Child abduction occurs when a person takes, keeps, or conceals another person's child without the parent’s or guardian’s consent. If you have been charged with child abduction, it is essential to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible because these charges can lead to severe punishments. Our experienced attorneys at Pasadena Criminal Attorney can help evaluate your charges to determine the best course of action. We have helped defend people facing criminal charges in the Pasadena area, and we are available to help you too.
What is Child Abduction?
Child abduction under California law is defined as the unlawful taking, enticement, or detention of a minor by an adult who is not the minor’s legal guardian. It is a serious criminal offense that can lead to severe punishments for the abductor.
The offense of child abduction is governed by California Penal Code sections 278 and 278.5. According to these sections, if an adult takes, entices, or detains a minor for the purpose of keeping them from their legal guardian, then they have committed the crime of child abduction.
There are several elements of the offense that must be proven for a person to be found guilty.
The first element of child abduction charges is that the custodian of the minor must be lawfully entitled to custody of the minor. This means that the custodian has a court order or other legal document granting them the right to custody of the minor, such as a divorce decree or other legal document.
The second element is that the defendant must take, detain, or conceal the minor. This means that the defendant must engage in an act of taking, detaining, or concealing the minor from the lawful custodian.
The third element of child abduction charges in California is that the defendant must have the intent to deprive the lawful custodian of their custody of the minor. This means that the defendant must have the intent to keep the minor away from the lawful custodian or to keep the custodian from exercising their custodial rights.
Understanding California State Laws on Child Abduction
Child abduction is a serious crime in the state of California, with severe penalties for those found guilty of committing the offense. State law defines the crime as “the taking, enticement, or detention of a minor by a person other than the minor’s parent, guardian, or custodian, without the consent of the minor’s parent, guardian, or custodian, and with the intent to keep or conceal the minor from that parent, guardian, or custodian.”
The California Penal Code states that any person who violates state law and takes, entices, or detains any minor from their parent, guardian, or custodian without their consent and with the intent to keep or conceal the minor from that parent, guardian, or custodian, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in state prison for two, three, or four years.
When a minor has been taken, enticed, or detained, state law also requires that the abductor be prosecuted with a full range of criminal charges. This includes kidnapping, child abduction, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, among other offenses. In addition, if the abductor has a prior conviction for any of these offenses, they will face an enhanced sentence.
If a minor has been taken and the abductor is unknown, the California Department of Justice can issue an Amber Alert, which is a public notification system designed to help locate and recover abducted minors. Once an Amber Alert has been issued, it is broadcast on radio, television, and other media outlets in the area where the abduction occurred.
In addition to criminal charges, California state law also allows for civil action to be taken against an abductor. This means that a parent, guardian, or custodian can take the abductor to court and seek financial compensation for any damages resulting from the abduction.
What are the Possible Consequences of Child Abduction in California?
In California, the punishment for child abduction varies depending on the specific facts of the case. The punishment includes imprisonment in state prison for two, three, or four years and up to a $10,000 fine. In addition, the person convicted of child abduction may also be required to register as a sex offender. The court may also order the perpetrator to pay restitution to the victim’s family.
If a person is convicted of child abduction, they may lose their job, have difficulty finding employment in the future, and lose their ability to obtain certain professional licenses. They may also face social stigma, as child abduction is considered a serious crime. Additionally, the conviction can harm the perpetrator’s relationships, as family members, friends, neighbors, and employers may view them differently.
In addition to the potential criminal consequences, a person convicted of child abduction may face civil consequences as well. The victim’s family may file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator, seeking monetary damages for emotional distress, medical expenses, and other costs associated with the abduction.
The Sentencing Hearing
When a child has been abducted, the abductor will face a sentencing hearing. A sentencing hearing is a court proceeding in which a judge decides the appropriate punishment for a person who has been found guilty of a crime. The sentencing hearing for child abduction is an important process that determines the amount of time the kidnapper will spend in jail and any other punishments they may face.
The sentencing hearing for child abduction is divided into two phases. During the first phase, the court will hear evidence related to the crime, including the circumstances of the abduction and the impact the abduction had on the victim and the victim's family. The court will consider any mitigating factors, such as the offender's age, mental state, and other personal factors. The court may also consider aggravating factors, such as whether the offender used violence or threats of violence during the abduction.
