What is Unlawful Restraint?
Unlawful restraint means that you intentionally held someone in a confined place and did not let them leave. Unlawful restraint incidents often occur when a distraught person holds another after an emotional argument or dispute, and they can also stem from another crime such as a home invasion.
The person being confined does not necessarily have to be held in a cell with multiple locks. They can be detained by threats of violence or physical restraints. Unlawful restraint is different from kidnapping because the victim does not have to be moved, they simply have to be held and restrained.
When Does Unlawful Restraint Occur?
In Pennsylvania, unlawful restraint occurs when someone restrains another unlawfully in circumstances that could expose the restrained to serious bodily injury or if the restrained is held in involuntary servitude.
Types of Charges
- If the victim is 18 years of age or older: Unlawful restraint is classified as a misdemeanor of the first degree, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- If the victim is under the age of 18: Unlawful restraint is charged as a second-degree felony. If convicted, can be sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Steps To Take If You Have Been Charged
If you have been charged with unlawful restraint, your first step should be to immediately hire a lawyer. You may be jailed overnight or for several days before your bond is set.
While you are in jail:
- Do not talk about the incidents that occurred with anyone other than your attorney. This includes your friends and family as well as other people being held in jail.
- Do not talk to the police or prosecutors unless your attorney is with you.
- Do not consider any offers the police or prosecutors may make without talking to your attorney first. Your lawyer will have your best interests in mind and can help you make the decisions that are right for you under your specific circumstances.
- Do not have any contact at all with the alleged victim. If you phone or text them or otherwise communicate with them, what you say can be taken out of context and used against you at a trial.
When you meet with your lawyer, tell them everything that happened both before and during your arrest. If the alleged victim’s accusations are the only evidence against you, your position is stronger than it would be if there were additional evidence. Your attorney will analyze their claims for contradictions or obvious falsehoods.