What does Kidnapping mean?
Kidnapping is the transportation of an individual a substantial distance from their original location with the use of force and isolation. Kidnapping is often combined with other criminal activities such as bodily injury and terror. Kidnapping may occur during the commission of a felony or for the purpose of requesting a ransom.
Common examples of kidnapping include the forceful removal of a child to an isolated location and then requesting a ransom for their return or taking hostages and holding them in an isolated location while committing another felony such as bank robbery or hijacking.
Kidnapping should not be confused with unlawful restraint, which is the forced constraining of someone which can lead to serious bodily harm, or false imprisonment, which does not require that the victim is transported a significant distance from their original location, only that their freedom and liberty is substantially restricted.
Penalties for kidnapping
Although state laws differ, every state considers kidnapping a very serious criminal charge. All states consider kidnapping a felony, although some states differentiate in the degree of the crime, which can differ based on the age of the victim, whether the victim was sexually assaulted, or whether they were threatened or injured.
Common penalties for kidnapping include a lengthy prison sentence, fines ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, and probation up to 10 years.
Laws concerning parental kidnapping vary by state. Parents involved in a divorce or those who already have a custodial agreement need to understand the laws in their state. In fact, whether or not a parent’s actions may be considered “parental kidnapping” will depend on whether there is an existing custody agreement, the intention of the parent, and the legal status of the offending parent.
For example, spouses who are not divorced or do not have a pending custodial order generally have equal access to their child. With this is in mind, it is generally legal for a parent to travel with their child or take them on extended trips. If there are custodial orders in place, however, there are much greater restraints in place. For example, if a parent takes the child in violation of a custodial agreement, especially for an extended period of time and with the intention of hiding the child, this activity could be considered illegal.
Keep in mind, some states have very specific statutes regarding parental kidnapping. For example, Michigan laws state that a child may not be taken, held, and concealed for more than twenty-four hours without the consent of the other parent. Other states have much broader laws. Talk to a family law attorney in your state if you have questions about your state’s laws.