The law classifies some criminal offenses like kidnapping in California as violent crimes, especially when they involve the element of force, coercing a victim, or making the victim believe you will cause them or their loved ones severe bodily harm. The presence of a deadly weapon will aggravate the situation even if the weapon is not commissioned. Facing kidnapping charges will result in severe penalties, and anyone facing such charges should seek the services of a qualified defense attorney.
When facing kidnapping charges, you will need to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as a conviction could affect your life negatively. Sometimes, you may be facing kidnapping charges due to mistaken identity, and proving your innocence should be your priority.
Therefore, you will have to hire an attorney who understands the tactics employed by law enforcement officers and the prosecution in your corner. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our team of qualified attorneys will listen to you and aggressively fight for you to ensure your case receives the best possible outcome.
Legal Definition of Kidnapping
California law defines kidnapping under PC 207 as moving another person through a substantial distance against their will by applying fear, force, and intimidation. There are two types of kidnapping, simple and aggravated. When you face simple kidnapping, it means that you took another person through a substantial distance against their will and used fear and force to achieve it. For aggravated kidnapping, you moved another person through a significant distance without their consent by applying fear, force, or intimidation. Other factors that make for aggravated kidnapping includes:
- If you kidnap a minor aged below 14years,
- When you abduct a person during a carjacking,
- If your victim suffers severe bodily injury or even dies,
- If you kidnap a person intending to demand ransom.
Elements of Kidnapping under Penal Code 207
Under Penal Code 207, the prosecution must prove the following facts for a kidnapping charge to hold in court:
You Must Move the Other Person through Some Distance
For a kidnapping to occur, you must move the victim over some distance. The distance covered doesn’t matter, whether great or small; what is of importance is the fact that you moved that person from one point to another and exposed them to danger. The court will consider the following factors when determining whether the distance was substantial:
- The risk factor you exposed the victim to by moving them from one point to another. For instance, if you move a person from their neighborhood and take them to a deserted alley,
- The distance you take the victim to,
- If by moving the victim, you decreased their chances of being rescued,
Application of Fear, Threat, Fraud, and Force
Under the law, you must move the victim against their will, and you will accomplish this when you apply fear, threat, or force. For example, when the law states fear or intimidation, you caused physical pain to the victim or threatened to cause severe pain to them or someone close to them. You can achieve this through various means like:
- Holding the victim at gunpoint, by brandishing a knife at them, or by holding a weapon at them
- Threatening the victim or their loved them with imminent physical pain,
- Dragging the victim from one point to another,
- Threat to the victim or their loved one with dire repercussions,
- Making the victim unconscious to move them from one point to another,
Sometimes you can move a person from one point to another through fraudulent means. When it comes to fraudulent means, it is a situation where you move the victim without applying force, fear, or even threats but have their consent through fraudulent means. To fraudulently kidnap a person, you will have to lie to them or make false promises to move them from one place to another.
For instance, you can promise a person better employment conditions in your state. When this person believes and agrees to go with you for this employment, you have gained their consent, but fraudulently if you meant to sell them into slavery once they reach their destinations. Likewise, you can kidnap a person through fraudulent means when some specific circumstances come into play. These circumstances include, but are not limited to:
- When you take a person from one state to another intending to sell them into slavery,
- If you bring a person from a different state to your state for fraudulent reasons,
- When you kidnap a minor below 14, intending to commit sexual offenses like lewd acts with a minor.
Lack of Consent from the Victim
When it comes to consent, the law is clear, and the victim must give their consent. If they put up a fight or refused to accompany you, you moved without permission which is illegal. You should note that the law deems a mentally challenged person or a minor legally incompetent to give their consent. When a victim allegedly gives their permission through fraudulent means, it doesn’t count from a legal perspective.
Legal Defenses against Kidnapping Charges
When you or your loved one are facing kidnapping charges, you will need to engage the services of an experienced attorney, someone who will work hard to ensure your charge is reduced or dismissed. You will need to be honest with your attorney about the events that led to the kidnapping allegations so that they may come up with the best defense strategy for your case. Some of the strategies they can employ to ensure the court dismisses or reduces your case include:
You are A Victim of False Accusations
Sometimes you may find yourself facing simple kidnapping charges, where the alleged victim doesn’t have any evidence that you kidnapped them. If it comes to your word against that of the victim, your attorney can defend you against these charges by showing the court how credible your word is and proving to the court that the alleged victim is not credible. Most people tend to lie or exaggerate a situation when faced with intense emotions. Your defense attorney must show the court that the alleged victim was under extreme emotional turmoil, which is why they falsely accused you.
