A Comprehensive Guide To Colorado’s “False Imprisonment” Law 18-3-303 C.R.S
By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Domestic Violence Criminal Defense Lawyer – Attorney
A Comprehensive Guide To Colorado’s “False Imprisonment” Law 18-3-303 C.R.S – False Imprisonment Charges usually occur in the context of Colorado Domestic Violence cases. They also usually happen as a result of one side of an argument insisting on “working out” an issue or issues and – sometimes without understanding the criminal nature of their behavior – refusing to let the other person leave.
It has been my experience that the charge of false imprisonment is filed out of frustration and is a misunderstanding on the part of, usually men, that there is no right hold someone against their will. When False Imprisonment is at the extreme, it can be up-charged as a felony.
The Elements Of False Imprisonment In Colorado – 18-3-303 C.R.S.
To understand the crime you are charged with, you must first understand it’s components – otherwise known as the elements of the charge. What follows is the actual jury instruction of the crime given to a Colorado jury to assist them in making the decision as to whether the crime has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Colorado False Imprisonment Elements As A Misdemeanor
The elements of the crime of false imprisonment are:
1. That the defendant,
2. in the State of Colorado, at or about the date and place charged,
4. confined or detained another person,
5. without the other person’s consent, and
6. without proper legal authority.
[7. and that the defendant’s conduct was not legally authorized by the affirmative defense[s] in Instruction[s] ___.]
After considering all the evidence, if you decide the prosecution has proven each of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty of false imprisonment.
After considering all the evidence, if you decide the prosecution has failed to prove any one or more of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant not guilty of false imprisonment.
Colorado False Imprisonment Elements As A Felony
In extreme cases, a District Attorney may charge you with Felony False Imprisonment. At trial, the jury would be asked what is called an “interrogatory” or specific question on the issue of whether the State has proven the higher charge. Here is that question:
If you find the defendant not guilty of false imprisonment, you should disregard this instruction and sign the verdict form to indicate your not guilty verdict.
If, however, you find the defendant guilty of false imprisonment, you should sign the verdict form to indicate your finding of guilt, and answer the following verdict question on the verdict form:
Did the false imprisonment involve force and extended detention? (Answer “Yes” or “No”)
The false imprisonment involved force and extended detention only if:
1. the defendant used force, or threat of force, to confine or detain the victim, and
2. he [she] confined or detained the victim for twelve hours or longer.
The prosecution has the burden to prove each numbered condition beyond a reasonable doubt.
After considering all the evidence, if you decide the prosecution has met this burden, you should mark “Yes” in the appropriate place, and have the foreperson sign the designated line of the verdict form.
After considering all the evidence, if you decide the prosecution has failed to meet this burden, you should mark “No” in the appropriate place, and have the foreperson sign the designated line of the verdict form.
Finally – here is the actual statute or law as enacted by the Colorado State Legislature
Colorado’s False Imprisonment Law, 18-3-303, C.R.S., provides:
(1) Any person who knowingly confines or detains another without the other’s consent and without proper legal authority commits false imprisonment. This section shall not apply to a peace officer acting in good faith within the scope of his or her duties.
(2) False imprisonment is a Colorado class 2 misdemeanor; except that false imprisonment is a Colorado class 5 felony if:
(a) The person uses force or threat of force to confine or detain the other person; and
(b) The person confines or detains the other person for twelve hours or longer.
A Close Look At Colorado’s False Imprisonment Law – 18-3-303
To understand the crime of false imprisonment, you need to understand that is falls under the category of kidnapping. Essentially it is detaining someone against their will. Put differently, false imprisonment is the unlawful detention of a person without his or her consent.
To upcharge false imprisonment to the Colorado Felony charge of Kidnapping, the additional element of asportation or “movement” must be proven by the Government.
A Very Serious Warning – False Imprisonment Can Quickly Escalate To Kidnapping In Colorado
If the person who is falsely imprisoned is moved, even a slight distance, the case can quickly escalate to Kidnapping.
Colorado has essentially Two Major Types of Kidnapping: – First Degree Kidnapping and Second Degree Kidnapping.
First Degree Kidnapping – C.R.S. 18-3-301, a person commits first degree kidnapping if s/he carries any person from one place to another using force; or persuades another to move; or imprisons or secrets any person with the intent to force the victim to make any concession or give up anything of value in order to secure release.
Second Degree Kidnapping – C.R.S. 18-3-302, a person commits second degree kidnapping when s/he seizes and carries any person from one place to another, without his consent and without lawful authority; or s/he takes away any child below 18 years with intent to keep or conceal the child from his or her parent or guardian or with intent to sell, trade, or barter such child for consideration.
While First Degree Kidnapping is rare, the more likely charge Second Degree Kidnapping under 18-3-302, C.R.S. carries a possible penalty of up to 24 years in prison.
Penalties – Sentencing In Colorado False Imprisonment Cases
If the charge of False Imprisonment in Colroaodo remains a Misdemeanor it is a Class 2 misdemeanor and the possible punishment can include:
3 months – 1 year in jail, and/or a fine from $250 to $1,000.
If the charge of False Imprisonment is “up-charged” to a Class 5 Felony – the possible punishment can include:
From 1 to 3 years in prison, and/or a fine of from $1,000 to $100,000.
