Kidnapping occurs when a person takes, holds, detains, or arrests another person in an unknown place. Even though kidnapping mostly involves minors, you can also get charged with this offense by holding an adult using force or fear. Under California kidnapping laws, you will get convicted for the crime if you move a person more than a slight trivial distance. When deciding whether the distance is substantial, the court will consider the circumstances relating to the movement. A conviction for kidnapping attracts severe legal penalties in the form of a jail sentence. The severity of your punishment greatly depends on the nature of your criminal case. Guidance from a criminal defense law firm like the Orange County Criminal Lawyer is crucial when dealing with kidnapping cases.

Overview of Kidnapping Laws of California

Under California Penal Code section 207, kidnapping is considered an act of moving another person from their home to another location through force or fear. Even though kidnapping involves minors as the victims in most instances, you can get convicted for forcing an adult to go with you. Kidnapping charges are often very serious, and a conviction in California will attract severe legal penalties. 

There are two main types of kidnapping offenses in California. Simple kidnapping is moving another person by force or fear through a substantial distance without their consent. Aggravated kidnapping, on the other hand, involves extreme fear or force when moving another person. In most cases, aggravated kidnapping is done to aid other violent offenses. For you to get convicted for aggravated kidnapping, at least one of the following factors must be present:

  • You held the alleged victim for a ransom.

  • The victim suffered significant bodily injury as a result of the kidnapping.

  • The victim was younger than fourteen years.

  • You committed the offense of kidnapping during a carjacking.

Aggravated kidnapping is more serious than simple kidnapping, and a conviction attracts severe legal consequences. Before you get convicted, a prosecutor must establish the following elements of the crime:

  1. You Moved Another Person 

For kidnapping to take place, you must have moved the alleged victim a trivial distance. The distance through which you moved to another person must be substantial. However, determining whether a distance is substantial will depend on the following factors:

  • The specific distance that you moved the victim

  • Whether or not the movement increased the risk of harm to the alleged victim

  • Whether the movement decreased the likelihood of the person being found

Whether or not the distance that a victim was moved is substantial is determined by the jury in your criminal case hearing.

  1. The Alleged Victim Did Not Consent to be Moved

Lack of consent from a victim means that they resisted your attempts to hold them or put up a fight before moving them. Before a prosecutor proves that you are guilty under California Penal Code Section207, it must be clear that the alleged victim was against your actions. It is crucial to understand that neither children nor the mentally challenged individuals are considered incapable of giving legal consent. 

  1. You Used Force Fear or Fraud to Commit the Offense

Before a conviction for kidnapping in California, you must have used violence force or threats on the alleged victim. California laws on simple kidnapping make it an offense moving a person with or without their consent forcefully. It is considered an act of force or fear if you inflict physical force or injury on the victim while committing the offense. Use of fear means that you threatened the person to inflict harm if they fail to comply with your attempts to move them.

On the other hand, the use of fraud to commit an offense of kidnapping occurs when deliberate deception is used to make them consent. In California, fraudulent consent is the same as no consent. This is because a person can only give consent to something whose nature they understand. If the alleged victim gives a consent to be moved but later withdraws the consent, you can still get charged and convicted with kidnapping.

Sometimes, proving the elements of kidnapping in court could be quite difficult for the prosecutor. Therefore, guidance and representation from a competent criminal defense attorney could greatly benefit your case.

Legal Penalties for California Penal Code 207 Kidnapping Crime

Kidnapping is considered a continuing offense as long as you continue to hold the victim against their will. However, even when you move the victim to different places, you can only get convicted for kidnapping. If you get convicted for kidnapping, you risk facing very tough penalties, including life imprisonment. The specific penalties for kidnapping will significantly depend on the nature of your criminal charges—also, the circumstances under which the offense may be considered during sentencing.

A conviction for simple kidnapping in California will attract the following penalties:

  • Three five or eight years in the California State prison

  • Fines not exceeding $10,000

On the other hand, individuals who get convicted of aggravated kidnapping will face:

  • A prison sentence of up to eleven years if the victim was below the age of fourteen years

  • Life imprisonment without a possibility of parole if you kidnapped a person for a reward, extortion, or aid another crime such as rape, oral copulation by force, or lewd conduct with a minor. If the victim of your actions suffers severe bodily injury or is exposed in a situation that poses a danger to their life, a conviction will result in life imprisonment.

If you get convicted for kidnapping in California, you will not necessarily serve a prison sentence. A competent criminal defense attorney could help you negotiate probation as an alternative to your prison sentence.

Both simple and aggravated kidnapping are violent offenses. Therefore, a conviction for this offense will be a strike on your record under California's three-strike law. If you are subsequently charged with a felony, you will be considered a second striker, and you are likely to face a double sentence for your offense.

Under California Penal Code 290.006, the court will order a mandatory sex offender registration if you committed an offense due to sexual compulsion. Sometimes, if you are convicted for kidnapping, you may be required to register as a sex offender in California. This would be the case if you committed the offense to aid rape or another sexual offense. Getting sexual offender status could be very detrimental to your chances of obtaining employment or residence. Also, there is an immense social stigma that is associated with this kind of status.

