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Unlawful Imprisonment: ARS 13-1303

Updated: February 11, 2021

What is Unlawful Imprisonment in Arizona?

A.R.S. § 13-1303 defines the crime of unlawful imprisonment as "knowingly restraining another person." This charge does not require the state to prove the defendant intended to harm the other person. Unlawful imprisonment can be charged as a class 6 felony; however, if the other person is released without physical injury prior to the police arriving, then the crime is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor.

A.R.S. § 13-1303 Defined

Under ARS 13-1303, a person commits unlawful imprisonment by "knowingly restraining another person."

A violation of ARS 13-1303 is a class 6 felony, " unless the victim is released voluntarily by the defendant without physical injury in a safe place before arrest," in which case it is a class 1 misdemeanor.

Penalties for Unlawful Imprisonment

The penalties for a conviction under ARS 13-1303 depend on whether it is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 6 felony.

Penalties for a class 1 misdemeanor

  • Up to 6 months' jail
  • Up to $2500 in fines
  • Probation

Penalties for a class 6 felony

  • With no prior felonies: probation or .33 to 2 years in prison
  • With one prior felony: .75 to 2.75 years in prison
  • With two prior felonies: 2.25 to 5.75 years in prison

Defenses to Unlawful Imprisonment

Arizona's unlawful imprisonment law has the following statutory defenses:

  • The restraint was accomplished by a peace officer or detention officer acting in good faith in the lawful performance of his duty.
  • The defendant is a relative of the person restrained and the defendant's sole intent is to assume lawful custody of that person and the restraint was accomplished without physical injury.

Note: For the purposes of the statutory defense, "detention officer" means a person other than an elected official who is employed by a county, city or town and who is responsible for the supervision, protection, care, custody or control of inmates in a county or municipal correctional institution. Detention officer does not include counselors or secretarial, clerical or professionally trained personnel.

In addition to the statutory defenses there are other potential avenues to fight a charge of unlawful imprisonment:

  • The "shopkeeper's privilege": If a store believes or one of its employees has "reasonable cause" to believe that a person is shoplifting, then they may detain a person in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable amount of time while they wait for the police to arrive and investigate.
  • Factual Dispute: In some cases of unlawful imprisonment, if there are no witnesses to the crime it may come down to a "he-said, she-said" question of credibility. Cross-examination of the witnesses to the alleged crime can be used to convince a judge or jury that the case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which if proven should result in an acquittal.

How Salwin Law Group Can Help You

If you have been charged with unlawful imprisonment, an experienced defense attorney can help defend you. We offer free consultation and can discuss your case with you today. Together we can help you get your life back.

Call Salwin Law Group PLLC today at (480) 470-6119, or contact us online to make your appointment.

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