How to Win a PC 236 Case

Aaron Spolin

PC 236 lawyer Aaron Spolin has handled serious felony cases throughout California. His law firm, Spolin Law P.C., uses proven strategies to achieve success.

PC 236 is a complex law that requires analysis by a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who has specialized training in California statutes. Award-winning false imprisonment lawyer Aaron Spolin explains how to win a case: “We use three strategies: (1) file legal motions to get evidence excluded and the case dismissed; (2) gather as much evidence as possible to support our arguments; and (3) develop strong defenses to prove that our client is not guilty.” These strategies have been used many times with Mr. Spolin’s former clients. (Every case is unique, and prior success does not “guarantee” the same outcome in a future case.)

Mr. Spolin explains how his strategies work:

  1. Filing Legal Motions: A “motion” is a request to the court. Common pre-trial motions include a Motion to Exclude (or Suppress) Evidence and a Motion to Dismiss. The goal is to get enough evidence excluded that the prosecution can no longer support their claims. If a Motion to Dismiss is granted, you will walk free.
  2. Gathering Evidence: We will conduct an independent investigation of your case to obtain as much information as possible. We will also get evidence from the prosecution and use that evidence against their arguments.
  3. Developing Strong Defenses: Every criminal charge has elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The legal team at Spolin Law P.C. knows how to fight back against the prosecutor’s claims with targeted defenses that address each allegation they have against you.

To learn more about how these strategies might apply to your case, call Mr. Spolin and his legal team at his law firm, Spolin Law P.C.: (310) 424-5816.

  1. How to Win a PC 236 Case
  2. What Is False Imprisonment?
  3. Defenses to False Imprisonment
  4. Penalties for False Imprisonment
  5. Learn About the Leading PC 236 Attorneys

What Is False Imprisonment?

At its most basic, false imprisonment in California is “the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.” Liberty in this context means, generally, the freedom of movement. California recognizes various categories of false imprisonment:

  • Misdemeanor false imprisonment (PC 236)
  • Felony false imprisonment (PC 236)
  • False imprisonment for the purpose of making a person a hostage (PC 210.5)
  • False imprisonment for the purpose of human trafficking (PC 236.1(a) and (b))
  • False imprisonment that constitutes kidnapping (PC 207)

False imprisonment does not always mean that a person has been wrongfully confined in a jail or prison, although that kind of confinement could be false imprisonment. Rather, false imprisonment is any violation of another person’s personal liberty.

Elements of False Imprisonment

False imprisonment may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Misdemeanor False Imprisonment

Misdemeanor false imprisonment is characterized by the intentional and unlawful restraint, detention, or confinement of a person that makes that person stay or go somewhere against that person’s will for however short a period of time or for however short a distance (see below for the interplay between false imprisonment and kidnapping).

The restraint, detention, or confinement of a person need only be such that it prevents the person from exercising their personal liberty. Blocking someone’s path, locking someone in a room, or tying someone with ropes are all ways to violate a person’s liberty. As stated above, the restraint or confinement of a person must also result in making the person stay or go somewhere against their will.

Felony False Imprisonment

Felony false imprisonment includes all the elements of misdemeanor false imprisonment, but to make the offense a felony, a person must use some type of violence, menace, fraud, or deceit to prevent someone from exercising their liberty.

  • Violence is using physical force that is greater than the force necessary to restrain someone.
  • Menace is an express or implied verbal or physical threat of harm and includes use or display of a deadly weapon to accomplish the imprisonment.

Felony false imprisonment includes substantial and sustained restriction of another’s liberty accomplished through force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person, under circumstances where the person who is threatened reasonably believes that it is likely that the person making the threat would carry it out. Duress specifically includes knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating, or possessing an actual or purported passport or immigration document belonging to the victim or a direct or implied threat to do so.

