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It is a complete defense, however, to a claim of false imprisonment if the defendant restrained or arrested the plaintiff with legal authority or justification. If the defendant was exercising his/her rights according to law then the imprisonment was justifiable. In this regard, defendant says that he/she was acting as he/she had a right to do, because he/she was[making a citizens arrest (go on to subsection C)] or [arresting plaintiff as a police officer, even though at that time, there was no warrant for plaintiffs arrest (go to subsection D)] or [arresting plaintiff for a disorderly persons offense/breach of the peace under a municipal ordinance (go on to subsection E)] or [taking plaintiff into custody for shoplifting (go on to subsection F)].


1.General Rule

The terms false imprisonment and false arrest are synonymous. They are different names for the same tort.Price v. Phillips, 90N.J. Super. 480 (App. Div. 1966).

The gist of an action for false imprisonment is unlawful detention, without more.Jorgensen v. Pennsylvania R.R., 38N.J. Super. 317 (App. Div. 1955),revd on other grounds, 25N.J. 541 (1958);Pine v. Olzewski, 112N.J.L. 429 (E. & A. 1933);Earl v. Winne, 14N.J.119 (1953);Cannon v. Kratowitch, 54N.J.Super. 93 (App. Div. 1959).

The malicious filing of a false complaint which causes the issuance of a warrant upon which one is arrest does not give rise to a cause ofCHARGE 3.20B Page 2 of 5

action for false imprisonment. The action must be one for malicious prosecution.Genito v. Rabinowitz, 92N.J. Super. 225 (App. Div. 1966).

The tort of false imprisonment has been defined to include the following elements [1Harper & James, The Law of Torts, (3rd ed.) at 226]:


(a) A Detention Is An Unlawful Restraint Of A Persons Liberty Or Freedom Of Movement.Pine v. Olzewski, 112N.J.L. 429 (E.& A. 1933).

(b) The Detention Need Not Be Forcible. Threats of force by conduct or words coupled with the apparent ability to carry out such threats are sufficient.Jorgensen v. Penn. R.R.,supra;Earl v. Winne,supra.

In ordinary practice, words are sufficient to constitute an imprisonment, if they impose a restraint upon the person and the party is accordingly restrained: for he/she is not obliged to incur the risk of personal violence and insult by resisting until actual violence is used.

Where no force is used, submission must be by reason of an apprehension of force or other unlawful means, mere moral persuasion not being sufficient. 1Harper & James, The Law of Torts, (3rd ed.) at 227;Prosser on Torts, (3rd ed.) at 57.

(c) The Detention Must Be Total,i.e., It Must Be Within Boundaries.CHARGE 3.20B Page 3 of 5

The restraint must be a total one rather than a mere obstruction of the right to go where the plaintiff pleases. Thus, it is not imprisonment to block the plaintiffs passage in one direction only or to shut him/her in a room with a reasonable exit open.Prosser on Tort, (3rd ed.) at 54.

Imprisonment is something more than a mere loss of freedom to go where one pleases; it includes the notion of restraint within some limits defined by a will or power exterior to our own. Accordingly, although there are cases to the contrary, the most authoritative modern view is that the plaintiff must be completely confined and any reasonable means of egress known to him/her will prevent an imprisonment. 1Harper & James, The Law of Torts, (3rd ed.) at 227. See also,Pine v. Olzewski, supra.

(d) The Detention Must Be For An Appreciable Time, However Short.

The actual amount of time required to establish that a detention is unlawful has not been decided by our courts. InPine v. Olzewski,supra, our former Court of Errors and Appeals said that a false imprisonment isanyrestraint of the personal liberty of another;anyprevention of his/her movement from place to place. 1Harper & James,The Law of Torts, (3rd ed.) at 226 defines the requirement of time as any appreciable time, however short.

Prosser on Torts, (3rd ed.) at 55, says that the tort is complete with even a brief restraint of the plaintiffs freedom.

InCannon v. Kratowitch,supra, the Attorney General filed a brief on how long a suspected person may be detained by police authorities in order to investigateCHARGE 3.20B Page 4 of 5

whether he/she actually committed a crime. Although the Court found it unnecessary to make a determination of this issue, the authorities referred to in the brief are stated in the opinion at p. 100.


A detainer pursuant to lawful authority or legal justification cannot support a false imprisonment action.Genito v. Rabinowitz, 93N.J. Super. 225 (App. Div. 1966);Cannon v. Kratowitch, supra;Jorgensen v. Penn. R.R., supra; Earl v. Winne, supra; Lakutis v. Greenwood, 9N.J. 101 (1952);Pine v. Olzewski, supra; Collins v. Cody, 95N.J.L. 65 (Sup. Ct. 1920);Shaefer v. Smith, 92N.J.L. 267 (Sup. Ct. 1919).


The purely accidental confinement, without the intent to confine is not a false imprisonment; nor is a confinement due to the negligence of the defendant a false imprisonment.Price v. Phillips, supra.

But a mistake in identity is not a defense. his/her intention to confine another person will make him/her liable to the person actually confined although there is no desire or intent on the part of the defendant to harm the plaintiff. 1Harper & James, The Law of Torts, (3rd ed.) at 228.

