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Is there civil liability if an individual (non-government) deprives another of liberty?

Madison, WI |

Is there civil liability if an individual (non-government) deprives another of liberty?

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Attorney answers 6


It depends. There may be liability for false imprisonment under certain circumstances. The answer will depend heavily on the circumstance underlying your particular case.

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What kind of liberty?



The liberty to do what one pleases within the boundaries of the law.


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Could be a criminal act.

Could be an action giving rise to a civil claim.

Could be nothing.

Depends on the act....information you did not provide.

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There could be potential civil liability, but your question is not clear as to exactly how this person's liberty was affected.

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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.

This ans. does not create an attorney/client relationship.


As others have noted, your question lacks sufficient facts. In general, a private citizen can sue another private citizen for the "torts" of false imprisonment (also known as "false arrest") and malicious prosecution (that does not necessarily involve a physical deprivation of liberty). If a private individual is "acting under color of state law", meaning they are in some way directly exercising governmental authority, even though not as a government official, per se, their conduct resulting in a deprivation of liberty may be unconstitutional and subject to a federal lawsuit.

As citizens, our personal liberty is prized and protected by both the Constitution and the statutes and common law of the several states. If you believe you have been unlawfully deprived of liberty you should contact a lawyer in your state who can give you specific legal advice. Many lawyers will give an initial consultation at no fee, and may accept such cases on a "contingent fee" - i.e., if you win and collect a judgment or settlement their fee will be a percentage of your recovery. In the case of lawsuits brought in federal court for deprivation of Constitutional rights under color of state law, the court will almost always award you an additional amount of money as attorney fees.

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