Felony false imprisonment does not require that a person physically touch, restrain, or move another person. Threats alone may keep a person from exercising their liberty. Fraud or deceit accomplished by intentionally lying to a person to make them stay or go someplace is unlawful as well.

Misdemeanor and felony false imprisonment, without more, are general intent offenses. Misdemeanor false imprisonment is a lesser included offense of felony false imprisonment.

  1. How to Win a PC 236 Case
  2. What Is False Imprisonment?
  3. Defenses to False Imprisonment
  4. Penalties for False Imprisonment
  5. Learn About the Leading PC 236 Attorneys

Defenses to False Imprisonment

Spolin Law legal team discussing with a client | Spolin Law P.C.

The attorneys and legal staff at Spolin Law P.C. discuss a false imprisonment case. Their goal is to develop the best defenses possible for their client.

Many defenses exist to a charge of false imprisonment. Some of the more common defenses include:

Consent

Consent to restraint is a defense to a charge of false imprisonment. If a person gives express or implied consent to the violation of their liberty, no false imprisonment occurs. To consent, a person must assent freely and voluntarily and know the nature of the act they are or will be experiencing.

Inability to Carry Out a Threat

For false imprisonment accomplished by means of a threat (felony false imprisonment), the person who claims the restraint of liberty must reasonably believe that the person making the threat is likely to carry it out. If the person making the threat is clearly unable to carry out the threat, the belief is unreasonable, and no restraint of liberty occurs.

Lawful Justification

If person has the legal authority to restrain another person, no false imprisonment occurs. Police officers or other law enforcement authorities may have the right to detain or confine another person if, for example, the person in authority has reasonable cause to believe the person committed a crime.

Parental Privilege

A parent may confine or restrain their child if the confinement or restraint is part of legitimate discipline. Not every child who is in “time out” or who is grounded is falsely imprisoned. If the parent acts without malicious intent and does not inflict injuries or undue suffering, the parent may discipline the child through restraint of movement or confinement. However, a parent may not use violence or menace to punish, intentionally endanger the health and safety of the child, or confine the child for an unlawful purpose.

Self-Defense or Defense of Others

California recognizes a person’s right to defend themselves if they reasonably believe they may sustain immediate bodily harm. A person may also defend another person against bodily harm. If a person is being threatened with bodily harm, that person or another person may confine, restrain, or detain the aggressor as long as the restraint is proportionate to the threat.

Shopkeeper’s Privilege

If a shopkeeper or store owner has reasonable cause to believe that a customer is or was shoplifting, the owner has the right to confine, restrain, or detain the person for a reasonable amount of time.

  1. How to Win a PC 236 Case
  2. What Is False Imprisonment?
  3. Defenses to False Imprisonment
  4. Penalties for False Imprisonment
  5. Learn About the Leading PC 236 Attorneys

Penalties for False Imprisonment

Misdemeanor false imprisonment is punishable by up to one year in the county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

Felony false imprisonment, where deprivation of liberty was accomplished by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for sixteen months, two years, or three years. But if a person falsely imprisons an elder or dependent adult by use of violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, the punishment is two, three, or four years in the county jail.

Does False Imprisonment Count Against California’s Three-Strike Rule?

A conviction for false imprisonment alone does not result in a strike against a defendant for purposes of California’s three-strike rule. But if convicted of felony false imprisonment, a defendant will incur a strike if the deprivation of liberty resulted in great bodily injury or if the deprivation was accomplished through use of a firearm.

Variations of False Imprisonment and Similar Crimes

California identifies variations of false imprisonment that can lead to different penalties and require specific arguments upon defense to avoid a conviction.

False Imprisonment for the Purpose of Making a Person a Hostage

Taking a hostage is a felony in California. A person who takes another person hostage by committing false imprisonment as defined above for the purpose of protection from arrest, and the imprisonment substantially increases the risk of harm to the victim, or using the person as a shield.

