Kidnapping (Penal Code section 207)–Penalties And Defenses

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Kidnapping in California is a difficult charge to face because a conviction carries severe consequences and could radically change your life.

Make sure you take the steps necessary to protect your freedom if the state charges you with kidnapping. 

California kidnapping defense attorney Kerry L. Armstrong and our winning defense team with The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, have handled thousands of felony cases in California.

Relying on our experience and resources may give you the edge you need to reduce your kidnapping charge or to have your charges dismissed.

What Is Kidnapping in California?

Penal Code section 207 and Penal Code section 209 are the kidnapping laws in California.

Although these sections have several similarities, some important differences may help you understand the severity of your charges. 

Under Penal Code section 207, kidnapping occurs when someone:

  • Uses force or fear to hold, detain, or arrest someone and move them into another country, county, state, or another part of the same county;
  • Hires, entices, or lures a child under 14 into another location out of this country, state, or county, or to another place within the same county with the intent to perform lewd acts upon the victim; or
  • Uses force, fraud, or another illegal activity while in another state to bring, send, or move another person into California.

The state must also prove that the victim did not consent to be moved. Also, the movement must be substantial to qualify as kidnapping.

Any inconsequential movement might be better described as false imprisonment rather than kidnapping. 

Penal Code section 209 is California’s aggravated kidnapping statute.

The police can arrest you for aggravated kidnapping if the victim is under 14, the accused demands a ransom or reward, or the kidnapping occurred as part of a robbery, rape, or act of sodomy.

While in the commission of a carjacking offense, kidnapping is also a form of aggravated kidnapping. 

How Much Time Can You Get for Kidnapping in California?

Keep in mind that the prosecutor has to prove every element of the charge against you beyond a reasonable doubt before you suffer any penalty.

However, you should be familiar with the possible penalties you face if a judge or jury rules against you, even if you are innocent.

Penal Code section 208 provides the guidelines for a kidnapping sentence in California for violating Penal Code section 207.

Under Penal Code section 208, kidnapping is punishable by a state prison sentence of three, five, or eight years.

However, if the victim is under 14 years of age, the punishment increases to five, eight, or 11 years in state prison. These penalties do not apply to parental kidnapping. 

The judge has the discretion to grant probation instead of a state prison sentence.

Judges who give probation for kidnapping in place of prison must include a condition of probation that requires the offender to be confined in county jail for 12 months.

There are rare circumstances where the interests of justice warrant a lesser penalty, but the judge must specify these reasons if they choose to remove this probationary condition.

If the victim died, suffered bodily harm, or was held under conditions likely to cause death or bodily harm, a conviction under Penal Code section 209 would result in life in prison without parole.

However, the law grants the possibility of parole from a life sentence if the victim did not die or suffer actual bodily harm. 

Similarly, kidnapping during a carjacking is a life felony with the possibility of parole. 

Defending Kidnapping Charges

At The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, we tap into our vast resources to develop your best defense.

Our kidnapping investigation process starts with reviewing witness statements and police reports. We comb through every detail to find the best possible defense. 

Some of our clients face false kidnapping charges, and if the alleged victim fabricated the charges, we would discuss your options.

We might find grounds to ask for a dismissal and avoid trial. Or, going to trial to seek a not-guilty verdict might be the best option for you.

We’ve tried well over 100 cases to jury trial in courts all over California—so you can rest assured that we have the experience you can trust to guide you through the trial process. 

Depending on your situation, we might also be able to negotiate your case down to an attempted kidnapping charge or other lesser charges.

Negotiating with the prosecutor can be a valuable strategy to reduce your chances of incarceration.

Get Help Right Now for Your Kidnapping in California Charges

You have only one chance to defend your freedom. Our criminal defense team gives you the emotional support and advocacy you deserve.

The State Bar of California has board-certified Attorney Kerry L. Armstrong as a legal specialist in criminal law—a distinction that very few lawyers have.

Kerry and our team have also won numerous outstanding service and performance awards. Call us today at 619-597-1478 to learn more.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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