California aggressively prosecutes anyone who is accused of the serious charge of kidnapping or related offenses.
A conviction for kidnapping in California has serious consequences, including lengthy terms of imprisonment, hefty fines, and ruined reputations.
Kidnapping in California
Kidnapping can be misunderstood by the general public. Kidnapping is the crime of using force or fear to move another person a substantial distance against his or her will.
There is no requirement for the victim to be a child. There is also no requirement to hold the victim for ransom or a reward.
If the victim is a child or is held for ransom, the crime can be aggravated and be subject to harsher criminal penalties.
When you are charged with kidnapping under California Penal Code 207 PC the prosecution will be required to prove that you are guilty of each element of the crime. You cannot be found guilty of kidnapping if they are unable to prove that you are guilty of each element.
To get a conviction for simple kidnapping prosecutors must prove:
- You took, held, or detained another person by force or fear;
- You used that force or fear to move the victim a substantial distance; and
- The act was without the victim’s consent.
Force or Fear: In California, a simple kidnapping occurs when you use force or fear to detain, move, or hold another person.
Force involves using actual physical effort and strength. Force can include restraining, dragging, pushing, and beating.
Fear involves using threats of imminent or future harm to persuade the victim to follow directions.
Fear can include displaying a firearm or weapon, threatening the safety or life of the victim, or threatening the safety or life of someone the victim cares about.
Substantial Distance: In most cases, the crime of kidnapping requires more than the detention of another person.
Kidnapping requires that you move a victim a “substantial distance.”
A substantial distance can be anything greater than a slight or trivial distance. When a jury is determining if the distance moved was substantial they can consider the actual distance moved and whether the movement (1) increased the chances of an escape, (2) decreased the chances of detection, (3) increased the risk of harm to the victim, or (4) increased the opportunity to commit additional crimes.
Consent: A kidnapping victim cannot be a willing participant.
This means that you cannot be guilty of kidnapping if, for the entirety of the incident, the victim consented to the act.
A victim can withdraw consent at any time during the act. Consent is defined as freely and voluntarily agreeing to go with or be moved with full knowledge of the movement.
Consent can only be given by a person with the proper maturity and understanding of the circumstances. Children and individuals with mental disabilities are often incapable of giving legal consent.
Simple kidnapping is a felony offense in California. Kidnapping is punishable by up to 8 years in a California state prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.
Aggravated Kidnapping in California
There are situations when the charges for kidnapping will be aggravated.
This means that the crime is considered to be more serious and the possible criminal penalties will be more severe.
Aggravated kidnapping occurs when the victim is a child under the age of 14, if there are other crimes committed during the kidnapping, or if you demand ransom or a reward in return for the victim.
Kidnapping a Child Using Fraud to Commit Child Molestation: It is a crime of aggravated kidnapping to seduce by false promises or misrepresentations a child under the age of 14 to move a substantial distance with the intent to commit a lewd or lascivious act.
In more basic terms, it is a crime of aggravated kidnapping to lure a child with the intent to molest them.
Kidnapping a Person Incapable of Consent: It is a crime of aggravated kidnapping to use physical force to take or carry away an unrestrained child or person with a mental disability a substantial distance with an illegal intent or purpose.
Kidnapping for Ransom: It is a crime of aggravated kidnapping to detain or conceal another person for the purpose of collecting a ransom, reward, or to gain something of value.
This is the type of kidnapping that does not require that you move the victim a substantial distance.
Kidnapping for Robbery, Rape, or a Sex Offense: It is a crime of aggravated kidnapping to kidnap another person for the purpose of committing a robbery, rape, or other sexual offense.
The victim of the crime must be moved with the intent and purpose of committing the additional crime.
Kidnapping During a Carjacking: It is a crime of aggravated kidnapping to kidnap another person, who is not involved in the act, during a carjacking.
The penalty for aggravated kidnapping will depend on the facts and circumstances of each specific crime.
If the victim of the kidnapping is under the age of 14, aggravated kidnapping can be punished by 5, 8 or 11 years in prison.
If you kidnap another person to commit another crime or demand ransom, aggravated kidnapping can be punished by life in prison with the possibility of parole. If you kidnap another person for ransom and they die or are placed in a situation likely to cause their death, aggravated kidnapping can be punished by life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Defenses to Kidnapping in California
There are legal defenses to accusations of kidnapping in California.
Hiring an experienced San Diego kidnapping attorney to handle your case is the best way to make sure that any possible defense is raised on your behalf. Defenses to kidnapping charges in California include:
- Consent of the victim;
- Movement was not substantial;
- False accusation or actual innocence;
- Protecting a child from imminent harm;
- Lawful citizen’s arrest; and
- Assertion of parental rights.
Crimes Related to Kidnapping in California
In California, there are other laws on the books which criminalize acts similar to kidnapping.
Prosecutors will often charge those accused of kidnapping with these (and other) related offenses.
False Imprisonment: It is a crime to intentionally and unlawfully detain, restrain, or confine another person against his or her will.
The crime is aggravated if the imprisonment is done by violence or menace.
False imprisonment does not require that you move the victim a substantial distance.
False imprisonment is considered a “lesser included” crime of kidnapping because you cannot commit a kidnapping without falsely imprisoning someone. [California Penal Code 236 PC]
Child Abduction: It is a crime to intentionally and maliciously take, entice, or conceal a minor from his or her legal guardian or parent when you do not have the right to custody.
A parent whose legal custody rights are terminated by the court can be guilty of child abduction. [California Penal Code 278 PC]
Hiring an Experienced San Diego Attorney
A conviction for kidnapping in California can have serious and life-changing consequences.
If aggravating circumstances arise you can even face the potential of life in prison. Hiring an experienced San Diego kidnapping attorney is the best way to limit the severity of the consequences you face for a kidnapping conviction.