Proving hostage false imprisonment requires showing that:

  • A person faced a threat or risk of imminent arrest;
  • That person restrained, confined, or detained another person or made them go somewhere by force or by a threat of force;
  • That person restrained, confined, or detained another person or made them go somewhere for the purpose of protecting themselves against the threat of imminent arrest;
  • That person made another person stay or go somewhere against the person’s will; and
  • That person either substantially increased the risk of physical or psychological harm to another person or intended to use the person as a shield.

Defenses to Hostage False Imprisonment

Lack of Intent. For hostage false imprisonment, the defendant must have intended to restrain the person or make them go somewhere against their will for the purpose of protecting themselves from arrest or using the person as a shield. Without this intent or purpose, a charge of hostage-taking fails.

False Imprisonment Defenses. Since hostage-taking requires false imprisonment of another person, hostage false imprisonment is subject to the same defenses as misdemeanor or felony false imprisonment as described above. Consent, justification, and self-defense or defense of others are all defenses to hostage false imprisonment.

Penalties for Hostage False Imprisonment

False imprisonment for the purpose of making someone a hostage is a felony. If convicted of this offense, a defendant faces three, five, or eight years in county jail.

More significant penalties may apply if the defendant used a firearm or if the victim suffered great bodily injury. Taking a person hostage is not considered a serious or violent felony for purposes of California’s three-strike rule unless the hostage-taker inflicted great bodily injury or used a firearm in the commission of the offense.

Human Trafficking False Imprisonment

False imprisonment can, depending upon the circumstances, constitute human trafficking, which is a felony with serious consequences.

Human trafficking false imprisonment is defined by PC 236.1(a) and (b) and occurs when a person falsely imprisons another person with the intent to:

  • Obtain forced labor or services;
  • Engage in pimping or prostituting a minor, including taking a minor from their parent or guardian for the purpose of prostitution;
  • Engage in pandering (procure a person for prostitution, cause a person to become a prostitute, procure a place where a person becomes an “inmate” for prostitution, etc.);
  • Give, transport, provide, or make available a child under the age of sixteen for the purpose of any lewd or lascivious act or encourage or persuade a child under the age of sixteen to engage in a lewd or lascivious act;
  • Violate California’s obscenity laws, including those prohibiting obscene materials that contain depictions of a minor engaging in a sex act and those prohibiting using a minor to create, promote, publish, distribute, provide, exhibit, etc., obscene material;
  • Sexually exploit a minor, including using a minor to create obscene material;
  • Exhibit or participate in the exhibition of live obscene matter in a public place; or
  • Commit extortion.

Note: Human trafficking also includes causing, inducing or persuading, or attempting to cause, induce, or persuade, a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, a violation of PC 236.1(c). However, this type of human trafficking does not require the deprivation of someone’s liberty and thus is not a category of false imprisonment.

Definitions Under Human Trafficking

For the purposes of human trafficking, the deprivation of the liberty of another includes the substantial and sustained restriction of that person’s liberty through force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of an injury to the victim or to another person, under circumstances where the person threatened reasonably believes that it is likely that the person making the threat would carry it out.

Other definitions relevant to false imprisonment for the purposes of human trafficking include:

  • Duress – A direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, hardship, or retribution sufficient to cause a reasonable person to acquiesce in or perform an act which they would otherwise not have submitted to or performed. It specifically includes knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating, or possessing an actual or purported passport or immigration document of the victim, including any direct or implied threat to do so.
  • Violence – Physical force that is greater than the force reasonably necessary to restrain someone.
  • Menace – An express or implied verbal or physical threat of harm.
  • Coercion – Any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failing to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against the person or another person. Coercion includes threatened abuse of the legal process and facilitating the possession of or providing any controlled substance to impair the other victim’s judgment.
  • Extortion – To obtain property or other consideration from another, even with the other person’s consent, or to obtain an official act by a public officer, by wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right. Consideration is anything of value, including sexual conduct or an image of an intimate body part.

