In the United States, both federal and state laws commonly define kidnapping as the moving of an individual from one area to another against their will, or alternatively the confinement of a person inside a controlled space. Certain kidnapping laws require the confinement or taking to occur for an unlawful reason, like extortion or crime facilitation. If a parent doesn’t have legal custody rights, they may be charged with kidnapping if they take their own child, depending upon the circumstances.
According to federal criminal codes, kidnapping is a serious felony. Prison sentences for kidnapping can be twenty years or more, depending upon the case’s circumstances and any prior convictions of the defendant. Federal law also has another code for the prosecution of international parental kidnapping; if convicted, a defendant could be sentenced to three years in prison.
In most kidnapping cases, prosecution will happen on a state level. If a kidnapping crosses state lines, federal authorities will become involved and engage in the filing of federal charges against the defendant. However, if the kidnapping is confined to one state, usually the case will be tried in state criminal courts. This is especially true when the kidnapping refers to cases of child custody.
If you’re accused of kidnapping, you should get in contact with a defense attorney immediately following your arrest. Make sure that they’re present during your questioning and arraignment. They can review your case and give you a comprehensive understanding of your options going forward. If you’re being charged on the federal level, make sure your attorney has experience negotiating federal cases.
The punishment you might face for kidnapping will vary widely depending on the state in which the crime was committed. You might face just a few years in prison, but you might also face life in prison. If you have been charged with a kidnapping offense, your best option is to introduce mitigating factors to the defense. These might involve an absence of threatening acts or a defense regarding the consent of the other party. If the other party consented to being taken, a kidnapping charge would not be applicable.
For example, a person might find themselves facing an aggravated kidnapping charge in Texas. However, if they can prove that the victim was voluntarily released into a safe place, the degree of the charge might be lowered. A lesser charge could bring the potential prison sentence from life in prison to between 2 and 20 years.
Tennessee is a state with harsher penalties regarding kidnapping. Even if a person hasn’t been convicted of any prior felonies, if the case meets certain aggravating circumstances, the range of sentencing can start at a minimum of 15 years and increase to life imprisoned.
In many states, there’s a strong distinction drawn between aggravated kidnapping and standard kidnapping. Aggravated kidnapping is a felony that comes with potential penalties of life in prison. Meanwhile, standard kidnapping has a range of 1 to 20 years in prison. In every state, an aggravated kidnapping has a doubled sentencing range in comparison to a standard kidnapping.
When an offender is convicted of an aggravated charge, a state can penalize them further with stricter parole laws. This means that the offender must serve more of their sentence regardless of good behavior. In some cases, the offender might not have the opportunity for parole at all. If the kidnapping also included a sexual assault, the defendant may also need to register as a sex offender. This has huge personal and professional consequences, as the sex offender registry is public to everyone.
If you aren’t sure how your state laws apply to your situation, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will understand how your specific state statutes apply to your particular circumstances. They can provide you the best criminal defense for the situation in which you’ve become involved.
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