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Can I go to jail for depriving someone of child visitation rights?
Oftentimes a child’s parents who are not married either share custody of their child(ren) or one parent gains custody and the other is granted a right to scheduled visits. If you are the parent who has custody the majority of the time, and you interfere with the other parent’s visitation rights, you not only jeopardize your custody privileges, you face criminal prosecution as well under Penal Code 278.5 PC, California’s law against the deprivation of custody.
1. How does California law define “deprivation of custody”?
PC 278.5 makes it a crime maliciously to deprive another adult of his/her lawful right to custody of, or visitation with, a child. Deprivation of custody is sometimes referred to as “child detention.”1
Note that most parents do not get along well when they are involved in a custody dispute. When this is the case, some parents may try to take their anger or revenge out on the other parent through the children. One way to do this is to try to hinder or obstruct the other parent’s time with the children.
The “primary” parent may mistakenly believe that he/she has the freedom to do this, but Penal Code 278.5 PC prohibits just that.
2. What are the penalties under PC 278.5?
The crime of deprivation of custody is a wobbler. A prosecutor can charge a wobbler as either a:
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.