In deciding whether a person was influenced by duress or coercion, all of the circumstances of the offense are relevant, including the person’s age, the person’s relationship to the defendant, and any disability the person may have.

While significantly different from forced labor or the sex crimes described above, the crime of extortion is included in the list of human trafficking offenses when the extortion includes the deprivation of someone’s liberty.

Defenses to Human Trafficking False Imprisonment

The defenses available for human trafficking false imprisonment depend on the specific code section the defendant is charged with violating. Intent is an integral part of the offenses, so lack of Intent may defeat a charge of human trafficking. While Consent is a defense to general false imprisonment and may be a defense to human trafficking, it is not a defense to a sex crime charge involving a minor.

Inability to Carry Out a Threat. As with felony false imprisonment, the person who claims the restraint of liberty must reasonably believe that the person making the threat is likely to carry it out, and if the person making the threat cannot carry out the threat, the belief is unreasonable.

Duress is another defense to human trafficking. If a person was compelled to commit the crime by duress as defined above, they may avoid conviction altogether.

Penalties to Human Trafficking False Imprisonment

Human trafficking is a felony. If convicted of depriving someone of their liberty for forced labor or services (PC 236.1(a)), the penalties are:

  • Five, eight or twelve years in a California state prison
  • A fine up to $500,000
  • Formal felony probation

If a person is convicted of depriving someone of their liberty for other forms of human trafficking (as defined by PC 236.1(b) such as prostituting a minor, pandering, or extortion, the penalties are:

  • Imprisonment in the state prison for eight, fourteen, or twenty years
  • A fine of up to $500,000
  • Felony probation
  • Registration for life as a sex offender

Note: Extortion involving force or threat without the deprivation of liberty has a separate penalty. It is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for two, three, or four years.

The court may also impose a fine of up to $1,000,000 for human trafficking, depending on the seriousness of the offense, the circumstances and duration of the offense, the amount of economic gain derived from the trafficking, and the extent to which the victim suffered losses.

A 2019 bill would have made human trafficking a violent felony for purposes of California’s three-strike rule, but it did not pass. Human trafficking is therefore not a strike unless the defendant caused great bodily injury or used a firearm in commission of the crime.

Kidnapping

False imprisonment is the intentional and unlawful restraint, detention, or confinement of a person that makes a person stay or go somewhere against that person’s will for however short a period of time or for however short a distance. Kidnapping is false imprisonment that involves forcing someone to move a substantial distance.

Kidnapping, under PC 207, includes:

  • Stealing, taking, holding, detaining, or arresting any person in California forcibly or by instilling fear, and carrying the person into another country, state, or county, or into another part of the same county; or
  • Taking, holding, detaining, or arresting any person forcibly or by instilling fear with a design to take the person out of California without having established a claim according to the laws of the United States or of California.

The essence of kidnapping is using threats, restraint, or force to move another person to a secondary location, which must be a “substantial distance” from where the victim was taken. Substantial distance means a distance that is more than slight or trivial. What is considered substantial requires consideration of all the circumstances related to the movement of the person, including:

  • The actual distance the person was moved
  • Whether the move put the victim at higher risk for harm
  • Whether the move lowered the perpetrator’s risk of capture
  • Whether the move allowed the perpetrator to commit further crimes

This requirement of “substantial distance” makes kidnapping different from misdemeanor or felony false imprisonment, where the movement of a victim need only be minimal.

False imprisonment is a lesser included offense of kidnapping, since a kidnapping cannot occur without moving a person against their will.

Aggravated kidnapping occurs when a person kidnaps a child under the age of 14, causes serious bodily harm to the person kidnapped, or uses the kidnapping to demand ransom.

Elements of Kidnapping

To prove kidnapping, the state must show that:

  • The defendant took, held, or detained another person by using force or by instilling fear;
  • Using that force or fear, the defendant moved the other person or made the other person move a substantial distance; and
  • The other person did not consent to the movement.

