Penal Code 278 – Child Abduction in California
In California, someone just can’t take a child, even if he or she believes the child “belongs” to him or her. Some parents may think it is not “kidnapping,” if he or she is “yours,” but that’s not true. It can hurt a child to be uprooted and kept from the other person caring for him or her.
Furthermore, it can cause grief for the rightful guardian. According to Penal Code 278, if an individual maliciously removes a child from his or her legal guardian and does not have custody over the child this is considered a child abduction or child stealing. A person has custody over a child if he or she is the parent of the child and his or her rights have not been revoked or restricted by the court or if a person has a custody order by the court.
If someone intends to keep a child from his or her legal custodian, without even transporting the child somewhere out of state, this still is considered child abduction under Penal Code 278. The offense of child abduction may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
If convicted of a felony, the person faces a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to four years in a California state prison. A misdemeanor conviction lands someone in jail for up to one year and require a maximum fine of $1,000 to be paid. In addition, if found guilty, the individual has to reimburse all costs associated with the safe return of the child.
Defending Parental Kidnapping
If an individual in California has been charged with violating Penal Code 278, a criminal defense attorney still can defend the person’s actions in a court of law. The attorney could present numerous defense options on the defendant’s behalf. For example, the individual charged could have had legal custody of the child, so an error may have been made, and this person would not be prosecuted.
Perhaps, the person has been accused falsely or sufficient evidence does not exist to convict him or her of the crime. Additionally, a defense attorney could show the individual did not take the child maliciously but with good intentions.
When one takes a child maliciously, it means he or she did so to to punish another person or with the desire to do a wrongful act. A person’s defense options can be reviewed in depth with a defense attorney.
Unfortunately, parental kidnapping often is the result of a custody dispute. Often, the parents play a game of tug-of-war when it comes to who gets the child. Parents may not even realize they are breaking penal code 278 at the time and just want to spend time with their son or daughter. If, after reading this article, you would like more information on Penal Code 278, please contact my office for further assistance. I can help you better understand how to avoid a parental kidnapping situation.