a hearing for a few weeks later. After that, they will either dismiss the PFA or make it permanent, depending on whether both parties appear in court and the evidence they present.

Civil Law With the Potential for Criminal Charges

PFAs are intended to prevent the defendant from contacting the other party in any way: calling, texting, using social media, asking a friend to pass along a message, or visiting them in person, either at home, at work, or school. Should the person make contact anyway, they can be arrested for violating the PFA.

One interesting aspect of PFAs is that they are civil matters but have the potential for criminal consequences. Simply being named in a Protection from Abuse order is not in itself a crime. Should that person violate the PFA's terms, however, criminal charges may be levied against them.

The Punishment for False Imprisonment

In addition to any violations of the PFA, the act of false imprisonment can result in serious penalties. Falsely imprisoning someone, an adult over the age of 18, is a misdemeanor. A conviction might result in two years of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

If the falsely imprisoned person is under the age of 18, felony charges apply, with punishments of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $25,000.

Effective Defense in a Difficult Matter

Just like other allegations of domestic violence, the odds are stacked in the "victim's" favor when it comes to false imprisonment. If someone has levied accusations against you, it's necessary to muster a strong, effective defense. That requires attorneys who have handled these types of cases in the past.

Contact the LLF Law Firm to speak with attorneys who are well-versed in Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse and Domestic Violence law. Call us at 888-535-3686 or use this form.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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