Kidnapping is a serious crime that can result in jail time, costly fines, and other ramifications for you and your loved ones.

Kidnapping is considered a felony, so you can lose your right to vote while incarcerated or on parole for the crime. You also lose your right to serve on a jury unless you restore your California civil rights.

Even if the prosecution does not succeed in convicting you of kidnapping, your reputation may suffer irreparable harm from the allegations alone. 

The best way to avoid a kidnapping conviction or to get your kidnapping charges reduced to a misdemeanor is by hiring a kidnapping lawyer in San Diego County to represent your case. 

Criminal Laws on Kidnapping: California

California law outlines two different forms of kidnapping. Simple kidnapping (Penal Code section 207) occurs when someone moves another person without that person’s consent by use of force or fear. 

Aggravated kidnapping is a more serious charge than simple kidnapping.

Aggravated kidnapping occurs when someone moves another person without their consent by use of force, fear, or fraud, and:

  • The victim is a child under 14 years old,
  • The victim is held for ransom,
  • The kidnapping occurs during a carjacking, or
  • The victim suffers bodily harm or death.

Moving the victim is a necessary element of kidnapping. The movement must be substantial, not a slight or trivial distance.

Factors to consider when determining whether the movement is “substantial” include:

  • The actual distance moved,
  • Whether the movement increased the risk of harm to the alleged victim, and
  • Whether the movement decreased the likelihood of being caught.

The judge or jury presiding over the case at trial will determine whether the movement is substantial enough to justify a kidnapping conviction.

Penalties for Kidnapping 

Kidnapping is a felony that carries the potential for three, five, or eight years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Aggravated kidnapping where the alleged victim was under 14 is considered a felony and carries the potential for five, eight, or 11 years in prison.

Aggravated kidnapping carries the potential for life in prison with the possibility for parole if the kidnapping was for ransom, reward, or to commit:

  • Blackmail,
  • Robbery,
  • Rape,
  • Oral copulation by force,
  • Illegal acts of sodomy,
  • Lewd acts with a minor, or
  • Carjacking.

Aggravated kidnapping carries the potential for life in prison without the possibility for parole if the kidnapping was for ransom, reward, or to commit extortion and:

  • The alleged victim suffers death or bodily harm, or
  • The accused places the alleged victim in a situation that exposes them to a substantial likelihood of death.

As you can see, the penalties for kidnapping can increase significantly depending on the circumstances.

Potential Defenses in a San Diego County Kidnapping Case

The prosecutor must prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can review the details of your case and determine whether a legal defense can defeat an element of the crime. 

The lack of the alleged victim’s consent is a necessary element of a kidnapping charge. Thus, if you can show an alleged victim consented to move to another place, it can act as a legal defense to kidnapping charges. Children and individuals who are mentally incapacitated cannot legally give consent. 

Another element of kidnapping is the use of force, fear, and—in cases of aggravated kidnapping—fraud.

In the case of simple kidnapping, this means the accused used physical force during the kidnapping or threatened to inflict imminent physical harm.

In the case of aggravated kidnapping, fraud means making false promises or misleading the victim to convince them to give consent to be moved to another place. 

As stated above, moving someone to another place is a necessary element of a kidnapping charge.

Keeping someone in one location instead of moving them to another place can act as a defense against the charges.

However, the prosecutor may still charge you with false imprisonment, which does not require movement to another location. 

Charges Related to Kidnapping

In some cases, statutes outline specific conduct separate from the kidnapping charge.

Alternatively, the jury can convict you for a lesser-included offense of kidnapping if they believe that is a more just resolution.

Kidnapping in Connection with Extortion

California Penal Code §210 prohibits anyone from seeking to extort someone or recover reward money by posing as a kidnapper. This statute also applies to anyone who has aided and abetted another person posing as a kidnapper.

Kidnapping in connection with extortion is a felony that carries two, three, or four years in prison. You can be convicted of this charge even if you did not kidnap anyone.

False Imprisonment

False imprisonment occurs when someone restrains, confines, or detains another without their consent.

False imprisonment is a lesser included offense of kidnapping because you cannot kidnap someone without falsely imprisoning them.

However, unlike kidnapping, false imprisonment does not require the use of fear, force, or fraud to successfully prove the charge.

Additionally, keeping someone in a singular location without letting them leave is enough to sustain a false imprisonment charge, but it does not qualify as kidnapping.

The prosecutor decides whether to charge false imprisonment as a misdemeanor or a felony.

A felony false imprisonment conviction carries a maximum sentence of three years of incarceration.

A misdemeanor false imprisonment conviction carries the possibility of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Can I Face Kidnapping Charges for Taking My Own Child?

In some cases, you can face charges for taking your own child without permission. 

A parent with legal custody of their child can freely travel with them, even without the permission of the child’s other parent.

California’s child abduction law prohibits a parent without legal custody of their child from maliciously keeping their child away from the parent/guardian with legal custody. A parent who kidnaps their child can face charges of child abduction and kidnapping.

How Can a San Diego Kidnapping Lawyer Help My Case?

An experienced San Diego County criminal defense attorney gives you the best chance of avoiding a kidnapping conviction.

We will review the details of your case and see if a legal defense can defeat a necessary element of the kidnapping charge. Our team can collect information about your case by:

  • Requesting a copy of the police report,
  • Reviewing interviews from the complainant and witnesses, and
  • Watching available BWC or surveillance footage.

If you are facing charges of kidnapping, San Diego attorneys at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, are here to assist you. 

Contact a Kidnapping Attorney to Discuss the Details of Your Criminal Case

Our team of kidnapping lawyers has the knowledge and resources to aggressively defend you against kidnapping charges.

Kerry L. Armstrong, our founding attorney, has represented hundreds of clients against allegations of criminal misconduct.

To give you the best representation possible, we focus exclusively on criminal defense law.

Our team does not back down from challenging or complex cases and strives to provide high-quality representation in every case.

When your liberties are at stake, you want an attorney who will go above and beyond to protect you.

Contact a member of our team to schedule an appointment.