If you are accused of kidnapping, it is essential that you consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. Under some circumstances, kidnapping charges can result in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. However, it is also possible to be given probation for a kidnapping conviction.
Generally, to be found guilty of kidnapping, the prosecution must prove that you:
- Stole, took, held, or detained someone using force or by instilling fear.
- Moved or transported the person a “substantial distance” to another part of the county, or to another country, state, or county. A substantial distance does not have to be that far – it is enough that it is more than a slight or trivial distance.
- The other person did not consent to the movement, except in the case of a child or someone who is mentally impaired to the extent that he or she is not capable of consenting.
Possible Defenses to a Charge of Kidnapping
There are several common defenses used by defense attorneys in kidnapping cases:
- Good faith belief – If you believed that the other person consented to the movement, and your belief was reasonable, this is a defense. If this applies to your case, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not reasonably believe that the victim consented to the movement.
- Victim consented – It is a defense to the charge if the victim of the kidnapping actually consented to go with you and was mature enough to make this decision.
- Protecting a child – Moving a child away from imminent harm is a defense to the charge.
Punishments for Kidnapping
Kidnapping is a felony and is punishable by 3, 5, or 8 years state prison. You may also be granted probation for this charge. If you are granted probation, twelve months in the county jail is generally required. If the victim is under the age of 14, the crime is punishable by 5, 8, or 11 years in prison, except when the kidnapping was perpetrated by a parent of the child.
Parents can be convicted of kidnapping their own children. In these cases, the prosecution must show that the defendant parent used either force or deception to move the child a substantial distance, and that he or she did so with an illegal intent or illegal purpose. Note that it is not required that force is used. Using deception or tricking the child is enough.
More serious punishments apply when kidnapping is done for specific purposes, as discussed below.
Kidnapping of a Child to Engage in a Sex Act
If a child under 14 is kidnapped for the purpose of committing a lewd or lascivious act, as defined in PC 288, the punishment is life without the possibility of parole.
In this type of case, it is enough that the defendant hires, persuades, entices, or seduces the child by false promises – the prosecution does not have to prove that force was used.
The prosecution must prove that the victim was moved a substantial distance, and that moving this distance substantially increased the risk of physical or mental harm to the victim.
Kidnapping for Ransom
If a kidnapping is accompanied by demands for ransom, the punishment is life without the possibility of parole if the victim suffers bodily harm or is killed. If not, the punishment would be life with the possibility of parole.
Kidnapping for Robbery, Rape, Oral Copulation, Sodomy, Sex Offenses, or Carjacking
A kidnapping that is done for the commission of one of these offenses is punished by life without the possibility of parole. The key in these cases is to prove that the victim was moved beyond the distance that would be required to commit the robbery or rape, or away from the vicinity of the carjacking. It also must be proven that this movement increased the risk of harm to the victim.
If you or a loved one is accused of kidnapping, it is essential that you contact a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. For a free and confidential consultation, call Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg at (323) 633-3423 or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.