Colorado "False Imprisonment" Laws
(18-3-303 C.R.S.)

False imprisonment in Colorado is the unlawful detention of a person without his or her consent. Unlike kidnapping, false imprisonment does not require that the victim be moved. It can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances.

False imprisonment can occur in many situations -- including wrongful detention in cases of suspected shoplifting. It is also a crime that frequently draws an increased sentence due to a violation of Colorado's domestic violence law.

To help you better understand false imprisonment under 18-3-303, C.R.S, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

1. What is false imprisonment?

Colorado's false imprisonment law, 18-3-303, C.R.S., provides:

(1) Any person who knowingly confines or detains another without the other's consent and without proper legal authority commits false imprisonment. This section shall not apply to a peace officer acting in good faith within the scope of his or her duties.

(2) False imprisonment is a Colorado class 2 misdemeanor; except that false imprisonment is a Colorado class 5 felony if:

(a) The person uses force or threat of force to confine or detain the other person; and
(b) The person confines or detains the other person for twelve hours or longer.

2. Consequences of false imprisonment in Colorado

Misdemeanor false imprisonment penalties can include:

  • 3 months – 1 year in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $250-$1,000.

Felony false imprisonment penalties can include:

  • 1 – 3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

3. Defenses to Colorado false imprisonment

Criminal false imprisonment can often be difficult to prove. The best way to defend false imprisonment charges depends on the facts of your case. But defenses we often see include (without limitation):

  • The other person consented to the “detainment,”
  • The other person was free to go, or
  • You were a peace officer acting in good faith.

And for felony false imprisonment charges:

  • You didn't use force or the threat of force,
  • You detained the person less than 12 hours.

4. False imprisonment as a plea bargain to kidnapping charges

False imprisonment is a lesser included offense of the more serious crime of second-degree kidnapping under 18-3-302, C.R.S. Kidnapping carries a possible penalty of up to 24 years in prison.

An experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney can sometimes negotiate a plea bargain to kidnapping charges. When this works, the prosecutor drops the kidnapping charge in exchange for your pleading guilty to false imprisonment.

Also see our related articles on menacing, stalking, child abuse, elder abuse, protective orders, violation of protective orders.

Call us for help... 

A false imprisonment conviction will get you saddled with a criminal record. It could also be used against you if your victim were to sue you for monetary damages.

Our caring Colorado criminal defense attorneys understand that false imprisonment charges often arise out of a misunderstanding – sometimes along with claims of domestic violence.

If you have been charged with false imprisonment, kidnapping or domestic violence, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We will respond to you promptly to discuss your case and possible defenses.

Communities we serve include Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, Pueblo and Centennial. You can reach us by using the form on this page, or call us at our centrally located Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver CO 80211
(303) 222-0330



Arrested in California? See our article on California false imprisonment laws under Penal Code 236 PC

Arrested in Nevada? See our article on Nevada false imprisonment laws.

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