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False Imprisonment of a Child: What Does the Prosecutor Have to Prove?

          In Florida, the crime of false imprisonment is defined as "forcibly, by threat, or secretly confining, abducting, imprisoning, or restraining another person without lawful authority and against her or his will."  If the confinement is of a child who is less than 13 years old, it is against her will only if it occurs without the consent of her parent or legal guardian.

 

          In the case of Andre v. State of Florida, Mr. Andre was convicted of aggravated false imprisonment based on the following facts:

 

          "[O]n January 3, 2006, [Andre] and Mona Dosuede registered C.S. (the child) for elementary school. At Dosuede’s request, [Andre] agreed to drive the child to school the following day. Dosuede testified that she was not the child’s biological mother but that she had raised the child since she was two years old. There was no evidence presented that Dosuede had legal custody of the child.

          The next day, [Andre] picked up the child to take her to school. Along the way, [Andre] covered the child with a shirt and while stopped at a red light, unbuckled her pants and touched her vagina. He then informed her that they were going to go to a motel. [Andre] pulled up to the motel around nine in the morning. The motel clerk observed [Andre] drive up and watched as the child exited the vehicle and entered the motel room while [Andre] remained outside. When the motel clerk approached [Andre] and asked what he was doing with the little girl, [Andre] informed him that he was waiting for the child’s mother. Suspicious that something was wrong, the motel clerk wrote down [Andre’s] license plate number. When the child came out of the room, the motel clerk approached the child and asked her if she was [Andre’s] daughter. She did not respond but instead got in [Andre’s] vehicle. [Andre] then left the motel and proceeded to drop the child off at her school. The motel clerk called the police, and [Andre] was subsequently arrested."

 

           Mr. Andre appealed his conviction for aggravated false imprisonment, and Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed his conviction.  In doing so, the appellate court stated that  although Ms. Doseude testified that she was the child’s godmother and that she had helped raise the child since she was two years old, no evidence was presented at Andre’s trial that Dosuede had legal custody or guardianship of the child.  And without such evidence, the prosecutor failed to prove that the confinement of the child was against her will.