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New York Penal 135 10 Unlawful Imprisonment First Degree

By Spodek Law Group | July 17, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 10:57 pm

New York Penal 135 10 Unlawful Imprisonment First Degree

New York Penal Law 135.10 makes it a crime to unlawfully restrain another person under circumstances that expose them to a risk of serious physical injury. This article will provide an overview of the law, typical scenarios, penalties, and defenses.

What the Law States

New York Penal Law 135.10 states:

A person is guilty of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree when he restrains another person under circumstances which expose the latter to a risk of serious physical injury. Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree is a class E felony.

To break it down:

  • The crime involves restraining another person
  • The restraint must expose the victim to a risk of serious physical injury
  • Unlawful imprisonment first degree is a class E felony

Key Definitions

  • Restrain means restricting someone’s movements intentionally and unlawfully to interfere with their liberty. This includes confining them where the restraint began or moving them somewhere else without consent[1].
  • Serious physical injury involves substantial risk of death, serious disfigurement, loss of a body organ, or extended impairment of health[2].
  • Class E felony carries a potential prison sentence up to 4 years[3].

Typical Scenarios

Some common scenarios that could lead to a charge of unlawful imprisonment first degree[4]:

  • Locking someone in a room against their will where they can’t easily escape
  • Holding someone in a vehicle and threatening harm if they try to leave
  • Binding someone’s hands/feet so they can’t move
  • Grabbing and holding someone to prevent them exiting a building

What makes these scenarios a first-degree rather than second-degree offense is the added element of risking serious physical injury.

For example, locking someone in a room overnight exposes them to greater risk of harm compared to a brief restraint. Or threatening someone with a weapon while confining them makes the circumstances more dangerous.


As a class E felony, unlawful imprisonment first degree carries the following penalties[3]:

  • Up to 4 years in prison
  • Up to 5 years probation
  • Fines up to $5,000
  • Restitution to the victim

Sentences near the maximum are more common for offenders with a violent criminal history. First-time offenders may receive probation rather than imprisonment.


Some potential defenses to unlawful imprisonment first degree charges include[5]:

  • No intent to restrain – The restraint was accidental or there was a lawful purpose behind the confinement.
  • No serious risk of injury – The circumstances did not actually endanger the victim’s safety.
  • Consent – The “victim” consented to being confined or transported.
  • Self-defense – Restraining the victim was necessary for self-protection.
  • Necessity – There were emergency circumstances that required the restraint to prevent imminent harm.
  • Mistaken identity – The defendant was misidentified and did not commit the crime.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the details of your case to determine if any defenses apply.

Unlawful imprisonment can also be charged as a second-degree offense under NY Penal Law 135.05 if there is no risk of serious injury. The penalties are less severe – up to 1 year in jail rather than 4 years in prison.

More serious related charges include[4]:

  • Kidnapping – Involves abducting a victim rather than just restraint. This elevates unlawful imprisonment to a more serious felony class.
  • Custodial interference – Unlawfully taking a child from their lawful custodian.

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