28 Jun 20

NY Penal Law § 135.10: Unlawful Imprisonment in the First Degree

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Last Updated on: 5th August 2023, 01:15 am

Sometimes referred to as false imprisonment,  the term “unlawful imprisonment” is defined in the New York penal code as detaining another person without legal authorization or against that person’s will. Unlawful imprisonment customarily takes place when one person prevents another person from leaving a vehicle, room, building, or some other area. There are two  unlawful imprisonment statutes in the New York Penal Law. Unlawful imprisonment in the second degree is defined in the criminal code as unlawfully restraining another individual .  You will be charged with the more serious crime of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree under New York Penal Law § 135.10 if you unlawfully restrain a person in a manner that puts that person at risk of serious physical injury.


New York Penal Law § 135.00(1) defines the term “restrain” as intentionally and unlawfully restricting the movement of another individual.


An Example

One night, Lana and Charlie met each other at a nightclub. At the club, they talked for several hours.  At some point, Charlie invited Lana to go back to his place and Lana agreed. They then got into Charlie’s car and Charlie began to drive. Lana started to feel uncomfortable when Charlie appeared to be driving into a secluded area. When she asked him to let her out of the car, he shouted at her and told her to shut up. Lana then released her seat belt. When she did this, Charlie reacted by pulling out a knife and ordering her not to move. At that point, Lana opened the car door and jumped out. Charlie could potentially be charged with unlawful imprisonment in the first degree because, wielding the knife, he used the threat of violence to try to keep Lana in the car.


Related Offenses

Unlawful imprisonment in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 135.05

Kidnapping in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 135.25

Kidnapping in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 135.20


Possible Defenses

If you face any charge of unlawful imprisonment, the prosecutor must first demonstrate that the victim was actually restrained and unable to get out. If, for instance, you locked a person into a small room that was filled with boxes and other items, but the room also had an unlocked window that was behind some boxes, then you may have a plausible defense against a charge of unlawful imprisonment. 


An alternative defense against unlawful imprisonment in the first degree would be to show that the victim was not in danger of any serious physical injury. For example, if you waived a gun at the individual in order to scare them and prevent the person from leaving, but the gun was actually a just toy, you might have a defense against a charge of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree charge.


The Sentence

Since unlawful imprisonment in the first degree is categorized as a class E felony, the maximum possible prison sentence you could face for this crime is 4 years. In particular, if you have no prior convictions, the judge may opt to sentence you to a probation term of 5 years instead of sending you to jail. On top of that, you may be ordered to pay a fine and monetary restitution to the victim.