Unlawful Detention: Elements And Damages To Expect

6 April 2020
 Categories: , Blog

Unlawful detention arises if another person restricts your movement without a legal basis for the restriction. Unlawful detention is a crime, but it can also give rise to an intentional tort. Below are some of the elements and damages of unlawful detention.

The Elements

Below are the major elements you need to prove unlawful detention.


The first thing is to prove is that the defendant detained you. In this context, detention means that the defendant restrained you and restricted your movement. The restraint can be physical or otherwise. For example, someone can detain you by locking you up in a room. Another person can detain you by threatening to beat you if you leave.


You also need to prove that you did not consent to the detention. The element of consent requires that you to have been an unwilling participant to the detention. Consider an example where someone accuses you of shoplifting. In such a case, you cannot claim unlawful detention if you agreed with your accuser to remain at the scene of the crime until the police arrive.


Lastly, the actions of the defendant only qualify as unlawful detention if they didn't have any legal basis for their actions. This requirement is necessary because there are cases where a person can legally detain another one. For example, the police can detain you if they suspect you of a crime, and a merchant can detain you if they suspect you of stealing their merchandise.

The Damages

You are entitled to compensation encompassing all the losses stemming from your unlawful detention. Below are some of the typical damages.

Nominal Damages

Many cases of unlawful detention don't result in significant injuries. In such cases, courts tend to award nominal damages for the inconvenience and bother.

Pain and Suffering

Depending on the circumstances of your detention, you may also be entitled to pain and suffering damages. The pain and suffering damages may compensate you for your humiliation, discomfort, and inability to be with your loved ones during the detention.

Loss of Income

Loss of income damages is possible if the detention keeps you away from work or business. Maybe you were supposed to be signing a contract at the time of your detention, but the other party saw your lateness as a lack of seriousness and opted for another party. The defendant should compensate you for the income the contract would have given you.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are possible if the defendant's actions were extreme or baseless. Say the defendant continued to hold you long after they had realized their mistake. Another example is if the defendant tried to cover up their mistake after they realized their error.

For more information, reach out to a personal injury lawyer near you.