In the second phase of the sentencing hearing, the court will consider the appropriate punishment for the offender. The court will consider a range of punishments, from probation to life in prison. The court may also consider other forms of punishment, such as restitution to the victim, community service, and fines. The court may also consider the potential for rehabilitation and any efforts the offender has taken to address the underlying causes of their behavior.
The sentencing hearing for child abduction is an important process that allows victims and their families to have their voices heard. It also serves as a reminder that child abduction is a serious crime with serious consequences. The hearing ensures that the offender is held accountable for their actions and that justice is served.
Possible Defenses Against Child Abduction Charges in California
In California, a person can be charged with child abduction if they willfully and maliciously take, entice away, keep, withhold, or conceal a minor from their lawful custodian. It is also illegal for a person to aid or assist in the abduction of a minor. For the charge to stand, the prosecution must prove that the person charged acted with an intent to unlawfully deprive the custodian of the right to the child’s custody or control.
There are several possible defenses a person can use to challenge a child abduction charge.
The most common is a lack of intent. If the prosecution cannot prove that the person charged intended to deprive the custodian of their rights, then the charge cannot stand. Similarly, if the person charged was unaware that the child was being taken from the custodian, then the charge is unlikely to hold up in court.
- Consent: In some cases, the accused can show that the child was taken with the consent of the parents or guardians. This defense is applicable when the parents have permitted the accused to take the child, such as when a parent allows a grandparent to take their child on vacation.
- Necessity: A person accused of child abduction can argue that the action was necessary to protect the child from imminent harm or danger. This defense is applicable in cases where the accused believes the child is in danger of harm or abuse, and the accused takes the child to a safe place.
- Mistake of Fact: In certain cases, the accused can show that they did not intend to commit a crime. For example, an accused individual can show that they reasonably believed that they had the right to take the child, or that they were acting in the best interests of the child.
- Duress: In some cases, the accused can show that they were forced to take the child by another person or persons. This might be applicable in cases of kidnapping, where the accused was threatened with harm if they did not take the child.
- Age of the Child: In California, the age of the child is a factor in determining whether an accused person can be charged with child abduction. In the state, only children under the age of 14 can be charged under the child abduction statute.
It is important to remember that the specific circumstances of each case do determine which defense is applicable.
Child Abduction Versus Kidnapping
Child abduction and kidnapping are terms that are often used interchangeably, but there are some important distinctions between the two. In other terms, child abduction is the removal of a minor from their legal guardians, while kidnapping is the unlawful confinement of a person, often for ransom.
In child abduction, the minor is typically taken by a parent or close family member. While this may sound like kidnapping, it is different because the person taking the child does not intend to harm the minor or hold them for ransom. Instead, the abductor is usually trying to flee from a situation—such as a divorce or custody battle—or trying to keep the child away from a dangerous situation. While child abduction is a serious crime, it is not usually as serious as kidnapping.
Kidnapping, on the other hand, involves a stranger who takes a victim with the intent of holding them for ransom or committing another criminal act. This type of crime is more serious because the victim is taken without their consent and is often in danger of serious harm or even death.
In some cases, a person may be accused of both child abduction and kidnapping. This is because the abductor has taken the minor and confined them in some way. If the abductor is not a parent or other family member, or if they are trying to extort money from the victim’s family, then they may be guilty of both child abduction and kidnapping.
The punishment for child abduction and kidnapping varies depending on the severity of the crime and the jurisdiction in which it is committed. In the United States, kidnapping is a federal offense and is punishable by a long prison sentence. Child abduction is considered a state crime and can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison, depending on the state.
Can a Family Member or Parents Abduct Their Child?
Yes. A family member or parent can abduct their child—known as parental abduction—and while it is not as common as stranger abduction, it can happen.
Parental abduction is a serious crime and is mainly done to gain a legal advantage in a custody dispute. Parental abduction usually occurs when one parent takes the child without the other parent’s permission and the permission of the court. This can happen when one parent does not agree with the court’s decisions regarding custody and visitation rights, or when one parent feels the court’s decisions are unfair and wants to take matters into their own hands.
