California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1408. Affirmative Defense—Police Officer’s Lawful Authority to Detain

[Name of defendant] claims that the detention was not wrongful because [he/she] had a right to detain [name of plaintiff] for questioning or other limited investigation.

If [name of defendant] has proven that [insert facts, that if established, would constitute a reasonable suspicion], then [name of defendant] had a right to detain [name of plaintiff] for questioning or other limited investigation.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

This instruction is intended to apply to false imprisonment actions not involving an arrest. The inserted facts must support a finding of reasonable suspicion as a matter of law.

If the factual issues are too complicated, consider bifurcating the trial.

Sources and Authority

  • “In an action for false arrest and imprisonment, the question of reasonable or probable cause is ordinarily one for the court, and not for the jury. When the facts are admitted or are beyond controversy, the question is to be determined by the court alone. When the facts are controverted or the evidence conflicting, the determination of their legal effect by the court is necessarily hypothetical and the jury is to be told that if it finds the facts in a designated way such facts do or do not amount to probable cause.” (Whaley v. Jansen (1962) 208 Cal.App.2d 222, 227 [25 Cal.Rptr. 184].)
  • “Although the line may at times be a fine one, there is a well-settled distinction in law between an arrest and a detention. A detention is a lesser intrusion upon a person’s liberty requiring less cause and consisting of briefly stopping a person for questioning or other limited investigation.” (Cervantez v. J.C. Penney Co. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 579, 591, fn. 5 [156 Cal.Rptr. 198, 595 P.2d 975].)
  • 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.”
  • “The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits seizures of persons, including brief investigative stops, when they are ‘unreasonable.’ Our state Constitution has a similar provision. A seizure occurs whenever a police officer ‘by means of physical force or show of authority’ restrains the liberty of a person to walk away.” (People v. Souza (1994) 9 Cal.4th 224, 229 [36 Cal.Rptr.2d 569, 885 P.2d 982], internal citations omitted.)
  • “A detention . . . has been said to occur ‘if the suspect is not free to leave at will—if he is kept in the officer’s presence by physical restraint, threat of force, or assertion of authority.’ ” (Evans v. City of Bakersfield (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 321, 330 [27 Cal.Rptr.2d 406], internal citation omitted.)
  • “It is settled that circumstances short of probable cause to make an arrest may justify a police officer stopping and briefly detaining a person for questioning or other limited investigation.” (In re Tony C. (1978) 21 Cal.3d 888, 892 [148 Cal.Rptr. 366, 582 P.2d 957].)
  • “A detention is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when the detaining officer can point to specific articulable facts that, considered in light of the totality of the circumstances, provide some objective manifestation that the person detained may be involved in criminal activity.” (Souza, supra, 9 Cal.4th at p. 231.)
  • “The state bears the burden of justifying a detention, as with all warrantless intrusions.” (People v. Wilkins (1986) 186 Cal.App.3d 804, 809 [231 Cal.Rptr. 1], internal citation omitted.)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, § 431

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 42, False Imprisonment and False Arrest, § 42.20 (Matthew Bender)

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

10 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 103, False Imprisonment (Matthew Bender)