Small business owners are some of the most important contributors to society. Living embodiments of the American dream, they help keep “Main Street” alive and enrich towns small and large. Lacking the security or financial resources of a larger business, though, they’re at a particular risk of theft and shoplifting. Whereas a bigger company may be able to invest in a security system to catch thieves and weather some loss, smaller businesses are more vulnerable. A small business owner who catches someone in the act of theft may be tempted to restrain the individual pending a call to 911, but this raises a question: can you be charged with false imprisonment in the second degree? And if so, what penalty might you face?
What is False Imprisonment in the Second Degree?
False imprisonment in the second degree is covered under Nebraska Revised Statute 28-315. It states that a person commits false imprisonment in the second degree if they knowingly restrain another person without legal authority.
Are There Exceptions to This?
Of course. State lawmakers kept in mind situations where a non-law enforcement officer may be required to restrain another person for reasons of theft or criminal actions. Just because you restrain a person does not mean you are automatically committing second degree false imprisonment. However, you must meet certain legal criteria in order to establish a defense.
What are the Defenses for Being Charged with Second Degree False Imprisonment in Nebraska?
In order to successfully defend yourself against charges of second-degree false imprisonment in Nebraska, you must meet certain criteria. As laid out in 28-315, these include:
- The person you restrained was on or in the immediate vicinity of the premises of a retail mercantile establishment and they were restrained for the purpose of investigation or questioning as to the ownership of any merchandise.
- You restrained the person in a reasonable manner and for no more than a reasonable time.
- You restrained the person to permit investigation or questioning by a police officer, or by the owner of the mercantile establishment, their authorized employee, or agent.
- The police officer, owner, employee, or agent had reasonable grounds to believe that the person so detained was committing or attempting to commit theft of merchandise on the premises.
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What Does That All Mean?
First, you have to have reasonable suspicion that the person you restrained actually stole from you. If you just thought there was something “fishy” about someone but didn’t see them do anything that could be considered theft, you may not have a defense. You must notify a police officer, the owner of the business, be the owner of the business, or be able to notify someone who can legally represent the owner of the business. You must also restrain the person in what the law considers a reasonable manner, in the vicinity of the business, and for no more than what the law considers a reasonable amount of time. This means you cannot follow someone you suspect of theft to another location and restrain them there. You also cannot keep them restrained for several hours before deciding to notify someone. If you restrain someone and fail to meet all of the criteria, you could be prosecuted for second degree false imprisonment.
What Happens If I’m Convicted of Second-Degree False Imprisonment in Nebraska?
Second-degree false imprisonment is a Class I misdemeanor in Nebraska.
What Are the Penalties for a Class I Misdemeanor in Nebraska?
The classification of penalties for misdemeanors are found in Nebraska Revised Statute 28-106. Under the statute, Class I misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
What Should I Do If I’m Charged with Second-Degree False Imprisonment in Nebraska?
As a small business owner, you have the right to protect your livelihood, even if that means catching a thief and keeping them restrained until law enforcement arrives. However, depending on the manner in which you do it, you may be charged with second-degree false imprisonment. Even though the crime is “only” a misdemeanor, it could mean a year away from your friends, loved ones, and business. It could also mean a large fine that could hurt that business. A misdemeanor is also something you’ll carry on your criminal record for life, and it could potentially impact you down the road when seeking loans or employment.
If you’re arrested for second-degree false imprisonment, the first thing to remember is to not talk to law enforcement without an attorney present. While you may think you can reasonably explain the situation to another rational person, law enforcement may be able to use your statements against you. Not talking to the police without an attorney isn’t an admission of guilt. U.S. law guarantees that everyone is entitled to have an attorney present during questioning, regardless of guilt or innocence.
If you’re arrested for or charged with second-degree false imprisonment, don’t hesitate to contact the attorneys at Berry Law. Berry Law has extensive experience in defending individuals charged with false imprisonment. Small business owners are vital members of society, and Berry Law respects their right to protect their stores, employees, and merchandise. Don’t let overzealous law enforcement personnel or prosecutors harm your livelihood and reputation. If you’re arrested for second-degree false imprisonment, contact us right away. We can ensure that you receive the best possible legal representation, so that you can continue performing your vital role as a business owner. Our society depends on your hard work, and we want to make sure you can keep doing it.