You were A Victim of Circumstances
This is a situation where you become a victim of circumstances. You can be at the right place at the wrong time. For example, if your friend requests a ride to a specific location without prior knowledge that they intend to kidnap someone, you drive them to the area. If they then seize a person at this place and ask you to move away, and later you are apprehended by law enforcement officers, the police will file kidnapping charges against you as well. But with the victim’s testimony, your attorney may ensure you are acquitted since you were not aware of your friend’s intentions. This means you were a victim of circumstances, and you were merely present though you had no intention of taking part in the kidnapping.
Being a victim of circumstances doesn’t apply in a situation where you were aware of your friend’s plans. If you were aware of the plans and decided to take part or keep quiet, then you become an abettor of the crime, and you will face trial. You may face charges:
- When you were aware of the plan to kidnap the victim.
- When you do not prevent the crime from taking place.
- When you instigate a kidnapping crime.
- When you encouraged the perpetrator to carry on with the plan.
The Victim willingly Gave the Consent
This is a situation where a person or even a friend willingly agrees to accompany you. Then, your friend decides to change direction; they cannot accuse you of kidnapping since they came with you voluntarily. But if they choose to go back, and you refuse to let them go and then continue with your journey, you will have kidnapped them. However, you do not have to worry about this scenario if you continued with good faith that your friend wouldn’t mind if you continued with your journey since you started together.
You Didn’t Move the Victim
For a kidnapping case to hold toter, the prosecution must prove that you moved the victim from one point to another. However, if the distance moved doesn’t contribute to the victim’s risk or harm the victim, the charge should not be held in court. For instance, if you moved the victim from one end of a room to the other end of the same room, this distance is not substantial in that you do not increase the chances of harming the victim and, therefore, a kidnapping charge can not be held in court.
Are There Statutory Exceptions to Kidnapping Charges in California?
Yes, California kidnapping laws allow you to defend yourself when you take a minor under 14 to protect them from harmful or dangerous situations or when you put someone under citizen’s arrest. You can put someone under citizen arrest when you know the person committed a crime, witness that person committing a crime, or when you believe that the person committed a crime.
Penalties for Kidnapping
Under California PC 207, you will receive kidnapping penalties based on the type of kidnapping you committed. For simple kidnapping, your sentence will serve a jail term that ranges from three up to eight years in state prison, or you can also pay a fine that does not exceed $10,000. However, when it comes to aggravated kidnapping, your penalties are more severe. These penalties include but are not limited to:
- Under PC 208b, the law states that if you kidnap a minor under the age of 14 years when the offense took place, you will face jail time that ranges from five up to eleven years in state prison.
- You can face life imprisonment with parole possibility when you kidnap a person for ransom, carjacking, rape, forcible penetration, spousal rape, reward,oral copulation,lascivious acts with a minor, sodomy, or blackmail.
- You can face life imprisonment when you kidnap a person for ransom, for extortion, or reward. In the process, the victimsuffers severe bodily injury,is exposed to circumstances that will likely lead to their death, or even dies. If such a scenario takes place, your life sentence will not include the possibility of parole.
Kidnapping and the Three Strikes Law
You should note that California treats kidnapping, whether simple or aggravated, as a violent offense. Therefore, a conviction for either felony will earn a strike against you. When you acquire a strike against your record, it means that you will have to serve a longer sentence for any subsequent conviction. This means that if you commit a second offense after your strike, your penalty will be doubled up. If you face a third offense, it will make you a third striker, and this calls for a stricter sentence where you will serve a minimum of 25 years in jail, and sometimes you can face life imprisonment.
Child Abduction, Penal Code 278
You will face abduction charges when you maliciously take or keep away a child from their legal guardians or parents. You will also face abduction or even kidnapping charges when you take a minor, and you are not a legal guardian to the minor. The law treats child abduction as a wobbler offense where the prosecution can decide to try you with either misdemeanor or felony charge. If you face the charge as a misdemeanor offense, the conviction will lead to one year in county jail.
When the prosecution treats your case as a felony, it will lead to imprisonment in county jail for a maximum period of four years or pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Child Detention, PC 278.5
You will violate PC 278.5 when you deny or violate a visitation right or a custody order granted to a legal guardian or parent. If you hide or take away a child from their legal guardian, you can be accused of child detention. It doesn’t matter whether you have custody over the minor or not; the fact that you denied someone with legal authority the right to the child is enough to hold in court.
For instance, you can be the child’s mother and face these charges if you deny your ex-husband, the child’s father, to visit the minor if they have visitation rights. Since this is a wobbler offense, you face up to one year in county jail if you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense. However, if the prosecution decides to charge you with a felony offense, you could end up spending three years in county jail.
