A claim for false arrest or false imprisonment is based upon an act that intentionally causes a person to be unlawfully detained. A person is detained when she is deprived of her freedom of movement such as by confinement or restraint. Whether a particular detention was unlawful depends upon the circumstances. In cases where a person is detained without an arrest warrant, there is a presumption that the detention was unlawful.
A victim of false arrest or false imprisonment may recover damages for mental suffering and for pecuniary losses such as lost wages. In cases involving the police, a victim may be able to recover expenses incurred in securing discharge from custody, including reasonable attorney fees. Punitive damages may also be available in particularly egregious cases.
A claim for false arrest or false imprisonment generally must be brought within one year of the date on which the claim accrues.
[Sources: Douglas C. Melcher, Tort Claims and Defenses in the District of Columbia § 3 (2014), and legal authorities cited therein.]