You May Not Intend To Commit The Crime Of False Imprisonment in Colorado C.R.S. 18-3-303 – But It Can Happen Quickly And Unintentionally
The “gravamen” – or the foundation of the crime of False Imprisonment is knowingly confining or detaining another without the other’s consent.
In Colorado many alleged domestic violence victims make claims for false imprisonment.
Even when the claim of false imprisonment involves a momentary Can we just talk about this” in the kitchen.. or shutting the car door to apologize – the alleged victim will tell the police that they were held against their will.
Examples Of False Imprisonment Can Include:
- Locking the victim in a closet, room, or the home;
- Forcing the victim to sit in a car, on the floor, or in one location;
- Prohibiting the victim from leaving the home; or
- Refusing to give the victim keys to the home so that she is either automatically locked out if she leaves or is restricted from leaving without the ability to lock the door;
- Preventing someone from visiting relatives or friends; or
- Preventing someone from seeking aid, e.g. medical attention;
- False imprisonment may also take place during extended and ongoing arguments.
Many Colorado alleged false imprisonment charges arise when the alleged victim is “reaching” for any crime that can apply to the argument situation. The creativity with which this crime is charged is boundless. The prime example is momentarily blocking a doorway from a bedroom to talk out a problem of – say – child discipline.
Or it may be a situation where the alleged victim tells the police – with little consideration of her words or the consequences, – that she wanted to leave and “he wouldn’t let me.”
The law is written broadly enough that it gives police and prosecutors a great deal of latitude in bringing the charge of false imprisonment in Colorado and even the most innocuous behavior on the part of husbands and boyfriends is labeled “false imprisonment.”
How Can You Defend Yourself When You Are Charged With Colorado False Imprisonment – Defenses To False Imprisonment?
You CAN defend yourself against a Colorado charge of false imprisonment. Often the defense will arise from the unique and precise facts of your case.
The Most Common Defenses To A Charge Of Self Defense Are:
The Latin phrase “Volenti nonfit injuria” means “to a willing person, injury is not done. “ A person who) willingly engages in conduct is not legally permitted to bring a claim against the other party. There are times when the person alleging false imprisonment consents to the situation and then later changes his or her mind but does not communicate his or her withdrawal of consent in order for the prosecution to successfully allege false imprisonment.
This defense is alleged when you are forced to restrain someone because a third party is threatening you or using force to make you restrain the complaining witness. This can happen when a actor fears retaliation if they don’t follow the orders of the third party – such as in a gang scenario.
This defense is alleged when you are compelled to restrain someone to protect yourself or a third party. This situation is a basic tenet of the affirmative defense of self-defense or defense of others.
If the defense can show, through intensive and thorough investigation, that the credibility of the alleged victim is so damaged by bias and hatred – usually as a result of another agenda – designed by a former spouse or domestic partner to gain an advantage in a civil lawsuit or perhaps allegations made out of spite, anger or jealousy, the State’s case is vulnerable to attack.
At times there will be situations where there the accused had a legal right to confine the alleged victim for a lawful cause. An example of this is the detention of persons of unsound persons by their parents or guardians. Where the alleged victim suffers from some serious mental disease, he may be required to be kept in confinement to eliminate the possibility of injury to that person.
To Prevent An Inevitable Accident:
This defense can be very tricky from a legal perspective. I have used it in a couple of cases with success. Here the alleged victim is detained due to what can we termed an “inevitable accident.” The confinement arises out of a genuine belief – perhaps made by mistake or ignorance of the circumstances, that if the alleged victim is allowed to leave – they will either hurt themselves, others, or both. Usually it is a situation where the alleged victim is drunk or high and is in a suicidal frame of mind.
Along the same lines as Inevitable Accident” is the Choice of Evils Defense under § 18-1-702 (2016)
(1) Unless inconsistent with other provisions of sections 18-1-703 to 18-1-707, defining justifiable use of physical force, or with some other provision of law, conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal when it is necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur by reason of a situation occasioned or developed through no conduct of the actor, and which is of sufficient gravity that, according to ordinary standards of intelligence and morality, the desirability and urgency of avoiding the injury clearly outweigh the desirability of avoiding the injury sought to be prevented by the statute defining the offense in issue.
(2) The necessity and justifiability of conduct under subsection (1) of this section shall not rest upon considerations pertaining only to the morality and advisability of the statute, either in its general application or with respect to its application to a particular class of cases arising thereunder. When evidence relating to the defense of justification under this section is offered by the defendant, before it is submitted for the consideration of the jury, the court shall first rule as a matter of law whether the claimed facts and circumstances would, if established, constitute a justification.
Assisting the Police or Arrest by Private Person – Citizen’s Arrest:
While very, very rare, another defense may arise when the accused is assisting the police in apprehending the offender and detains a person in order to prevent his escape. Another defense arises when the person makes a citizen’s arrest – see my article on this subject.
Advice of Counsel
Advice of legal counsel is another possible defense to false imprisonment. In general, if the accused can show he or she relied on an attorney’s advice after making a full, truthful and correct disclosure of the situation, and the lawyer advised the accused to detain the alleged victim, a defense may lie at trial on this basis.
A Comprehensive Guide To Colorado’s “False Imprisonment” Law 18-3-303 C.R.S
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