Is False Imprisonment a civil cause of action? False imprisonment is both a criminal offense and a civil cause of action. In Florida, a civil claim for false imprisonment requires an intentional restraint, under circumstances that were unreasonable, unwarranted, and without legal authority that caused harm.

Proving your claim

To prove a false imprisonment claim in a civil lawsuit, the following elements must be present:

(1) There must have been a willful detention;

(2) the detention must have been without consent; and

(3) the detention was unlawful.

The detention must involve either “actual force” or the “threat of the use of force”. Preventing someone to voluntarily leave an area will likely qualify as a detention. A threat of force may create a detention if the threat would make a “reasonable person” believe there would be a threat if they attempted to leave the area. The test is that any reasonable person would believe they had no choice but to remain detained.


A wrongful act that results in harm to another is a Tort. False imprisonment is an “intentional” tort. The harm that is caused can be a physical or psychological injury, or even damage to property.  The length of time of the detention is not an element of the claim. However, it would factor into your claim for damages. The detainee can seek compensation for damages resulting from the incident.


Wrongly detaining a suspected shoplifter without evidence could be a claim. Failing to unlock the door to a room or car against someone’s will is another example. Threatening someone with violence if they leave. Actual physical restraint is not necessary. The strength of the claim depends on the specific facts of the incident.

Bringing a civil lawsuit on a valid claim can bring to light the facts about what actually happened. It also ensures that our society has better practices in place to protect others in the future.