Under the California Penal Code, moving an individual a substantial distance by force, or fear, is considered kidnapping. Once an innocent person is transported across state lines, the charges can escalate to federal level, which will then involve the U.S. Marshal’s Office and other cooperating agencies.
It is common for people to report persons are kidnapped without knowledge if the individual has not called home for some time, or went across state lines willingly. That is why California law specifies the fine line between willful and unwilling.
What Does California Consider “Kidnapping”?
One violates California law by taking an individual against his or her will and moving that person a substantial distance by use of fear or force. Threatening to use physical force or actually inflicting physical damage to secure an individual is enough to prove the element of “force and fear.”
Performing the same actions by fraudulent means, to an individual at or under 14 years of age, by using a ransom method, or by carjacking an individual qualify the above to be elevated to aggravated kidnapping charges.
Because aggravated kidnapping is considered a strike in California, persons found guilty could receive five years to life imprisonment with 85% served. “Simple” kidnapping is a felony punishable up to eight years in prison.
California laws on kidnapping and false imprisonment are severe enough that an attorney must work doubly hard to get charges lowered or dismissed.
Parental Kidnapping Laws in California
Parents can be charged with kidnapping their own child, which is another serious crime in California. Called “noncustodial detainment” or child abduction, it is a crime to detain or prevent a custodial parent access to a minor child. It is punishable by up to one year in county jail, or up to three years in CDC, with fines and restitution possible.
To prove a noncustodial parent willfully attempted to withhold the custodial parents’ children or child away, malicious intent must be proven. Returning a child to their legal guardian or parent within a reasonable time after the scheduled pickup time may not be considered kidnapping.
Defending Kidnapping Charges
Although prosecution needs only prove an individual feared for his or her life and your detention of that person, plenty of defenses exist that could exonerate persons accused of kidnapping. For example, if an individual willfully sat inside your car, and you took off, reckless endangerment may be more appropriate. Or, if the person being kidnapped later testified that he or she wanted to be with you, those charges would get dropped.
In parental kidnapping cases, having no custody order in place would save you from kidnapping. Acting in good faith that detaining a child for their own good may also provide a defense to the unlawful detainment of a child.
Accusations of kidnapping may ruin an individual’s parental, work, and interpersonal life forever. It is important to retain counsel who knows the elements necessary to discount the state’s attempt to label you a kidnapper.
James E. Blatt helps persons wrongly accused of violent crimes like kidnapping by fighting until the case is dropped, charges are lowered, or until the jury exonerates his client. Contact his office immediately to exercise your right to counsel