In California, forcibly relocating someone else a considerable distance against their will through coercion, intimidation, or deceit is a violation of California Penal Code 207. This legal provision distinctly defines what is known as simple kidnapping. However, if, in the commission of this crime, you employ force, instill fear, or employ fraudulent means to relocate a child under the age of 14, inflict severe bodily harm upon the victim, or demand ransom subsequent to the abduction, the repercussions become markedly more severe. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, our attorneys will build strong defenses to fight your case and make you understand the potential penalties should you face a conviction.
An Overview of Kidnapping in California
Per California Penal Code 207 PC, kidnapping involves forcibly moving another person a substantial distance against their will and without their consent through force, fear, or fraud. Crucial elements of this crime are restraint, violence, and the threat of violence.
The court could enhance your Kidnapping charges to aggravated kidnapping if the following are met:
- Your victim is a minor under the age of 14.
- You hold your victim for ransom.
- You cause physical injuries to your victim.
- You kidnap someone else during a violation of California PC 215 (carjacking).
In California, Kidnapping charges hinge on the element of "movement." For an act to qualify as kidnapping, a perpetrator must move their victim a significant distance against their will and without their consent. The law suggests that a significant distance is greater than a trivial or slight distance.
Also, the movement should be substantial. However, what qualifies as "substantial" is a matter of context and interpretation by the legal system, and it is often evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Factors that the court considers when determining whether the kidnapping offense was substantial are:
- The actual distance you moved the plaintiff.
- If the movement of your victim posed a risk of harm, for example, moving them from a public park to an abandoned building.
- Moving the victim, for example, from the public park to the abandoned building, increased your chances of not being caught.
Below are examples of circumstances where movement is considered substantial enough to constitute kidnapping:
- When you move a victim forcibly from one location to another with the clear intent of committing a crime, such as robbery, assault, or sexual assault. For example, abducting someone at gunpoint and relocating them to a secluded area 30 feet away for a robbery would meet the criteria of substantial movement.
- If the victim's movement is intended to prevent them from reporting a crime to law enforcement or seeking help. For example, forcibly moving a witness to a crime scene away from potential witnesses or authorities.
- When you move the victim to a secluded or isolated area. This can increase the danger the victim faces and hinder their ability to seek assistance.
Conversely, there are situations where the movement may not be deemed substantial enough to constitute kidnapping:
- If the victim's movement is only a short distance away, there is no apparent criminal intent behind the movement. For example, briefly relocating someone within the same room or a short distance for a non-criminal reason.
- Movement that has no bearing on the victim's ability to take action or is inconsequential to the circumstances. For example, if a victim is moved a few feet without affecting their safety or ability to report the situation.
- Movement conducted with lawful authority or consent is not considered kidnapping. This applies to scenarios such as arrests made by law enforcement officers or transportation arranged with the victim's consent.
Consent, in simple terms, refers to the voluntary agreement of an individual to a particular course of action. In kidnapping, the absence of consent is a key element that can elevate an abduction into a criminal offense.
Kidnapping involves forcibly moving or detaining someone against their will. If the victim did not willingly agree to be relocated or detained and the movement or confinement is against their wishes, it constitutes a lack of consent. Consent is deemed absent when the victim is subjected to force, fear, or fraud to compel them into movement or confinement. This can involve physical violence, threats, or deceitful tactics.
For example, if a person willingly accompanies another individual and explicitly consents to the relocation, it does not constitute kidnapping. For example, if two friends decide to go on a spontaneous road trip and both agree to the journey, there is no lack of consent.
In some situations, a victim may appear to consent to their relocation, but this consent is obtained through coercion or threats. Kidnapping charges can still apply if it's proven that the victim's consent was not freely given.
Also, kidnapping charges can arise if a victim initially consents to accompany someone but then changes their mind during the movement and expresses a desire to leave. If the individual detaining them refuses to release them at this point, it can constitute kidnapping.
Kidnapping charges can also arise if a victim initially consents to accompany someone but then changes their mind during the movement and expresses a desire to leave. If the individual detaining them refuses to release them at this point, it can constitute kidnapping.
Force, fear, or fraud are closely related to kidnapping. If you learn what the above phrases mean, you will understand the “lack of consent” principle.
