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Best Defenses for Kidnapping Charges

Posted by Sam Israels | Mar 26, 2022

In California, Penal Code 207 PC defines the serious felony crime of “kidnapping” as moving somebody a substantial distance, against their will, using force or fear. PC 207 is usually called “simple kidnapping” and is a felony offense that carries up to eight years in state prison.

Defending Kidnapping Charges - Penal Code 207 PC

Penal Code 209 PC, a related offense, is known as “aggravated kidnapping” that can be charged against somebody when they commit kidnapping for ransom or reward or to commit another felony crime, such as rape or carjacking. PC 209 is the more severe charge than PC 207, simple kidnapping, and carries of sentence of life in prison.

Federal kidnapping charges are defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1201 as follows:

  • “The unlawful restraint of someone's liberty by force or show of force for movement to another location to conceal.”

Since Congress enacted the Federal Kidnapping Act under their commerce-clause authority, federal kidnapping charges require restraint for transport across state lines or out of the country. Further, it requires a ransom or reward purpose.

A conviction for federal kidnapping carries a sentence of up to twenty years in a Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility and more under aggravating circumstances. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will look closer at the kidnapping laws below.

Defining Kidnapping – Penal Code 207 PC

California state kidnapping charges are more common than federal charges because they don't require the victim's movement across state lines.  Penal Code 207 PC defines kidnapping as:

  • “forcibly or by fear taking, holding, detaining, or arresting the victim, and carrying the victim into another county, or part of the same county.”

Simply put, the victim's movement under restraint is sufficient for state charges of kidnapping, even if the movement crosses no particular jurisdictional lines. However, using force or fear is an element of kidnapping crime. In other words, kidnapping does not require a battery or harmful contact. Just the threats of harm are sufficient for the kidnapping crime.

Defining False Imprisonment – Penal Code 236 PC

False imprisonment is a closely related crime to kidnapping and is defined as the “unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.” It involves unlawfully detaining someone but does not require the victim's movement, differentiating it from kidnapping.

Another related crime is Penal Code 210.5, which defines false imprisonment of a hostage to avoid arrest.  Other related kidnapping crimes include:

  • Penal Code 210 PC – kidnapping for extortion,
  • Penal Code 278 PC – child abduction,
  • Penal Code 278.5 PC – deprivation of child custody.

Defining Aggravated Kidnapping - Penal Code 209 PC

Under California law, there are sentencing enhancements for aggravated kidnapping. Penal Code 209 defines an aggravated kidnapping as occurring when the kidnapper intends the kidnapping to be for ransom, reward, or extortion.

Penalties for PC 207 Kidnapping in California

If convicted of aggravated kidnapping, the defendant is facing life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. If the victim suffers death or bodily harm, or if the confinement subjects them to a substantial risk of death, then the penalty is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Penal Code 209 PC enhanced the offense to aggravated kidnapping when it was committed for the following crimes:

  • Penal Code 261 PC - rape,
  • Penal Code 286 PC - sodomy,
  • Penal Code 287 PC – oral copulation by force,
  • Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor,
  • Penal Code 211 PC – robbery,
  • Penal Code 518 PC – extortion.

Kidnapping During a Carjacking – Penal Code 209.5

Under this statute, penalties increase when the allegation is that the defendant committed a kidnapping during a carjacking. A convicted defendant is eligible for parole on a life sentence after serving the minimum number of years on the imposed sentence.

In other words, if the kidnapping for carjacking sentence were fifteen years to life, then parole would be possible after the inmate serves fifteen years. Parole, however, is discretionary with the parole board.

What Are the Penalties?

If convicted for kidnapping, the penalties are usually harsh, including the following for Penal Code 207 simple kidnapping:

  • a maximum fine up to $10,000.
  • three, five, or eight years in state prison,

Penal Code 208 PC imposes a potentially more significant penalty of five, eight, or eleven years for kidnapping a child under fourteen but recognizes the possibility of a parent taking a child.

PC 208(c) says that if the court grants probation, it will require a defendant to serve that probation confined for twelve months in the county jail unless the judge determines unusual circumstances that warrant a lighter sentence.

How Can I Fight Kidnapping Charges?

There is a wide range of defense strategies we can you to challenge kidnapping charges depending on the details of the case, including:

  • insufficient movement to charge kidnapping,
  • false accusation,
  • mistaken identification,
  • challenge the elements of the crime.

Mistaken identifications and poor witness recall are pretty common in kidnapping cases. Perhaps the victim initially gave consent to travel but later regretted their decision.

How to Fight Kidnapping Charges

Further, all defendants have due-process rights to defend kidnapping charges that include the right against unreasonable search and seizure. If violated, it could lead to a suppression of evidence in court.

The criminal justice system offers preliminary examination, discovery, motion to suppress and dismiss that we could use to get exonerating evidence and challenge unsupported allegations.

Kidnapping is a serious felony crime that carries harsh penalties and collateral consequences. Anyone facing kidnapping charges, significantly a federal charge, needs to retain a defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles County and we serve people throughout Southern California, including Ventura County, Orange County, San Bernardino, and Riverside. Contact us for a free case review at 424-372-3112, or by filling out our contact form.

About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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