Kidnapping for Extortion, PC 210
Under California PC 210, you will face kidnapping for extortion charges when you kidnap or pose as a kidnapper to obtain extortion money, ransom, or a reward. This charge means that you pose as someone who knows where a kidnapping victim is being held to receive the promised ransom or reward money. If you pose as a person who can ensure a kidnapped person’s release to receive reward or ransom money, then you can face these charges.
You could also face this charge if you assisted the kidnapper in kidnapping the victim to obtain money on their release. A kidnapping for extortion charge could lead to an imprisonment period that ranges from two to four years in state prison.
However, if you kidnap a person for the sole purpose of obtaining reward, ransom, or even to extort money from them or their loved ones, you will be charged under PC 209 for aggravated kidnapping. An aggravated kidnapping charge will lead to either life imprisonment with or without parole possibility depending on the risk you expose the victim.
Kidnapping for Lewd Acts with Minor, PC 288
If you kidnap a minor under 14 to carry out lewd acts with them, you will face the law under California PC 288. Under this law, you will be guilty when you kidnap the minor to commit sexual acts against the minor willfully. The prosecution will have to prove that you had the intention to gratify your desires sexually, arouse the child and that you touched or forced the minor to touch you or themselves sexually.
When it comes to penalties, the prosecution can charge the offense as a misdemeanor and have you spending one year in county jail or as a felony where you will end up spending up to three years in state prison.
Kidnapping During Commission of Carjacking, PC 209.5
You will be liable to face these charges when:
- You move the victim a substantial distance during a carjacking.
- When you move the victim a considerable distance from the place, the carjacking took place.
- When you expose the victim to more danger during a carjacking.
If you are convicted of the crime, you face life imprisonment with parole possibility.
Sodomy, PC 286
This is an offense that involves the anal penetration of the victim. The degree of penetration doesn’t count when it comes to sodomy charges. If you kidnap a person, and in the process, commit sodomy, you will face both kidnapping and sodomy charges. When it comes to sentencing, the court will convict you, depending on the nature of the offense and the victim’s age.
If, for instance, the victim is a minor aged below 18 years, you will receive an additional one year to your kidnapping sentence. If the victim is a minor aged below 16 years, while you are above 21, you may end up having three years added to your kidnapping sentence. If the victim happens to be a minor aged below 14 and when you are older than them with at least ten years, then your sodomy sentence will range from three up to eight years.
You should note that if you use force, threat, or coercion to commit a sodomy crime, the sentencing will be harsher, with you spending up to 13 years in prison for sodomy crime alone without a kidnapping sentence.
False imprisonment to Avoid Arrest, PC 210.5
Under PC 210.5, it is an offense to falsely imprison another person to avoid being arrested or tode behind another person as a shield against law enforcement officers. Once convicted for this crime, you can spend time in county jail for a period ranging from three up to eight years.
False Imprisonment, PC 236
False imprisonment takes place when you detain, restrain or confine the victim without their consent. False imprisonment is regarded as a lesser kidnapping offense since you can’t have a kidnapping without controlling the victim in some way. Most prosecutors use this charge when they can’t prove that a kidnapping offense occurred beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sometimes you may be facing kidnapping charges, but the jury decides to convict you on a lesser offense, which is false imprisonment. A conviction for false imprisonment leads to a maximum imprisonment of up to three years in county jail.
Sexual Battery, PC 243.4
You may end up facing sexual battery charges together with your kidnapping charges when you touch the victim’s intimate parts while restraining them. If the prosecution proves that you touched the victim’s private parts intending to arouse them or gratify yourself sexually, then the charge will be held in court. A conviction for this offense will depend on the nature of the crime. For example, the prosecution may charge you with a misdemeanor offense where a conviction will lead to one-year imprisonment in county jail or pay a fine that doesn’t exceed $2,000. However, if the case is tried as a felony, a conviction could lead to imprisonment that ranges from one to four years in county jail or payment of a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000.
Contact a Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When you are accused of committing a kidnapping crime, you need a criminal defense attorney’s help. California treats kidnapping crimes harshly, and the penalties will have long-lasting effects on your life. In addition, you may have committed the crime unintentionally, or you are a victim of circumstances.
You will, therefore, need to have a caring defense attorney working on setting you free. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our team of competent and caring attorneys will walk with you throughout your journey, guide you and work hard to ensure you obtain the best possible outcome for your case. So kindly contact us at 951-946-6366 today and book your consultation.