If you were to go by typical movie or television depictions, you might assume that kidnapping involves moving someone to a concealed or remote location, using force or threatening harm.
Under California law, the use of force or threat is a requirement for kidnapping charges (also, in some cases, the use of fraud might count - for instance, if you tell a young child you're taking him to a certain location with his parents' permission when this isn't the case).
But when it comes to moving another person from their current location, kidnapping doesn't have to involve huge distances or seclusion. You don't have to take someone to a location miles away or to a location that's hidden or unknown to face kidnapping charges.
What distances bring kidnapping charges?
Let's look at one recent example. According to news reports, a Southern California man now faces kidnapping charges after allegedly removing a young child from her home and running down the street while holding her. Apparently, he didn't make it far, as her family gave chase and stopped him. In spite of the relatively short distance, his actions might still constitute kidnapping.
What distance determinations can a court make when judging the evidence against you for kidnapping? In addition to looking at the total distance in terms of number of feet or miles, the courts will also look at the overall context.
For example, if you move someone from a relatively safe position to a position where they're much more endangered, the courts can count this as evidence of kidnapping. In the recent example from Southern California, the suspect allegedly removed the girl from the safety of her home. Prosecutors can argue that with each step he took, he placed an increasingly greater distance between her and her family's protection, along with increasing the chances that he would get away and the family wouldn't immediately find the girl.
However, there are other situations where kidnapping isn't as clear. For instance, let's say someone is standing in their front yard, and a perpetrator comes along and drags them unwillingly from one end of the yard to the other, but never leaves the property. Does that constitute kidnapping? Maybe not. Maybe it would also depend on other factors, such as whether the perpetrator then attempted to force them into a vehicle parked on the victim's driveway (and even if the perpetrator might have been aiming to get the victim into the car, it would also depend on how close they got to it before the victim possibly got away).
Context is critical when looking at what it means to move another person during a kidnapping charge. For a powerful defense in court, you need an experienced attorney to review your case and expose weaknesses in the evidence prosecutors bring against you. If you live in the Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Winchester, Perris, Wildomar, Hemet, Banning, Corona, Winchester or Riverside areas, don't hesitate to contact us.