Defenses to Kidnapping

As with false imprisonment, several defenses to kidnapping exist.

Consent
If a person actually believes that the other person consented to the movement, a charge of kidnapping fails if the belief is reasonable under the circumstances. Likewise, if a person freely and voluntarily agrees to go with or be moved by another person, was aware of the movement, and had sufficient maturity and understanding to choose to go with another person, there is no kidnapping.

Legal Justification
A police officer may, for example, transport a person to jail if the officer lawfully arrested the person. Similarly, a parent who has court-ordered custody of a child is not guilty of kidnapping for taking the child from another person.

Self-Defense or Defense of Others
If a person moves another person against their will to defend themselves or some other person from the threat of imminent bodily harm, no kidnapping occurs.

Danger of Imminent Harm to a Child
A person who “steals, takes, entices away, detains, conceals, or harbors” any child under fourteen to protect the child from danger of imminent harm is not guilty of kidnapping.

Private Arrest
A private citizen may arrest or detain another person for a public offense committed or attempted in their presence; for a felony, although not committed in their presence; or for a felony that the citizen has reasonable cause to believe was committed by the person they arrests.

Penalties for Kidnapping

A person who is convicted of kidnapping may be punished as follows:

  • Imprisonment in the state prison for three, five, or eight years;
  • Imprisonment in the state prison for five, eight, or eleven years if the person kidnapped is under fourteen;
  • Imprisonment in the state prison for twenty-five years to life, if a person commits certain sex crimes (PC 667.1) and kidnapping the victim of the crime substantially increased the risk of harm to the victim over and above that level of risk inherent in the underlying offense;
  • Imprisonment in the county jail for twelve months if probation is granted, except in unusual cases where the interests of justice would best be served by a lesser penalty;
  • Imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole if the kidnapping occurs during the commission of a carjacking to facilitate the offense and the movement of the victim is beyond that incidental to the carjacking; the victim is moved a substantial distance from the vicinity of the carjacking; and the movement of the victim increases the risk of harm to the victim over and above that necessarily present in the crime of carjacking itself.

A person who kidnaps another person for ransom, reward, or to commit extortion or to exact from another person any money or valuable thing, is subject to punishment as follows:

  • Imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole;
  • Imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole if the person kidnapped suffers death or bodily harm, or if the confinement exposes the person to a substantial likelihood of death.

A conviction for kidnapping is a strike for purposes of California’s three-strike rule.

  1. How to Win a PC 236 Case
  2. What Is False Imprisonment?
  3. Defenses to False Imprisonment
  4. Penalties for False Imprisonment
  5. Learn About the Leading PC 236 Attorneys

Learn About the Leading PC 236 Attorneys

Attorneys Don Nguyen, Aaron Spolin, and Jeremy Cutcher, and legal researcher Dan DeMaria | Spolin Law P.C.

Aaron Spolin and his team of false imprisonment attorneys have had success throughout California. The law firm can be contacted at (310) 424-5816.

False imprisonment is its own offense and is also a part of other serious offenses. It is a lesser included offense of kidnapping, taking a hostage, and some types of human trafficking, including extortion. Except for misdemeanor false imprisonment, the offenses described above that include falsely imprisoning someone are felonies, and some carry significant penalties.

Spolin Law P.C.’s award-winning criminal defense lawyers have a record of successful outcomes in cases like these. We win cases because:

  • We know the law. We understand how false imprisonment and related laws work in California. We know the elements, defenses, and available motions to get evidence excluded and cases dismissed.
  • We know the legal process. Every court in California has specific procedures that must be followed. We know individual judges and their staff, and we know how to cater arguments that are persuasive to them.
  • We know how to win. Spolin Law P.C. has won countless felony cases just like yours. We carefully evaluate the facts of every case and develop strategies to win.

If you have questions about your case, contact the false imprisonment attorneys at the law firm of Spolin Law P.C.: (310) 424-5816.