The Crime of Parental Kidnapping | Penal Code 278 PC

The crime of kidnapping of any type for any reason is a very serious offense and is punishable on different levels, by varying degrees in different states. Most of us are now familiar with the case of Ariel Castro who kidnapped 3 young women in Cleveland, Ohio and held them captive under torturous conditions for over 10 years. The judge recently sentenced him to life in prison plus 1,000 years without the possibility of parole for his crimes.

The crime of kidnapping in California basically has two main parts:

  1. Taking or holding someone by force or threat.
  2. Moving that person somewhere else by transporting them against their will.

There is some difference, however, if victims are under the age of 14 wherein a perpetrator may not use force or threat but is guilty of luring a child by making false promises or representations to get the child to go somewhere else. Examples of this would be luring them to a vehicle by promise of showing them a puppy, or taking them to their mother, etc. A non-custodial parent may also be guilty of this by telling their child the other parent said it is o.k. to go with them on a trip or some such adventure.

Custody cases involving kidnapping of one or more children by a parent (child abduction) are a criminal offense. In 1980 Congress enacted The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act in conjunction with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. It's designed to promote the best interests of the child in a custody decision and to prevent parental abduction into other jurisdictions. If a parent fears their child will be kidnapped, they should make their fears known either to the judge presiding in their custody case, or to their attorney. The judge will take into consideration the following factors when reviewing the actions and record of the other parent:

  • Prior violation of custody or visitation rights by taking or hiding the child, or has threatened to do so.
  • Ties to another state or country, such as family, cultural, religious, etc.
  • No ties to the State of California, such as family, friends, real estate, employment.
  • Lack of financial reasons to remain in the state, by being unemployed, financially independent, or having employment out of state.
  • Participating in activities that would aid him/her to take the child out of state, such as closing bank accounts, selling their home, applying for or renewing a passport, getting birth certificates and other pertinent records of the child, etc.
  • A history of child and/or domestic abuse.
  • In contempt of child support.
  • Has a criminal record.

If a judge believes there is a risk of child abduction, some of the measures the judge may declare to try to prevent it are as follows:

  • Supervised visitation between parent and child with a qualified third party appointed to be present.
  • Require surrender of passports and other travel documents of a parent together with those of the child he/she may have obtained, and prohibit application for new or replacement passports, etc.
  • Require a parent to post bond as a financial deterrent to abduction.

Punishment for parental kidnapping in California varies by degree, depending on age of victim and the degree to which the kidnapping may have harmed or either put the victim in harm's way. A sentence may be up to 4 years of incarceration if found guilty. Consideration is given in cases, however, whereby it is proven that a child was enticed away, taken, or concealed to protect the child from danger of imminent harm.

If you are involved in a child custody or other domestic situation and this accusation has been placed against you, choose an experienced attorney who fully understands California Law and the Penal Code with regard to this crime. The Law Office of Nic Cocis provides excellent legal services in the cities of Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Menifee, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Perris, Banning, Corona, Winchester or Riverside. Contact us today for a free case evaluation!

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