Kidnapping involves moving someone against their will. The idea of kidnapping someone usually comes from movies where someone is held for ransom. The movie idea of kidnapping does not often happen in day-to-day life in the East Bay. Unfortunately, some people who are charged with kidnapping never intended to harm the person and are falsely accused of the crime.
When someone is facing felony charges for kidnapping, they may give in to the prosecutor's demands and accept a plea deal. Before admitting you are guilty, make sure you understand your rights and have the chance to talk to an experienced defense attorney. Calling the right criminal defense lawyer can make the difference between a felony record and being able to live a normal life. If you have questions or need help after an arrest, contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick for help.
Kidnapping Under Penal Code 207 PC Text
Under California Penal Code Section 207, it is a crime for any person to “forcibly, or by any other means of instilling fear, steals or takes, or holds, detains, or arrests any person in this state, and carries the person into another country, state, or county, or into another part of the same county.”
Kidnapping is a felony. The penalties for simple kidnapping include 3, 5, or 8 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Depending on the specific factors of the case, aggravated kidnapping is a more serious offense. This includes kidnapping for ransom, kidnapping during a carjacking, kidnapping a child under the age of 14, or kidnapping for rape or sexual molestation. The penalties for aggravated kidnapping can include life imprisonment.
Elements of the Offense
In order to prove that the defendant is guilty of a crime, the prosecutor has to prove each element of the offense “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is any doubt that even one element is not met, then the defendant should not be found guilty.
Under the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions, to prove the defendant is guilty of PC 207, the state has to prove:
- The defendant took, held, or detained another person by using force or by instilling reasonable fear;
- Using that force or fear, the defendant moved the other person, or made the other person move a substantial distance; AND
- The other person did not consent to the movement.
A substantial distance does not have to be far. It means more than a slight or trivial distance, and is determined based on the circumstances.
Kidnapping and Child Custody Disputes
There is still a misconception that there are child snatchers out there kidnapping kids off the streets, never to be seen again. While there are strangers who kidnap or abduct children, the statistics show that parent and family member abductions account for 78% of all missing children.
According to the Polly Klaas Foundation, over 200,000 children in the U.S. are abducted each year by a family member, most often a parent. According to statistics by the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 50% of family abducted children were abducted by their biological father and 25% were abducted by their biological mother.
In a child custody dispute, one parent may be so frustrated with the other parent or the court system that they take matters into their own hands. Keeping a child, even if it is your own biological child, in violation of a custody order or custodial rights may be considered parental kidnapping. Under California Penal Code Section 207, child abduction involves maliciously taking, enticing away, keeping, withholding, or concealing any child with the intent to detain or conceal that child from a lawful custodian.
Some parents may think they have a valid reason to take the child away, including where the other parent or parent's partner is violent or abusive. However, when a parent fears abuse or harm from the other spouse, he or she should try to get court protections instead of violating the custody orders, which could result in criminal kidnapping charges.
False Imprisonment in California
Kidnapping charges are sometimes combined with false imprisonment charges. Under California Penal Code §236, false imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another. False imprisonment can involve physical force or violence to restrain a person's movements. False imprisonment may also involve threats of harm to the victim or the victim's family, or deception.
False imprisonment in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. A common tactic for prosecutors is to charge someone with false imprisonment and kidnapping. If their case is not very strong, they may “offer” to drop the kidnapping charges if the defendant pleads guilty to false imprisonment. This may seem like a great offer but the prosecutor may not have a good case for false imprisonment either.
Before agreeing to a plea bargain or just accepting what your public defender wants, make sure you understand your right to contact a criminal defense attorney who may be able to build a strong case for your defense.
Defense Strategies for Kidnapping Charges in California
Consent is generally a defense to kidnapping charges. The defendant is not guilty of kidnapping if he or she reasonably and actually believed that the other person consented to the movement. If the individual involved agreed to move locations, but later regretted their decision, the defendant should not be charged with kidnapping.
There may not be a lot of evidence that the person consented at the time but your defense attorney can still build a strong case to show that the prosecutor did not prove every element of the offense.
Defense Lawyer for Kidnapping Charges in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties
There are usually reasons why someone did what they did which led to kidnapping charges. It does not necessarily mean that they should be convicted of a felony, even if they did something wrong. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of criminal defense experience and understands the consequences of pleading guilty to a crime without fighting the charges. Representing individuals in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.