Tennessee criminal law recognizes the crime of unlawful restraint as “false imprisonment,” which occurs whenever someone illegally deprives another person of their physical freedom. In other words, unlawful restraint – or false imprisonment for that matter – occurs when someone is being restrained against their will in a restricted area without legal authority.
Unlawful restraint is the act of wrongfully preventing another person from leaving a bounded area (e.g., a room or vehicle) without their consent. False imprisonment, unlawful restraint, and kidnapping are serious offenses in Tennessee, but what is the difference between these three legal terms?
Unlawful Restraint vs. False Imprisonment vs. Kidnapping in Tennessee
Like many other states, Tennessee law refers to unlawful restraint as “false imprisonment.” However, many jurisdictions also use the term “false imprisonment” to refer to a civil lawsuit against a police officer or department (e.g., when a person was unlawfully detained).
Under T.C.A. § 39-13-302, false imprisonment occurs when someone knowingly and unlawfully confines another person, depriving that person of their freedom. In Tennessee, false imprisonment is charged as a Class A misdemeanor.
If you are charged with unlawful restraint or false imprisonment, the prosecution must prove that you “knowingly” restrained another person against their will. If you were convicted of unlawful restraint in Tennessee, you could face up to nearly 12 months in prison and no more than $2,500 in fines.
Kidnapping is another related offense that is often confused with unlawful restraint and false imprisonment. Under T.C.A. § 39-13-303, kidnapping occurs when a person moves another person and then restrains him or her, exposing the victim to “a substantial risk of bodily injury.” Kidnapping is charged as a Class C felony in Tennessee.
Elements to Prove the Crime of Unlawful Restraint in Tennessee
In short, unlawful restraint is the act of knowingly and unlawfully restraining another person in a restricted area without their consent and without any legal authority or justification for doing so. Still, the prosecution must prove the following elements of your charge to convict you:
- You “knowingly” restrained another person. To be convicted of unlawful restraint or false imprisonment in Tennessee, the prosecution must establish that you knowingly and intentionally prevented that person from leaving a restricted area or confined space.
- You “unlawfully” confined another person. In other words, you had no legal right, authority, or justification for restraining that person.
- That person was restrained against their will. The prosecution must prove that the person who was deprived of their liberty did not consent to be restrained.
- The person did not have the ability to escape. To qualify as “unlawful restraint,” the alleged victim must have no reasonable and viable means of escape. In other words, if that person could simply get up and walk away, the defendant cannot be charged with unlawful restraint (false imprisonment).
It can be difficult to prove an unlawful restraint charge if the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to support the claims. Speak with our Manchester unlawful restraint defense attorney to contest the validity of presented evidence against you and challenge the prosecutor’s case. Contact Law Offices of Burch & Lockhart to discuss your options. Call at 931-723-7997 or fill out our contact form today.