Force, Fear, or Fraud
Kidnapping is a triad of coercion that involves forcibly relocating or detaining an individual against their will using fraud or fear. Force is the physical compulsion or violence used to move or detain a person. It can involve acts of restraint, bodily harm, or overpowering the victim physically.
Kidnapping charges can also apply when the victim is subjected to threats or intimidation that create a reasonable fear for their safety. The fear need not be expressed explicitly but should be reasonable under the circumstances. Kidnapping can also occur when the victim is lured or deceived into relocation or detention through fraud. This may involve false pretenses, misrepresentation, or deceitful tactics.
Examples of force, fear, or fraud in the context of PC 207 violations are:
- Physical force - If you physically restrain someone else against their will, such as by tying them up or using physical violence to control their movement.
- Fear - Kidnapping can also occur when a victim is coerced into compliance through threats of harm, whether explicit or implicit. For example, if you tell the victim at knifepoint or gunpoint, you will harm them or their family unless they comply.
- Fraud - In cases where deceit is used to relocate or detain a person, it may involve scenarios like fake job offers, fraudulent promises, or posing as a trusted figure to gain the victim's trust.
Understanding Fraud In Kidnapping
Kidnapping through fraud involves deceit, misrepresentation, or fraudulent schemes to relocate or detain an individual against their will. This element is distinct from force and fear, relying on manipulation rather than physical coercion.
If you use fraudulent means to violate PC 207, you face aggravated kidnapping charges instead of general kidnapping. Aggravating circumstances include fraudulently kidnapping the following:
- Someone from another state and bringing them to California.
- A victim to leave California and sell them into involuntary servitude.
- A minor under the age of 14 to commit lewd acts with them for a PC 288 violation.
Since fraud involves deliberately deceiving someone else for personal gain, you fraudulently obtain consent when you make false promises to your victim. So, fraudulent consent means no consent, as one can only consent when they fully understand what the consent is for.
Also, if the plaintiff accepts that you move them but withdraws consent, you violate PC 207 if you keep moving the accuser a substantial distance.
Common Legal Defenses to Penal Code 207
You could have your charges dismissed or reduced with a capable defense lawyer. Your lawyer could use many defenses to fight your charges. These include:
The Accuser Consented to the Movement
In some instances of kidnapping, your lawyer could raise a compelling defense if they could demonstrate that the alleged victim willingly consented to be moved. As explained above, consent plays a pivotal role in determining whether a kidnapping occurred or the movement was voluntary.
Consent can be a strong defense against kidnapping charges when freely and knowingly given. It implies the movement was not forced or against the alleged victim's will. For this defense to be effective, you must prove that the consent was not obtained through force, fear, or fraud. If any of these elements are present, it can weaken the defense significantly.
- Two adults, John and Mary, are in a relationship. John suggests moving to a different city for a job, and Mary willingly agrees to accompany him. If John is charged with kidnapping, he can assert that Mary's consent to move was genuine and not coerced.
- One parent plans a vacation with their child with the other parent’s knowledge and secures the child's enthusiastic agreement to go. If the other parent accuses them of kidnapping, the defense could argue that the child's consent was freely given, making it a lawful journey.
The Movement Was Insufficient to Constitute Kidnapping
The defense of insufficient movement hinges on the argument that the alleged movement of the victim was not substantial enough to meet the legal criteria for kidnapping. Per PC 207, there must be a significant movement of the alleged victim to constitute kidnapping. If the movement was trivial or incidental, it may not meet the legal threshold for kidnapping.
For example, two friends, Kathy and Karen, are in a car together. Karen, the driver, makes a brief stop at a convenience store. Kathy accuses Karen of kidnapping during this stop because she temporarily deviated from the original route. In this case, the defense can argue that the deviation was minimal and did not amount to kidnapping.
When building your defense against the PC 207 charges, you could highlight the short distance traveled, emphasizing that it was not substantial. Emphasize the brief duration of the movement and that it did not involve an extended or prolonged period. Also, Establish that the movement was not intended to restrain or detain the alleged victim against their will.
You Were Not The Kidnapper But Were Merely Present
You could face kidnapping charges even when you were not the primary kidnapper but were merely present during the incident. In this situation, you could use the defense of being simply present to challenge the assertion that you actively participated in the kidnapping.
