California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1401. False Arrest Without Warrant by Peace Officer—Essential Factual Elements

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] was wrongfully arrested by [name of defendant]. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of defendant] arrested [name of plaintiff] without a warrant;

2. That [name of plaintiff] was [actually] harmed; and

3. That [name of defendant]’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

Give CACI No. 1402, False Arrest Without Warrant—Affırmative Defense—Peace Offıcer—Probable Cause to Arrest, if applicable, immediately after this instruction.

If plaintiff is seeking nominal damages as an alternative to actual damages, insert the following paragraph above element 2:

If you find the above, then the law assumes that [name of plaintiff] has been harmed and [he/she] is entitled to a nominal sum such as one dollar. [Name of plaintiff] is also entitled to additional damages if [he/she] proves the following:

The second sentence of the above paragraph, along with the final two elements of this instruction, should be omitted if plaintiff is seeking nominal damages only. Read “actually” in the second element only if nominal damages are also being sought.

Sources and Authority

  • Penal Code section 834 provides: “An arrest is taking a person into custody, in a case and in the manner authorized by law. An arrest may be made by a peace officer or by a private person.”
  • “ ‘[F]alse arrest’ and ‘false imprisonment’ are not separate torts. False arrest is but one way of committing a false imprisonment, and they are distinguishable only in terminology.” (Collins v. City and County of San Francisco (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 671, 673 [123 Cal.Rptr. 525].)
  • Government Code section 820.4 provides: “A public employee is not liable for his act or omission, exercising due care, in the execution or enforcement of any law. Nothing in this section exonerates a public employee from liability for false arrest or false imprisonment.”
  • A person is liable for false imprisonment if he or she “ ‘authorizes, encourages, directs, or assists an officer to do an unlawful act, or procures an unlawful arrest, without process, or participates in the unlawful arrest
  • …’ ” (Du Lac v. Perma Trans Products, Inc. (1980) 103 Cal.App.3d 937, 941 [163 Cal.Rptr. 335], internal citation omitted.) Where a defendant “knowingly [gives] the police false or materially incomplete information, of a character that could be expected to stimulate an arrest”. . . “such conduct can be a basis for imposing liability for false imprisonment.” (Id. at p. 942.)

  • “It has long been the law that a cause of action for false imprisonment is stated where it is alleged that there was an arrest without process, followed by imprisonment and damages. Upon proof of those facts the burden is on the defendant to prove justification for the arrest.” (Cervantez v. J.C. Penney Co. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 579, 592 [156 Cal.Rptr. 198, 595 P.2d 975].)
  • Penal Code section 830 and following provisions define who are peace officers in California.

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 434—440

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 42, False Imprisonment and False Arrest, § 42.23 (Matthew Bender)

22 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 257, False Imprisonment (Matthew Bender)

1 California Civil Practice: Torts (Thomson Reuters West) § 13:20