Parental abduction is not only a crime, but it is also emotionally damaging to the child. Children who are victims of parental abduction experience fear, confusion, grief, and a sense of betrayal as a result of the abduction. The parent who has been wronged often feels a sense of violation and helplessness.
In the United States, parental abduction is a federal crime. If a parent abducts their child, they can be charged with kidnapping, and the parent who has been wronged can file a civil lawsuit against the abducting parent. In addition, the abducting parent can be charged with interfering with child custody, which is a misdemeanor.
Exceptions to Child Abduction
Child abduction is a serious crime and usually carries significant legal penalties. However, there are a few exceptions to this general rule in certain circumstances. One of the most common exceptions to child abduction is when the child is taken for adoption. In some cases, a child can be adopted without the consent of the child’s parents. This commonly occurs when the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to care for the child. In these cases, the child may be taken and placed in an adoptive home without the parents’ consent. In short, the child’s best interests are taken into account when making these decisions.
Another exception to child abduction is when the child is taken by a family member. In some cases, a family member may take a child away from the parents out of concern for the child’s safety or well-being. This is particularly common in cases of abuse or neglect. In these cases, the family member can take the child away without facing any legal repercussions.
Finally, there are exceptions to child abduction in cases of emergency. In some cases, a child may be taken away from their parents in an emergency. This may be necessary to protect the child from immediate harm. For example, if a child is in danger of being abused or neglected, they may be taken away from their parents without their consent.
Offenses Related to Child Abduction
Sometimes, when a parent or guardian is accused of abducting a child, they may face a variety of charges, including kidnapping, interference with custody, violation of a restraining order, and false imprisonment These offenses can result in significant prison time and fines which is why it is crucial to find an attorney who understands the complexities of criminal law and the consequences of a conviction.
Kidnapping involves the unlawful taking or confinement of a person against their will, often with the intent to hold them for ransom, use them as a hostage, or as a means of obtaining a benefit or advantage. In California, kidnapping is a felony offense and can carry a sentence of up to life in prison. The crime of kidnapping is often associated with child abduction, in California.
In some cases, the intent to commit a kidnapping or child abduction can be inferred from the circumstances of the case. This is known as constructive kidnapping, which is a felony offense in California and can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison. Examples of circumstances that may constitute constructive kidnapping include taking a child from school for an extended period, taking a child on a long trip without permission, or taking a child across state lines without permission.
False imprisonment is defined as the unlawful restraint of a person against their will, without legal authority. This offense is often related to child abduction because a parent or guardian of the child may unlawfully restrain the child from leaving the home or other area. This type of offense is considered a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the incident.
In California, the crime of false imprisonment is codified in Penal Code Section 236. This section states that any person who unlawfully restrains, detains, or confines another person with the intent to deny them their liberty is guilty of the crime of false imprisonment. False imprisonment related to child abduction is considered a serious offense and can lead to harsh penalties if convicted.
If convicted of false imprisonment related to child abduction, the defendant can face up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Additionally, the defendant may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim for any damages or losses suffered as a result of the crime.
Custodial interference is a serious crime in California and is related to child abduction in certain circumstances. According to California Penal Code Section 278.5(a), it is illegal to maliciously take, detain, conceal, or entice away any child under the age of 18, with the intent to deprive a lawful custodian of the right to physical custody of the child.
This offense is considered a “wobbler” in California, which means the prosecutor can charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
In cases involving child abduction, custodial interference is usually charged as a felony. If convicted, a person could face up to 3 years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Additionally, they may be required to pay restitution to the victim.
To prove custodial interference as an offense related to child abduction, the prosecutor must demonstrate that the defendant maliciously took, detained, concealed, or enticed away the child with the intent to deprive the lawful custodian of the right to physical custody of the child.
The term “lawful custodian” can refer to a parent, legal guardian, or anyone else who has been given legal authority over the child. In cases involving a dispute between two parents or guardians over custody, the offense of custodial interference can be committed if one parent takes the child without the consent of the other.
In addition, custodial interference can be a crime even if the child is taken from their home or school. However, if the child consents to be taken, the offense will not be charged.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When facing charges related to child abduction or any other type of criminal offense, it is important to have experienced legal representation. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we can provide the necessary legal advice and representation to ensure that your rights are protected. Call us today at 626-689-2277.