Many people think of kidnapping as an elaborately planned and executed crime, involving taking someone by force or at gunpoint, hiding them and then demanding money from loved ones. Movie franchises and countless episodes of TV shows have been devoted to it.
The crime of kidnapping, however, is typically not that dramatic. Under California law, a prosecutor can charge someone with kidnapping if they’ve “asported” or moved someone to another location either through force, the threat of force or by intimidating them or making them feel fearful.
When children are involved, the means of moving them that can qualify as kidnapping are broader than for adults. Under California law, if someone “hires, persuades, entices, decoys, or seduces by false promises, misrepresentations, or the like” a child under 14 can be charged with kidnapping.
There’s really no specific distance that a person must be moved or convinced to move that makes the act kidnapping. It depends on the situation, although there’s typically some distance involved. Of course, if it involves going into another state or to another country, it becomes a federal rather than state crime.
What makes kidnapping “aggravated?”
Typically, when a person does commit the crime of kidnapping, it’s for some underlying reason that’s likely criminal as well. That’s known as “aggravated kidnapping.”
If someone forces a person into their home or other location to commit rape or steal from them or takes them away from their home or school in order to extort money from their family, that’s aggravated kidnapping. Even if another crime occurs during the kidnapping that wasn’t initially planned, the legal consequences can be extremely serious.
When is a kidnapping charge unwarranted?
Often, people face kidnapping charges when the facts aren’t so clear-cut or when they’re misrepresented. For example, maybe:
- The alleged victim freely consented to go with the person charged.
- The defendant didn’t use the kinds of force, threats or other actions required to support a charge of kidnapping.
- The defendant took the action they did to protect the alleged victim from harm.
The last of these is sometimes used in cases of alleged parental kidnapping.
If you’re facing kidnapping charges, no matter how unfounded you believe they are, it’s critical that you seek legal guidance. The consequences of a conviction could involve years behind bars. It’s crucial to protect your rights.