18-3-304 CRS - Violation of Court Order Relating to Custody or Parental Responsibilities

Taking a child from a parent or guardian without the legal right

18-3-304 C.R.S. of the Colorado criminal code deals with a special type of kidnapping. Under 18-3-304 C.R.S., it is a felony to:

  • Take a child under 18 from the custody or care of the child's parents or guardian, or 
  • Entice the child to take leave of them, other than for serious danger to the child's welfare.

This offense is commonly referred to as parental kidnaping in Colorado. It frequently arises after a court has granted one parent sole custody of a minor child or children following a divorce.

Punishment for removing a child from his/her parents or violating a Colorado parental responsibilities order can include:

  • up to 3 years in a Colorado prison (or 6 if you take the child out of the country), and 
  • a fine of up to $100,000 (or $500,000 if you take the child out of the country).

To help you better understand the crime of violating an order relating to parental responsibilities, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

1. What does Colorado 18-3-304 C.R.S. prohibit?

18-3-304 (1) C.R.S. makes it a crime for anyone -- including a natural or foster parent -- to take or entice any child under the age of 18 years from the custody or care of the child's parents, guardian, or other lawful custodian or person with parental responsibilities, knowing that he or she has no privilege to do so or heedless in that regard.

18-3-304 (2) C.R.S. prohibits a parent or other person from violating a court order granting custody of a child under 18 or parental responsibilities for the child, with the intent to deprive the lawful custodian or person with parental responsibilities of the custody or care of that child.

2. In which Colorado county can I be charged?

If you are charged with wrongfully removing a child from his or her parent or legal guardian, you can be tried in either:

  • The county in which the act is committed, or 
  • If there was a Colorado court order relating to the child's custody, the county in which the court is located.

3. Penalties for taking a child from a parent or legal guardian in Colorado

Consequences of removing a child from custody can include:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

If, however, the child is taken out of the country, it becomes a Colorado class 4 felony. Punishment for taking a child out of the country can include:

  • 2-6 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

4. Defenses to violating an order relating to children

There are two affirmative defenses specific to 18-3-304 C.R.S. An affirmative defense is one that you actually need to prove. They are:

  • You reasonably believed that your conduct was necessary to preserve the child from danger to his/her welfare, or 
  • The child was more than fourteen years old and you took the child at his or her own instigation, without enticement, and without the intent to commit a criminal offense with or against the child.

Other defenses we often see in child removal cases include (but are not limited to): 

  • You had the legal right to take the child – for instance, the parent or legal guardian approved an outing.
  • You reasonably didn't know you had no legal right to take the child.
  • You did not intend to deprive the parent – or other parent or legal guardian – of custody. 

Call us for help…

Custody battles can get nasty, especially when someone believes a child isn't being properly cared for. Prosecutors understand that people love their children. With a proper and proactive defense, a good Colorado criminal attorney can convince the prosecutor that there was no criminal intent to deprive the child's rightful parent or guardian of legal custody. Often this will lead to the charges being dropped, or to a plea bargain to a lesser or misdemeanor charge that will keep you out of prison.

If you have been charged with wrongful removal of a child or another kidnapping offense, we invite you to call us for a free consultation. One of our Colorado defense lawyers will get back to you promptly to discuss your case and the best possible defenses to your charges.

Communities we serve include Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, Centennial and Boulder.

In Denver, our office is located at:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 222-0330


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