The Restatement (2nd) of Torts, §31, reads:

(1) An actor is subject to liability to another for false imprisonment if:
(a) he acts intending to confine the other or a third person within boundaries fixed by the actor, and
(b) his act directly or indirectly results in such a confinement of the other, and
(c) the other is conscious of the confinement or is harmed by it.

False imprisonment has four elements:

  1. intent,
  2. actual confinement in boundaries not of the plaintiff's choosing,
  3. a causal link, and
  4. awareness of the confinement.

It has been said that, "[t]he essence of false imprisonment is the intentional, unlawful, and unconsented restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another." False imprisonment can be accomplished thus:

  • By words alone, an unfounded assertion of legal authority (such as impersonating a police officer).
  • By confiscating someone's physical property in order to keep the person from leaving. 
  • From an intentional breach of a duty to release people, such as keeping someone in a mental institution longer than the state mandated sentence.
  • By the failure to place someone in court promptly following an arrest.

But, it has been held that, "false imprisonment may not be predicated upon a person's unfounded belief that he was restrained" — this analysis could focus on either the intent of the accused or the valid beliefs of the purported victim. Questions of fact may arise in individual cases concerning the degree of the person's deprivation, whether the belief in the deprivation was reasonable, or whether there was consent to the deprivation.