Unlawful Imprisonment: A.R.S. 13-1303

Unlawful imprisonment is a crime.

Unlawful Imprisonment

Arizona defines the crime of unlawful imprisonment as “knowingly restraining another person.” There is not required to be any injury inflicted upon the victim, nor for the offender to have an intent of malice, in order for a person to be charged with this crime.

According to A.R.S. 13-1303, defenses for unlawful imprisonment include:

  • The restrainer being a peace officer or detention officer acting in good faith of the lawful performance of his or her duty.
  • The defendant being a relative of the person who was restrained where the defendant’s sole intent was to assume lawful custody of that person if the restraint was accomplished without physical injury.

Additionally, a defense attorney may present the situation of “shopkeeper’s privilege,” in which a merchant, or their employee, detained a person they had reasonable cause to believe was shoplifting, as long as the defendant was held for a reasonable amount of time to be questioned by law enforcement.

Per this statute, a detention officer is not an elected official who is employed by a county, city, or town and is responsible for the care or custody of inmates in a county or municipal institution. Additionally, counselors, secretaries, clerical personnel, or professional personnel are not considered detention officers.

Examples of unlawful imprisonment can include blocking a person from exiting a room, locking a person in a room or vehicle, threatening another person with physical harm if they try to leave a specific area, and preventing another person from accessing their phone.

Penalties for Unlawful Imprisonment

In situations where the victim was voluntarily released by the defendant in a safe place, and without physical injury, the defendant will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. First time offenders can face incarceration of up to six months.

In all other situations, unlawful imprisonment is a class 6 felony, for which incarceration can be imposed for up to 2 years for first-time offenders.



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