Kidnapping is a crime that occurs when a person is forced to move between different locations without their consent. Different states have different definitions of kidnapping, and the prosecution process is different depending on the statutes. California’s laws state that kidnapping occurs when someone is moved “substantially,” but there is no definition to this distance. In fact, there have been some cases in which a person has been considered kidnapped even if they were moved a couple feet.
One example of kidnapping would be forcing someone to move between buildings that are close together. The definition of force is also very broad. You might force a person to move by carrying them physically or by using a weapon to intimidate them. You are also considered to have used force if the person was afraid that harm would come to them if they didn’t comply.
If you help someone else with a kidnapping, you might still be charged. The same is true if you pay or coerce another person to commit a kidnapping for you. Kidnapping charges are very serious and can come with decades in jail. People who are accused of kidnapping must get in contact with a lawyer right away to defend themselves from these charges.
There is another common case in which you might be charged as a kidnapper. If you take a grandchild or child that you don’t have custody of, you might be charged even if you are the child’s parent. This remains true even if the child wants to go with you and doesn’t suffer any psychological or physical harm during the experience. The most common reason for this to occur is because a fierce child custody battle is happening.
Because the child is not an adult yet, they do not have the ability to consent to be taken. As such, you’ll still be charged even if they say it’s okay. To be charged with kidnapping a child, you need to have moved them a measurable distance. It is up to a prosecutor and a judge to determine what distance constitutes kidnapping. You might believe that it is within your rights as a parent to take the child. But it is not within your rights if you do not have legal custody, and you could end up facing years in jail.
There are also circumstances that might cause you to face “aggravated” kidnapping charges. Some of these include:
If you are charged with aggravated kidnapping, you may face much more severe penalties than you would for a normal kidnapping charge. In addition, you will be charged with other crimes related to the situation. For example, if the victim is injured, you might be charged with an assault crime. If you threaten the victim with a weapon, that can be a criminal charge of its own.
There is no such thing as a misdemeanor charge for kidnapping. You will be charged with a felony, and penalties can include life sentences. California defines kidnapping as a violent felony even when no actual violence occurs. It causes a “strike” with the state’s law. Three strikes leads to significant punishment.
If you are charged with kidnapping, you might also be charged with child abduction or false imprisonment. These are separate charges that are not quite as serious. It’s common for defense attorneys to reduce the charges so that you aren’t facing the kidnapping penalties. You might also have your case dismissed in situations where there isn’t enough evidence to go to trial.
Kidnapping crimes have sentences of anywhere from three to eight years. Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to get probation instead of imprisonment. However, there is a minimum sentence of at least one year in prison on top of the probation. A kidnapping conviction in California means that you will serve time.
In cases where the victim is less than 14 years old, the penalties are larger. You might serve five to eleven years in prison. With that said, this is not the case if the child you kidnap is one you have legally adopted or are biologically the parent of.
Convictions of kidnapping for ransom have a sentence of two to four years in prison. But if the victim suffers any serious physical harm, the person will be sentenced to life without parole. In addition, when kidnapping victims are faced with circumstances that could result in death, the sentence is life without parole. This is the case even when the victims did not suffer serious harm or death.
Perpetrators of violent acts like kidnapping as part of a carjacking are sentenced to life without parole.
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