For example, you join your friends for a drive on the country roads. Unknown to you, your friends are planning and executing a kidnapping. The defense can argue that you were merely a passenger if you had no prior knowledge of the kidnapping plot and played no active role in the crime.
Another example is when you are present during a kidnapping due to threats or coercion by the primary kidnapper. You may fear for your safety or the safety of your loved ones if you do not comply. In such cases, the defense can emphasize that your presence was not voluntary but a result of coercion.
The court could acquit you of the kidnapping charges if you did not actively participate in the planning, execution, or facilitation of the kidnapping. You could have your charges dropped if you establish that you were unaware of the kidnapping plot or had no prior knowledge of the criminal intent. Also, you cannot face conviction if you demonstrate that your presence was due to threats, coercion, or fear for their safety or the safety of others.
Insufficient Evidence or False Accusations
Some kidnapping accusations are not founded on solid evidence, and false allegations can occur. In criminal cases, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. They must establish the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense can capitalize on this if no concrete evidence links the accused to the alleged crime.
You could use this absence of witnesses as a strong defense argument. Insufficient or inconclusive forensic evidence can be another point of contention. If DNA, fingerprints, or other forensic data do not conclusively tie the accused to the alleged kidnapping, it raises questions about their involvement.
False accusations of kidnapping can be made for various reasons, such as personal vendettas, misunderstandings, or attempts to divert attention from the actual perpetrator. An alibi that places the accused at a different location during the alleged kidnapping can be a powerful defense. It challenges the credibility of the accuser's account.
Investigating the motive behind the false accusation can also help in your defense. This could involve uncovering personal conflicts or ulterior motives that could have led the accuser to make false claims. Pointing out inconsistencies or contradictions in the accuser's statements can weaken their credibility. If their story changes over time, you could raise doubts about the accuracy of their accusations.
Parents’ Rights to Travel With Their Children
When it comes to parenting, there are instances where disagreements over child custody and travel plans can inadvertently lead to accusations of kidnapping. Parents who share custody of their children often have established custody agreements.
These agreements outline the rights and responsibilities of each parent, including travel arrangements. If there are no specific restrictions on travel, parents generally have the right to travel with their children during their designated custody periods.
For example, Sarah and John share joint custody of their child, Emma. Their custody agreement does not include any travel restrictions. Sarah plans a vacation with Emma to visit her family in another state during her designated custody period. This is well within her rights.
Understanding the statutory exceptions to kidnapping in California is essential to differentiating between lawful actions and criminal conduct.
One of California's most crucial statutory exceptions to kidnapping revolves around parental rights. If a parent takes their child, even against the other parent's wishes, it typically does not constitute kidnapping. Kidnapping charges hinge on the concept of unlawful abduction. If someone has lawful custody or control over a child, their actions are not considered kidnapping.
For example, Sarah and John are divorced, and their custody agreement designates specific days for each parent to spend time with their child, Emma. One day, Sarah picks up Emma from school without notifying John, who assumes the child is missing and reports it as a kidnapping. However, since Sarah is Emma's biological mother and has parental rights, her actions do not constitute kidnapping.
Sometimes, the accused may reasonably believe they have the right to take the alleged victim. This can stem from misunderstandings or misinterpretations of custody agreements or legal documents.
For example, Alex and Jamie share joint custody of their child, Max. Alex mistakenly believes their custody agreement allows him to take Max on a vacation during Jamie's custody period. Although this belief is incorrect, if deemed reasonable, it may not lead to kidnapping charges.
Law Enforcement and Court Orders
Law enforcement officers and court officials have the authority to take individuals into custody under specific circumstances, and this is not considered kidnapping. For example, police officers are authorized to take a suspect into custody if they have a valid arrest warrant or witness the suspect committing a crime. In such cases, even though the suspect is forcibly taken against their will, it is not kidnapping as it is done under the authority of the law.
Penalties, Sentencing, And Punishment For Kidnapping In California
California law recognizes two degrees of kidnapping, each carrying distinct penalties. These include:
Simple kidnapping is a felony offense that involves the unlawful abduction of another person without any aggravating factors. The potential sentences for simple kidnapping include:
- A prison sentence of three, five, or eight years.
- A fine not exceeding $10,000.
