In the course of a domestic altercation, there can be a great deal of physicality. That physicality, however, does not have to be assaultive to constitute a crime. Merely holding on to someone during an incident can be construed and charged in Washington as the felony of unlawful imprisonment.
Elements of Unlawful Imprisonment
Unlawful imprisonment is defined in Washington by RCW 9A.40.040 as “knowingly restraining another person”. It is an extremely broad definition that the legislature has created with very few qualifications. The key term in the statute is “restraining” which is further defined by RCW 9A40.010(6) as restricting a person’s movement without either legal authority to do so or the consent of the “victim”. “Without consent” is defined as meaning when accomplished by “force, intimidation or deception or when the victim is a child under the age of 16 or an incompetent person and the guardian has not previously acquiesced to the restraint.”
Unlawful imprisonment is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Labeled a Seriousness Level III offense, the standard sentencing range for someone with no criminal history, if convicted, is 1-3 months of incarceration. That standard range increases depending on the defendant’s felony and domestic violence-related history. Someone with a moderate felony or domestic violence history could be risking a prison sentence. In addition, a conviction could carry consequences found in other kinds of domestic violence cases such as probation, treatment, and no contact orders.
Given the breadth of the statutory language, unlawful imprisonment is a crime that could be charged in a large number of domestic violence-related incidents. Indeed the DV police reports we have encountered over the years often contain an allegation of an unwanted restraint. In very few of those cases was unlawful imprisonment charged but it is a charge that we are seeing more of recently.
There are defenses and mitigating circumstances surrounding this type of allegation. If you are facing a charge of unlawful imprisonment or believe that you may be under investigation for this offense, contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation to discuss your options.