Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
Every state in the U.S. treats the crime of kidnapping as a felony offense (as opposed to a misdemeanor). Many states have different degrees of felonies so the specific penalties for this offense will slightly vary among jurisdictions.
However, most states say that the offense is punishable by minimum state prison sentences of up to five years, and depending on the facts of the case, a kidnapping charge could lead to a life in prison.
While state kidnapping laws vary, people typically commit this crime if they
Some states also require that the kidnapper move the person some distance. Kidnapping cases do not require the defendant to inflict any type of bodily harm/bodily injury on the alleged “victim.”
Note that while false imprisonment is a crime related to kidnapping, it is still a distinct offense. False imprisonment is the crime in which a defendant
The offense generally does not require that the defendant move the victim in any way.
Yes. All states categorize the criminal offense of kidnapping as a felony.
Some state laws set forth different degrees of this felony. For example, a state may have
First-degree offenses are the most severe crimes with third-degree kidnapping being the least severe.
First-degree kidnapping is usually referred to as “aggravated kidnapping” and requires that the kidnapper either:
States treat all kidnapping offenses as serious crimes. At the minimum, people convicted of this offense will likely face custody in state prison for up to five years. Aggravated kidnapping convictions can result in a prison sentence of between 20 years to life.
Kidnapping charges can also result in a fine of between $10,000 and $50,000.
Given the severity of these penalties, people accused of kidnapping must seek help from a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense lawyer can help a client build a legal defense to help contest a kidnapping charge.
A few common defenses include attorneys showing that:
Note that most defense attorneys offer a free consultation. This means a defendant can learn about his/her legal options without spending a dime.
Most states say that a defendant commits kidnapping if he/she:
Many jurisdictions also say that the kidnapping must be done with some type of criminal intent, such as kidnapping
Many states also say that the offender has to move the victim some distance, for example, from one home to a building or to another home or car.
No. Kidnapping and false imprisonment are related offenses, but still two distinct crimes.
False imprisonment is the offense where a defendant:
Most states say that a defendant does not have to move a victim to be found guilty of this offense.
Further, most jurisdictions treat false imprisonment as a less serious offense than kidnapping. Prosecutors usually have the option to charge the offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Under Penal Code 207 PC, a prosecutor must prove the following elements to successfully convict a defendant of kidnapping:
Simple kidnapping takes place when an accused moves another person without that person’s consent by using force or fear.5
Aggravated kidnapping takes place when a defendant moves another person without that person’s consent by using force, fear, or fraud, and:
Simple kidnapping is a felony punishable by
Depending on the facts of the case, aggravated kidnapping can lead to a prison term of between 11 years to life with or without the possibility of parole.8
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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