Although intent to confine the individual is necessary it need not be with knowledge of who he/she is; and, as in the case of other intentional interferences with person or property, an innocent and quite reasonable mistake as to his/her identity will not avoid liability. There may be liability although the defendant believed in good faith that the arrest was justified or that he/she was acting forCHARGE 3.20B Page 5 of 5

the plaintiffs own good.Prosser on Torts,(3rd ed.) at 61.

(4) THE DETENTION MUST HAVE BEEN AGAINST THE PLAINTIFFS WILL.Earl v. Winne, supra; Hebrew v. Pulis, 73N.J.L. 621 (E. & A. 1906).

If the plaintiff agreed of his/her own free will to surrender his/her freedom of motion or personal liberty, it is no false imprisonment.Pine v. Olzewski, supra.

The plaintiff may submit to the confinement without resistance and if the submission is not voluntary, there is an imprisonment.Hebrew v. Pulis, supra.

  1. Malice Is Not An Ingredient In The Tort Of False Arrest

Prosser On Torts, (3rd ed.) at 61 says although intent is necessary, malice in the sense of ill will or a desire to injure is not. There may be liability although the defendant believed in good faith that the arrest was justified or that he/she was acting for the plaintiffs own good. Nor is probable cause a defense except insofar as it may serve to validate the arrest itself or to justify a defense of person or property.

1Harper & James, The Law of Torts, (3rd ed.) at 228 says: Malice or ill will or bad motive, however is unnecessary.

In actions for false imprisonment malice is not an essential element of the right of action, as in malicious prosecution.Baldwin v. Point Pleasant Beach and Surf Club, 3N.J. Super. 284 (Law Div. 1949);Altana v. McCabe, 132N.J.L. 12 (Sup. Ct. 1944).

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Since 1985, KENNETH VERCAMMEN has worked as a personal injury attorney, working for injury victims and their families. By taking a hard-hitting, aggressive approach toward the insurance companies, KENNETH VERCAMMEN and our co-counsel have consistently obtained outstanding results for many injured clients over the years I am proud to have worked on cases in various capacities, small and large. While obviously prior results cannot guarantee the outcome of future cases, I can guarantee that you case will receive the same degree of dedication and hard work that went into each of these prior cases.

In direct contrast to the hard-hitting approach we take toward the insurance companies is the soft approach we take toward our clients. I am proud of my compassionate staff as I am of the outstanding financial results they have achieved. For many years, I have watched them treat our clients with patience, dignity and respect. I would have it no other way.

Many years ago, I attended a seminar sponsored by the American Bar Association on Law Practice Management. This was to help insure that each of our clients is always treated like a person -- not a file! We recognize that you are innocent victims and that you have placed your trust in us. Please understand that we understand what you are going through. Feel comforted that we are here to help you.

If you retain KENNETH VERCAMMEN to represent you, we will give you the same advice we give each of our clients -- concentrate on your life, you family and your health. We will take care of everything else. Leave all of the work and worry about your legal rights to us. Trust us. Believe in us. Have faith in us as your attorneys. Understand that we will always to do what we believe is best for you and your case. Helping you is our job. In fact, it is our only job -- guiding injury victims like you through one of the most difficult times of your lives, with care and concern -- while fighting aggressively to the limits of the law to obtain compensation and justice for each of you!

Print our Personal Injury Questionnaire on our Website, Fill it out and Fax back, so we can determine if we can help you obtain an injury settlement. We would welcome an opportunity to prove to you what we have proven to thousands of injured clients -- that you can feel comfortable and secure in the fact that KENNETH VERCAMMEN - Trial Attorney We Fight To Win.

When you have been injured in an accident or collision, you are worried about who is going to pay your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. The last thing you want is to be taken advantage of by an insurance company. If you dont protect your rights, you may not be able to make a claim.

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I am an experienced aggressive trial lawyer and a 3rd degree Black Belt. I am not afraid to take your case to trial if that is what it takes to maximize the amount of money your recover for your personal injury. I offer one-on-one service, and I will not hand your case off to an inexperienced lawyer or a paralegal.

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p.s. For those clients who are afraid or reluctant to go to Court, KENNETH VERCAMMEN also offers a special -- For Settlement Only -- program. This means that if we are unable to settle with the insurance company, we will not go any further -- unless you want us to. You have my personal assurance that there will be absolutely no pressure and no obligation.

We handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis.


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Kenneth A. Vercammen is the Managing Attorney at Kenneth Vercammen & Associates in Edison, NJ. He is a New Jersey trial attorney has devoted a substantial portion of his professional time to the preparation and trial of litigated matters. He has appeared in Courts throughout New Jersey each week on personal injury matters, Criminal /Municipal Court trials, and contested Probate hearings.

Mr. Vercammen has published over 125 legal articles in national and New Jersey publications on criminal, elder law, probate and litigation topics. He is a highly regarded lecturer on litigation issues for the American Bar Association, NJ ICLE, New Jersey State Bar Association and Middlesex County Bar Association. His articles have been published in noted publications included New Jersey Law Journal, ABA Law Practice Management Magazine, and New Jersey Lawyer. He is the Editor in Chief of the American Bar Association Tort and Insurance Committee Newsletter.

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