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If you actually kidnap a person in order to try to collect ransom or commit extortion, you violate California’s aggravated kidnapping law. This offense is punishable by life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, depending on whether the victim suffers death or bodily harm or is exposed to a substantial likelihood that he/she will suffer one of these fates.
If you pose as a kidnapper in order to try to collect ransom or commit extortion, you also commit a crime regardless of whether you (1) actually kidnap anyone, or (2) actually collect ransom or receive the benefit of the attempted extortion. This offense is punishable by up to four years in the California state prison, which is the same as a “regular” extortion charge.
The latter charge does not apply to a person who (1) believes that someone has been kidnapped, and (2) reasonably believes that he/she can rescue the victim. And this is the case even if the person collects a fee for those services, so long as he/she played no part in the fictitious kidnapping. (Read our article on kidnapping v. false imprisonment criminal laws in California.)
About the Author
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.