Aggravated Kidnapping (for ransom)
Aggravated kidnapping, often referred to as kidnapping for ransom, is also a felony crime that involves kidnapping someone with the intent to extort money, property, or any other valuable thing. The penalties for aggravated kidnapping are significantly more severe and include:
- A sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. You face this sentence when you kidnap someone else for a reward or to violate PCs 518 (extortion or blackmail), 211 (robbery), 215 (carjacking), 261 (rape), 287 (oral copulation by force), 286 (illegal acts of sodomy), or 288 (lewd acts with a minor).
- A prison sentence of five, eight, or eleven years if the victim was a minor under 14.
- A sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. You face this sentence when you kidnap someone else for a reward or ransom, and the victim sustains severe physical injuries, is exposed to the risk of death, or dies.
California’s Three Strikes Law
Kidnapping is considered a "strike" offense in California under the state's Three Strikes Law because it is a violent and serious felony. This means a kidnapping conviction will count as one of the three strikes that could lead to significantly longer sentences for future felony convictions.
If convicted as a second striker, you will receive a sentence twice as long as your previous conviction. A third strike is subject to a minimum sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment.
Crimes Related to Kidnapping, penal Code 207
Several offenses may be charged in connection with or in lieu of Penal Code sections 207 (general kidnapping), 208 (kidnapping of a minor under 14), and 209 (aggravated kidnapping).
The following are some of the most common:
California Penal Code 209.5, Kidnapping During A Carjacking
California PC 209.5 defines kidnapping during a carjacking. This offense combines elements of both kidnapping and carjacking. The prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt to secure your conviction:
- You committed a carjacking that involves taking a motor vehicle from another person's immediate presence or possession by force or fear.
- You kidnapped the driver or passenger of the car during the carjacking. In this context, kidnapping means intentionally moving the victim a substantial distance without their consent and against their will.
- You had the intent to commit kidnapping during the carjacking.
Kidnapping during a carjacking is an aggravated offense, and a conviction can result in a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. While defending against charges of kidnapping during a carjacking can be challenging, several defenses may apply, such as lack of intent, mistaken identity, or coercion.
California Penal Code 210, Kidnapping In Connection With Extortion
California PC 210 defines kidnapping in connection with extortion as the abduction of a person intending to extort money, property, or other advantages from another party. The elements of this crime are:
- You intentionally abducted another person.
- You kidnapped the victim with the specific intent to obtain ransom, money, property, or any other financial advantage in exchange for the victim's release.
- The kidnapping was directly linked to the intent to commit extortion.
A conviction under Penal Code 210 PC can result in a sentence of life imprisonment.
California Penal Code 236, False Imprisonment
Penal Code 236 defines false imprisonment as the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another person. This means it is a crime to detain, restrain, or confine someone against their will without legal justification.
False imprisonment can be committed in a variety of ways, such as:
- Locking someone in a room.
- Blocking someone's path.
- Using force or threats to prevent someone from leaving.
- Using deception to get someone to stay in a place against their will.
False imprisonment can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if false imprisonment is committed with violence or the threat of violence, it is a felony. If the false imprisonment is committed without violence or the threat of violence, it is a misdemeanor.
False imprisonment is a serious crime. Anyone convicted of it can face up to three years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
California Penal Code 278, Child Abduction
Child abduction is taking or concealing a child under 18 from their lawful custodian with the intent to detain or conceal the child from that custodian. The crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. To convict you of child abduction, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You took or concealed the child.
- The child was under the age of 18.
- You did not have a legal right to custody of the child.
- You acted intending to detain or conceal the child from their lawful custodian.
The element of intent is essential in child abduction cases. You must have intended to keep the child from their lawful custodian, even if you did not intend to harm the child in any way.
Below are some examples of child abduction:
- A parent takes their child from the other parent without permission and refuses to return the child.
- A non-parent takes a child from their parents without permission and refuses to return the child.
- A stranger takes a child from the street or a playground without permission.
- A babysitter takes a child from their parents without permission and refuses to return the child.
Child abduction is a serious crime; anyone convicted of it can face up to four years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you are facing kidnapping charges in Pasadena, CA, you want to seek reliable counsel and guidance. At the Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we are on standby, ready to offer you the assistance and insights you need to navigate this daunting ordeal. For a thorough and confidential consultation tailored to your charges, contact our office at 626-689-2277.