Extortion by Posing as a Kidnapper
California Penal Code 210 PC

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Posing as a kidnapper seeking ransom is a violation of PC 210, even if you had nothing to do with the kidnapping

Penal Code 210 PC prohibits extortion by posing as a kidnapper. If...for the purpose of obtaining ransom, reward or extortion money...you

  1. pose as (that is, claim to be) an individual who has either kidnapped an individual for this purpose or who has aided and abetted another person who has kidnapped an individual for this purpose, or
  2. pose as an individual who can secure a release of an individual who has been kidnapped under these circumstances,

you violate Penal Code 210 PC.1

What's important to understand is that you can be convicted of extortion by posing as a kidnapper without actually kidnapping anyone.

In fact, if you do kidnap an individual for purposes of extortion, you face more serious charges under Penal Code 209 PC, one of California's aggravated
kidnapping laws that prohibits kidnapping for reward, ransom or extortion.2 This felony subjects you to a sentence of life in prison.

Defenses

Some of the most common legal defenses to fight a PC 210 charge include:

  • you were falsely accused,
  • you were a victim of mistaken identity, or
  • you had a good faith belief that you could rescue the allegedly kidnapped individual...and played no part in the alleged kidnapping...even if you collect money for your efforts.3
Penalties

If you are convicted of posing as a kidnapper in connection with extortion, you face a felony, punishable by two, three or four years in the California state prison.4

5 explain Penal Code 210 PC by addressing the following:

1. What Constitutes Extortion by Posing as
a Kidnapper?
2. Legal Defenses
3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California's Kidnapping Laws; Extortion; Aiding and Abetting; Legal Defenses; Felony Charges; California's Parole Laws; Nevada's Extortion Laws; and Nevada's Kidnapping Laws.

1. What is Kidnapping For the Purpose of Extortion?

Let's start off with the basics.

Under California's kidnapping laws, you kidnap another person when you move another person without that person's consent by using force or fear.6

And extortion ...also commonly referred to as blackmail...involves

  1. using force or fear to compel another person to give you money or other property,
  2. using force or fear threats to compel a public officer to perform an official act, or
  3. being a public official and compelling another person to give you money or other property while acting in an official capacity.7

"Force or fear" means that you

  • actually inflict physical force upon the alleged victim, or
  • threaten to inflict imminent physical harm.

Penal Code 210 PC is more directly related to extortion than kidnapping. This is because extortion by posing as a kidnapper doesn't necessarily involve an actual kidnapping, but simply a desire to obtain money or some other thing of value.

You violate this law when you seek to obtain ransom, a reward or extort money for the release of an alleged kidnapped person by posing as

  1. the kidnapper,
  2. the person who has detained the alleged victim,
  3. a person who has "aided and abetted" the kidnapper (in violation of California's aiding and abetting laws), or
  4. someone who has the ability to obtain the alleged victim's release.8
Example: The defendant telephoned the father of a 13-year-old girl to say that he and some other people had kidnapped his daughter and that she'd be "hurt bad" if the father didn't leave for his bank within 20 seconds to obtain $15,000.

The court held that the evil this law seeks to prevent is exploiting a person's fears over the reported kidnapping of a loved one. If the person believes that his/her loved one has been kidnapped, the crime has been committed, even in the absence of an actual kidnapping.9

Now, if you actually do kidnap an individual for the purpose of obtaining ransom, a reward or to extort money or some other item of value, you face charges under Penal Code 209 PC, one of California's aggravated kidnapping laws.

Kidnapping under these circumstances subjects you to

  • life in prison without the possibility of parole if the victim suffers death or bodily harm or is intentionally confined in a manner which exposes him/her to a substantial likelihood of death, or
  • life in prison with the possibility of parole if that danger does not exist.10
2. Legal Defenses

There are a variety of legal defenses to Penal Code 210 PC that your California criminal defense lawyer could present on your behalf. Examples of some of the most common include (but are not limited to):

  • you were falsely accused,
  • you were a victim of mistaken identity, or
  • you had a good faith belief that you could rescue the allegedly kidnapped individual...and played no part in the alleged kidnapping...even if you collect money for your efforts.11
3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

If you violate Penal Code 210 PC, you face a felony punishable by two, three or four years in the California State Prison.12

But as Ventura criminal defense attorney Darrell York13 explains, "We will do our best to fight your charge so that it gets reduced or even dismissed so that you never spend a day in prison...and as former police investigators and district attorneys, we know the most effective strategies for doing just that."

