Review of Kidnapping Laws in California - Penal Code 207 PC
California Penal Code 207 PC describes the crime of kidnapping as moving someone a substantial distance against their will using force or fear.
Penal Code 236 false imprisonment is similar to PC 207 kidnapping, but the difference is whether the victim was moved to another location required for kidnapping charges. PC 236 has no such requirement.
In other words, if you hold someone against their will within one location by preventing them from freely leaving, then you could be charged with false imprisonment.
This type of situation and charges are often related to domestic violence.
Another closely related crime to PC 207, which is often called simple kidnapping, is aggravated kidnapping defined under Penal Code 209 PC, which a prosecutor can file if:
- ransom was demanded after kidnapping someone;
- force or fear was used on a victim under 14 years old;
- victim sustained serious bodily injury or death.
In normal circumstances, Penal Code 207 kidnapping is considered a “strike” under California's three-strikes law.
However, in Los Angeles County, the applicability of three strikes has been placed in doubt by the new LA District Attorney George Gascon.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers provide a detailed outline below for more information.
What Factors Must Be Proven for a PC 207 Kidnapping Conviction?
Before this question can be answered, we need first to know the legal definition of Penal Code 207 kidnapping:
- “Any person who forcibly, or by instilling fear, steals, takes, holds, or detains a person and carries them to another country, state, or county, or into a part of the same county, is guilty of the crime kidnapping.”
Thus, based on this definition of PC 207 kidnapping, a prosecutor must be able to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) numerous different factors that are called the “elements of the crime.”
These are listed under CALCRIM 1215 California criminal jury instructions.
- you held and moved someone;
- against their will,
- using force or fear.
The victim was “moved”
The requirement for a victim to be moved to be charged with PC 207 kidnapping means the distance moved needs to be significant. In other words, the movement can't just be some minor or non-trivial distance.
While there is no solid definition or rule under California law on how far someone must be moved, the criminal courts will generally consider several different factors to decide if this crucial element has been satisfied:
- the exact distance the victim was moved;
- if the movement helped the defendant avoid detection;
- if the movement increased danger level to the victim.
In prior kidnapping cases, even relatively small distances have been determined to qualify as a significant distance, but the circumstances of the case are usually the primary factor.
Using force, fear, or fraud
The significant movement of the victim must also be done by the use of either force or fear. This can be accomplished by physically grabbing and dragging the victim away or moving them to another location by physical restraint.
Fear is often applied by using a deadly weapon, such as holding the victim at gunpoint or knifepoint.
What Are the Related California Crimes?
Penal Code 209.5 PC – kidnapping during a carjacking,
Penal Code 210 PC – kidnapping to commit extortion,
Penal Code 236 PC – false imprisonment,
Penal Code 210.5 PC – false imprisonment to protect from arrest,
Penal Code 278 PC – child abduction.
Punishment for a PC 207 Kidnapping Conviction
If you are convicted of violating California Penal Code 207 PC, the penalties will always depend on whether the case involved a simple or aggravated kidnapping.
A simple kidnapping felony conviction carries the following penalties:
- three, five, or eight years in state prison, and;
- a maximum fine of $10,000.
Penal Code 209 PC aggravated kidnapping will be charged when the factors of simple kidnapping are satisfied, but additional more severe conditions are met, including:
- making a demand for ransom to return kidnapping victim;
- kidnapping of a child under 14 years old;
- kidnapping someone during a carjacking;
- you caused a serious bodily injury or death to the victim.
Thus, if convicted of PC 209 aggravated kidnapping, the penalties include five, eight, or eleven years in a California state prison if the kidnapping victim was under 14 years old.
Life in prison
Further, an aggravated kidnapping conviction can be punishable by life in prison, with the possibility of parole, if you kidnapped someone to commit the following crimes:
- Penal Code 261 PC – rape,
- Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor,
- Penal Code 211 PC – robbery,
- Penal Code 518 PC – extortion.
Defenses for Kidnapping Charges
Several common defense strategies are available for our criminal defense lawyers to reach the best possible outcome.
Defending against PC 207 kidnapping charges will primarily focus on creating reasonable doubt on the main elements of the crimes, such as:
- insufficient movement of the victim to support kidnapping charges;
- insufficient evidence for a conviction;
- victim gave consent to be moved;
- defendant had parental rights to move the child.
Recall that the victim must be moved a substantial distance to be charged with the serious felony crime of kidnapping.
If they were not sufficiently moved, we could probably get the charges reduced to PC 236 false imprisonment, which carries far less severe penalties.
Further, if the victim has moved a substantial distance, but force or fear can't be proven, then you have a good chance at avoiding a conviction for kidnapping.
A typical example would include a victim's move to another location using trick or fraud.
Child custody disputes
It's not uncommon to see kidnapping charges related to parents who have an active child custody dispute with their ex-spouse.
We might be able to argue there was no intent to commit an unlawful act, and the parent is not guilty of kidnapping.
Penal Code 207 PC felony kidnapping charges are a serious issue that can result in severe penalties if you are convicted.
If you are under investigation or already arrested and charged with simple or aggravated kidnapping, our criminal defense lawyers will review the details and provide legal guidance moving forward.
It might be possible to negotiate with the prosecutor for lesser charges or even a case dismissal.
Further, we might convince the prosecution not to file formal charges before the court through prefiling intervention.
Cron, Israels & Stark defend people against serious felony crimes such as kidnapping throughout Southern California from our two office locations in Los Angeles County. Call our firm to review the case at (424) 372-3112, or you can contact us online.