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Kidnapping Charges: Here’s How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Lessen the Penalties

By Spodek Law Group | October 20, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 21, 2023)

Last Updated on: 21st October 2023, 08:50 am


Kidnapping Charges: Here’s How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Lessen the Penalties

Being charged with kidnapping is scary. It’s a felony offense that can lead to years in prison, major fines, and a criminal record that impacts your future. But with an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side, there are ways to fight the charges and potentially reduce the penalties you face.

What is Kidnapping Under the Law?

Kidnapping laws vary by state, but generally kidnapping involves confining or moving someone against their will. This can include using force, threats, or deception to take someone somewhere they don’t want to go[1].

There are a few key elements prosecutors must prove for a kidnapping conviction:

  • The defendant confined or moved the victim
  • The confinement/movement was against the victim’s will
  • The defendant had criminal intent to kidnap the victim[2]

Types of Kidnapping Charges

Not all kidnapping charges are the same. The specifics of the case determine how severe the charges and penalties may be. Some key factors include[3]:

  • Basic Kidnapping – Moving/confining someone against their will. This is often a felony but less severe than aggravated kidnapping.
  • Aggravated Kidnapping – Kidnapping with intent to demand ransom, use the victim as a shield or hostage, commit another crime, or harm the victim. This is generally the most serious kidnapping charge.
  • Custodial Interference – When a parent takes a child against the rights of the other parent. This may be a misdemeanor or felony depending on circumstances.
  • Unlawful Imprisonment – Confining someone against their will but without moving them. This can be a misdemeanor or felony charge.
  • False Imprisonment – Intentionally restricting someone’s freedom to move without legal authority. This is often a misdemeanor charge.

The specifics of your case determine which charges apply and how severe they may be. An attorney can analyze the details to build the strongest defense.

Penalties for Kidnapping Convictions

A kidnapping conviction can lead to:

  • Prison time – Years or even life in prison depending on the charges. Aggravated kidnapping brings the longest sentences.
  • Fines – Up to $10,000 or more.
  • Probation – Supervised release may be an option instead of or in addition to incarceration.
  • Restitution – Repaying victims for losses related to the crime.
  • Loss of Rights – Voting, gun ownership and other rights may be lost with a felony conviction.
  • Sex Offender Status – If sexual assault was involved, registration as a sex offender may be required.
  • Civil Damages – Victims can sue for monetary damages in civil court. [4]

The penalties add up fast. An experienced lawyer is critical to avoid the worst outcomes.

How Can a Lawyer Defend Against Kidnapping Charges?

While kidnapping charges should always be taken seriously, there may be defenses an attorney can use to get charges reduced or dismissed. Some options include:

  • No criminal intent – If the taking/confining was an accident or misunderstanding, not criminal kidnapping.
  • Consent – If the “victim” went willingly, it may not meet kidnapping criteria.
  • No actual confinement/movement – If the facts don’t show real deprivation of freedom, charges may not stick.
  • Parental rights – Parents accused of taking their own children may have valid defenses related to custody rights.
  • Duress/necessity – There are rare situations where an illegal act is excused by necessity – a lawyer can explain if this applies.
  • False accusations – The “victim” may be lying or mistaken in accusing the defendant.
  • Unlawful police conduct – How evidence was gathered can impact its admissibility.
  • Intoxication – Being extremely impaired may negate criminal intent.
  • Mental illness – In some cases, mental capacity may make someone legally incapable of forming criminal intent. [5]

This is not an exhaustive list. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will thoroughly analyze the facts of the case to determine the best strategies.

How Can a Lawyer Negotiate a Plea Bargain in a Kidnapping Case?

Many criminal cases get resolved through plea bargaining – negotiating with prosecutors to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence. While the details depend on the case, some potential outcomes a lawyer may negotiate include[6]:

  • Pleading to a misdemeanor instead of felony
  • Pleading to false imprisonment instead of kidnapping
  • Reduced prison time
  • Probation instead of incarceration
  • Getting certain charges dropped
  • Avoiding sex offender registration

Even if the evidence is strong, plea bargaining can potentially reduce the penalties versus going to trial. A lawyer experienced in kidnapping cases will know what options may be on the table.

How Can a Lawyer Help if Facing Federal Kidnapping Charges?

If kidnapping involves crossing state lines or other factors, federal charges may come into play. This brings additional penalties, but a defense lawyer can still help:

  • Work to get federal charges dismissed or reduced to state charges
  • Negotiate with federal prosecutors for a favorable plea deal
  • Identify federal procedural mistakes that could invalidate the case
  • Advise on options like cooperating with authorities in exchange for leniency
  • Guide clients through the complex federal criminal justice system

Federal kidnapping cases require attorneys experienced in the federal courts. Retaining skilled legal counsel is critical.

Finding the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Kidnapping Case

If you or a loved one are facing kidnapping charges, it’s critical to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. When looking for the best attorney, consider these tips:

  • Find someone experienced specifically in kidnapping defense – this complex specialty area requires expertise.
  • Look for a lawyer familiar with your local courts and prosecutors.
  • Understand the lawyer’s track record of success in kidnapping cases – have they gotten charges reduced or dismissed?
  • Make sure they have experience negotiating kidnapping plea bargains.
  • Find someone you trust and can be open with – lawyer-client rapport is key.
  • Discuss legal fees upfront and get clear on billing practices.

With an experienced criminal defense lawyer guiding you, it is possible to reduce or even avoid some of the most severe penalties of a kidnapping conviction. Don’t wait to seek legal counsel if facing kidnapping charges.

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