Call us for help...
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If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 210 PC extortion by posing as a kidnapper and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada's extortion laws and/or Nevada's
kidnapping laws
. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.14

Legal References:

1 Penal Code 210 PC -- Extortion by posing as kidnapper or by claiming ability to obtain release of victim; punishment; exception. ("Every person who for the purpose of obtaining any ransom or reward, or to extort or exact from any person any money or thing of value, poses as, or in any manner represents himself to be a person who has seized, confined, inveigled, enticed, decoyed, abducted, concealed, kidnapped or carried away any person, or who poses as, or in any manner represents himself to be a person who holds or detains such person, or who poses as, or in any manner represents himself to be a person who has aided or abetted any such act, or who poses as or in any manner represents himself to be a person who has the influence, power, or ability, to obtain the release of such person so seized, confined, inveigled, enticed, decoyed, abducted, concealed, kidnapped or carried away, is guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment for two, three or four years. Nothing in this section prohibits any person who, in good faith believes that he can rescue any person who has been seized, confined, inveigled, enticed, decoyed, abducted, concealed, kidnapped or carried away, and who has had no part in, or connection with, such confinement, inveigling, decoying, abducting, concealing, kidnapping, or carrying away, from offering to rescue or obtain the release of such person for a monetary consideration or other thing of value.")

2 California Penal Code 209 PC -- Kidnapping for ransom, reward, or extortion, or to commit robbery or rape; punishment. ("(a) Any person who seizes, confines, inveigles, entices, decoys, abducts, conceals, kidnaps or carries away another person [thereby violating California's kidnapping law] by any means whatsoever with intent to hold or detain, or who holds or detains, that person for ransom, reward or to commit extortion [under Penal Code 518 PC California's extortion law] or to exact from another person any money or valuable thing, or any person who aids or abets any such act, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life without possibility of parole in cases in which any person subjected to any such act suffers death or bodily harm, or is intentionally confined in a manner which exposes that person to a substantial likelihood of death, or shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole in cases where no such person suffers death or bodily harm. (b)(1) Any person who kidnaps or carries away any individual to commit robbery, rape, spousal rape, oral copulation, sodomy, or any violation of Section 264.1, 288, or 289, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole. (2) This subdivision shall only apply if the movement of the victim is beyond that merely incidental to the commission of, and increases the risk of harm to the victim over and above that necessarily present in, the intended underlying offense. (c) In all cases in which probation is granted, the court shall, except in unusual cases where the interests of justice would best be served by a lesser penalty, require as a condition of the probation that the person be confined in the county jail for 12 months. If the court grants probation without requiring the defendant to be confined in the county jail for 12 months, it shall specify its reason or reasons for imposing a lesser penalty. (d) Subdivision (b) shall not be construed to supersede or affect Section 667.61. A person may be charged with a violation of subdivision (b) and Section 667.61. However, a person may not be punished under subdivision (b) and Section 667.61 for the same act that constitutes a violation of both subdivision (b) and Section 667.61.")

3 See Penal Code 210 PC California's law against extortion by posing as a kidnapper, endnote 1, above.

4 See same.

5 Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier. We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

6 California Penal Code 207 PC - California's kidnapping law. ("(a) Every person who 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, is guilty of kidnapping. (b) Every person, who for the purpose of committing any act defined in Section 288, hires, persuades, entices, decoys, or seduces by false promises, misrepresentations, or the like, any child under the age of 14 years to go out of this country, state, or county, or into another part of the same county, is guilty of kidnapping. (c) Every person who forcibly, or by any other means of instilling fear, takes or holds, detains, or arrests any person, with a design to take the person out of this state, without having established a claim, according to the laws of the United States, or of this state, or who hires, persuades, entices, decoys, or seduces by false promises, misrepresentations, or the like, any person to go out of this state, or to be taken or removed therefrom, for the purpose and with the intent to sell that person into slavery or involuntary servitude, or otherwise to employ that person for his or her own use, or to the use of another, without the free will and consent of that persuaded person, is guilty of kidnapping. (d) Every person who, being out of this state, abducts or takes by force or fraud any person contrary to the law of the place where that act is committed, and brings, sends, or conveys that person within the limits of this state, and is afterwards found within the limits thereof, is guilty of kidnapping. (e) For purposes of those types of kidnapping requiring force, the amount of force required to kidnap an unresisting infant or child is the amount of physical force required to take and carry the child away a substantial distance for an illegal purpose or with an illegal intent. (f) Subdivisions (a) to (d), inclusive, do not apply to any of the following: (1) To any person who steals, takes, entices away, detains, conceals, or harbors any child under the age of 14 years, if that act is taken to protect the child from danger of imminent harm. (2) To any person acting under Section 834 or 837.")

7 California Penal Code 518 -- Definition. ("Extortion is the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer, induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.")

8 See Penal Code 210 PC California's law against extortion by posing as a kidnapper, endnote 1, above.

9 People v. Alday (1973) 10 C.3d 392.

10 See California Penal Code 209 PC -- Kidnapping for ransom, reward, or extortion, or to commit robbery or rape; punishment, endnote 2, above.

11 See Penal Code 210 PC, California's law against extortion by posing as a kidnapper, endnote 1, above.

12 See same.

13 Ventura criminal defense lawyer Darrell York uses his former experience as a Glendale Police Officer to represents clients at the Ventura Hall of Justice, the Van Nuys courthouse, the Pasadena courthouse, the Burbank courthouse, the Glendale courthouse, the Lancaster courthouse, the San Fernando courthouse, and the Criminal Courts Building.

14 Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse for any questions relating to Nevada's extortion or kidnapping laws. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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