Many people assume a kidnapping is the taking of a child from his or her home, and often, the victims of kidnapping are minors. However, an individual can be convicted if he or she takes an adult person who does not wish to go along to another place and stay with him or her. Kidnapping commonly involves the use of force or fear to capture and detain another person.
Understanding Penal Code 207
California’s Penal Code 207 defines kidnapping as an incident when a person takes, holds, detains or arrests another person and carries that person into another country, state, county or into another part of the same county by force or fear. In accordance with Penal Code 207, an individual in the State of California could be found guilty and the convicted of the crime if a prosecutor can prove the individual:
- forcibly detained, held or took another individual or instilled fear so the individual would come along with him or her;
- Used that force or fear to make the other individual go a distance away; and
- that other individual did not agree to come along out of a desire to do so.
When considering if the offender did take another individual a distance away, it must have been more than a small distance, in accordance with the kidnapping laws in place in California. When an offender appears in court, the prosecutor will seek to establish that it did involve moving another individual an unreasonable distance. In most cases, the court will need to know the following:
- Actual distance moved;
- If the distance taken was done more in light of another crime;
- If the movement increased the risk of physical or psychological harm; and
- If the movement increased the danger involved with an escape attempt, gave the attacker an opportunity to commit more crimes, or decreased the likelihood of being found by someone looking for the person taken.
A “simple” kidnapping becomes “aggravated” kidnapping, which is a more serious offense, in accordance with California laws when someone uses fear, force or fraud to move another person without that person’s consent and:
- The victim is under 14 years of age
- The victim is taken during a carjacking
- The victim was injured physically or even died
- The victim was held for ransom
Punishment for a kidnapping conviction in California
Kidnapping is considered a felony in California, regardless of if it is considered a“simple” kidnapping or “aggravated” kidnapping. If convicted of “simple” kidnapping, an individual could face up to eight years in state prison and fines totalling up to $10,000.
If convicted of “aggravated” kidnapping in California, an individual could face up to 11 years in state prison, a strike on his or her record or even life in prison without the possibility of parole if the victim was held for a reward, ransom, through robbery or for sex. Furthermore, if someone is found guilty of kidnapping an individual in California and that individual dies, the offender also will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Defenses for kidnapping
When an aggressive criminal defense attorney is hired to defend someone who has been charged with violating California’s Penal Code 207, he or she will meet the client to determine the defense strategy that could prove to be the most successful in court. It is important for the defense attorney to determine the actual distance the person was moved and if that person did or did not consent to the move. Sometimes, an individual does willingly go with the other person, so that individual should not be found to be guilty of kidnapping. Sometimes, the victim was not moved a substantial distance, thus the individual should not be convicted of kidnapping under Penal Code 207.
A skilled criminal defense attorney also will seek to convince the court the individual did not cause any increased harm to the victim by moving him or her. This often is found to be the case when the situation involves divorced parents and their own child. Furthermore, the defense attorney may seek to show the court his or her client took another individual to keep them from imminent danger. It is not against the law in California to take another individual in order to protect them from a harmful situation.