Many people wish to take action into their own hands, but a moment of impulsivity could result in a legal violation. Under New York Penal Law § 135.05, the restraint of another individual against their will constitutes as unlawful imprisonment.
By this definition, the restraint must forcefully restricting the movement or another person. If you hold down another person, bind them to an object or restrict them in a similar manner, you have committed a crime of unlawful imprisonment.
What is unlawful imprisonment?
First degree unlawful imprisonment involves detaining another person against his or her will; unlawful imprisonment can be keeping someone in a room, building or vehicle against their will. In order to be charged with first degree unlawful imprisonment, you must threaten or otherwise risk the physical safety of another individual.
Second degree unlawful imprisonment does not involve threats of violence, but it still restrains another individual and prevents them from moving or leaving at their own accord.
Example of Second Degree Unlawful Imprisonment
Sean and Elizabeth have been dating for years and are prone to conflict. One evening, the two come home from dinner and get into a major argument. Elizabeth begins throwing objects at Sean. Eventually, she announces that she is breaking up with him and storms off to the bedroom.
Sean barges through the door, wrestles Elizabeth to the ground and binds her hands and ankles with a bedsheet. He proceeds to scream at her and tell her she isn’t going anywhere. He leaves the room, locks the door and blocks the handle from the outside with a chair.
Although he later removed her ties, Sean is charged with unlawfully imprisoning Elizabeth and will face charges.
The circumstances under which you unlawfully imprison someone could incite additional charges. If you threaten to harm the individual you are restraining or your actions jeopardize their well-being, you could be charged with a more serious case of first degree unlawful imprisonment.
If you take the restrained individual to an undisclosed location against their will or prevent them from being found by others, you could be charged with first or second degree kidnapping, respectively.
Defenses Against Second Degree Unlawful Imprisonment
If someone claims you unlawfully imprisoned them, one possible defense is that they were not actually restrained. For example, if it would have been easy for the person to escape or otherwise free themselves, you may be able to argue that they were not imprisoned but willfully chose to stay where they were restrained.
This argument is most likely to be effective in cases where the circumstances involved conflict between both parties and each individual admits to actively being involved. Unlawful imprisonment can also be defended with claims of self-defense; if you can demonstrate you had no choice but to restrain them for your own safety or to protect the safety of others, you may be able to get out of the charges.
Jail Sentences for Unlawful Imprisonment
Second degree unlawful imprisonment is classified as a Class A misdemeanor and carries a maximum jail sentence of 1 year. If you have no prior criminal record, you may receive a probation of three years in lieu of a jail sentence.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney to Learn More About Your Options
If you have been charged with unlawful imprisonment of the second degree, working with a licensed defense lawyer can help reduce your sentence. You may be able to receive probation instead or, if you have a valid defense, have the charges dropped altogether. Contact an attorney today and schedule a consultation to explain your case and learn about your defense options.