False imprisonment is a fourth degree felony. As a felony, it has very serious felony consequences for the defendant. A true case of false imprisonment is a very serious matter deserving of serious treatment by the prosecutor. However, the charge of false imprisonment is often thrown in on the most whimsical evidence.
The New Mexico criminal statutes define false imprisonment as "intentionally confining or restraining another person without his consent and with knowledge that he has no lawful authority to do so." Though the statute is intended to address very serious and specific behavior, the broadness of the language allows it to be applied in a fairly arbitrary manner.
The most common incidence of overcharging a defendant for false imprisonment arises in domestic settings. The charge is often coupled with domestic violence charges such as assault or battery on a household member. The creativity with which it is applied to the facts often comes as a surprise to both the defendant and the alleged victim.
For instance, and not uncommonly, the alleged victim will tell the police that the defendant was blocking a doorway so she could not get out of a room. The alleged victim may give this statement with little consideration, not knowing, and not intending to suggest the crime of false imprisonment. There are countless variations on this theme where the alleged victim suggests in some small way that her right of ingress or egress was inhibited.
Due to the broad language in the statute, prosecutors have a great deal of latitude in bringing the charge of false imprisonment. Unfortunately, the charges are brought far too often on fairly innocuous behavior and well beyond the intended grievance of the alleged victim. The defendant rightfully will be very alarmed by the felony domestic violence charges. Frequently, the alleged victim is equally outraged by the hyped up charges.
Because of the serious potential consequences of a felony conviction, it is important to address these types of charges early. On occasion, depending on the circumstances, it is possible to avoid indictment on false imprisonment charges if the charges are addressed early enough. Once the indictment is issued, there are still some though fewer options to avoid a felony conviction.
Anyone facing false imprisonment and felony domestic violence charges should contact a attorney experienced in criminal and domestic violence charges as soon as possible. Delay in addressing the problem may seriously impede possible defenses.