Defenses for Kidnapping

Getting convicted for kidnapping attracts serious legal consequences. Fortunately, getting arrested for the offense does not always result in a conviction. There are various legal defenses that your attorney could help you present to get the kidnapping charges reduced or dropped. Some of the available defenses include:

  1. Insufficient Movement to Qualify Kidnapping

When you face criminal charges for kidnapping, the prosecutor must prove that the distance through which you moved the victim was substantial. There is no exact distance that constitutes a substantial distance. A substantial distance will depend on specific facts of your criminal case. You can argue that the distance you moved the alleged victim was not substantial as a defense to your case. If the jury finds that the place where you moved the victim does not constitute kidnapping, you cannot get convicted for this offense

  1. The Alleged Victim Consented to Be Moved

Lack of consent from a victim is one of the elements that constitute an act of kidnapping. If the victim consented to go with you, then you cannot be found guilty. For a person to have validly consented to movement, the following elements must be met:

  • The victim voluntarily accepted to be moved by you

  • The victim understood the nature of the movement you were making

  • The victim was mature enough to understand and choose to go with you

If you had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim consented to move with you, you could use consent to defend your case.

  1. False Accusations/Insufficient Evidence

If you face charges for simple kidnapping without additional offense, it is likely based on another person's allegations. If there is no evidence other than the alleged victim's testimony, your attorney can easily claim that the accusations are false. Sometimes people tend to make false allegations as a result of anger, jealousy, or revenge. If there is no sufficient evidence of the crime, your charges could be dropped.

  1. You Weren’t the Perpetrator of the Crime

Sometimes you find yourself at a crime scene where you weren't involved in the crime. This could be the case if, for example, you are in a vehicle which the perpetrator of the crime used to ferry the victim. When the police make an arrest, you could both be charged with kidnapping. As a defense to your case, you can argue that you were not the perpetrator of the crime, and you did not know their plan. However, you can be charged with aiding the crime if you:

  • Knew the perpetrator's illegal plan

  • Intentionally encouraged the plan

  • Promote, instigate the crime or fail to stop it where you have a legal duty

  1. You Held to the Parents right to Travelling with your Child

If you are a parent and have physical custody of the child, you have a right to travel with the child wherever you are going. If you decide to take the child for a trip to another state, you cannot get convicted of kidnapping. If you face kidnapping or child abduction charges, you can argue that you held the parent's right to travel with the child. However, if you move the child with an intent to commit criminal activity, the defense will not apply.

  1. Mistaken Identity

In some cases, the alleged victim could mistakenly identify you as the person who kidnapped them. The following are some of the reasons that could cause a victim to mistake you for the kidnapper:

  • The victim did not see the face of the kidnapper

  • The incident took place during the night or in a place with dim lighting

  • The victim's memory was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time they were kidnapped

Offenses Related to Kidnapping

Several offenses could get charged in connection with or instead of California Penal Code 207. The following are offenses related to kidnapping:

Kidnapping in Connection with Extortion

California Penal Code 210 makes it an offense for someone to commit extortion by posing as a kidnapper. If you have posed a person who has kidnapped another person to obtain ransom or reward money. If you were facing kidnapping charges and asked for a ransom to secure a victim's release, you can face additional charges for kidnapping in connection with extortion. Penal Code 210 is considered an act of aggravated kidnapping and is charged as a felony in California. A conviction for kidnapping with connection to extortion attracts the following penalties:

  • Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if the victim suffers bodily harm or death

  • Life imprisonment with a possibility of parole of you did not pose a danger or threat to the victim

If you face charges under California Penal Code 210 alongside kidnapping charges, it is crucial to seek guidance from a criminal lawyer.

False Imprisonment of a Hostage

False imprisonment of a hostage is the unlawful violation of another person's liberty. You commit an offense of false imprisonment if you restrain or detain another person without their consent. California Penal Code 210.5 prohibits a hostage’s imprisonment or to use the victim as a human shield. You can also get charged with this offense if you take another person hostage to protect yourself from an arrest.

If you kidnap a person to use them to protect yourself from arrest, you can face kidnapping charges alongside a hostage's false imprisonment. False imprisonment of a hostage is a felony. A conviction for the offense will attract a prison sentence of three-five or eight years. If you inflict bodily injury or cause the victim's death, you risk facing an enhanced sentence. 

Kidnapping During a Carjacking

Under Penal Code 20.5 of California, the law prohibits kidnapping during a carjacking. You violate this section of the law when:

  • You move a person beyond what is merely incidental to kidnapping

  • The distance through which you moved the victim was substantial 

  • Moving the victim increased the risk of harm above that necessary to commit the offense of carjacking

It is crucial to understand that you can be charged with attempted kidnapping even if you did not complete the carjacking. If you get convicted for kidnapping during a carjacking, you face life imprisonment with parole. When you do not go through with the carjacking and face criminal charges for attempted kidnapping during a carjacking, you face a prison sentence of up to nine years.

Deprivation of Custody or Visitation Rights

Deprivation if custody or visitation is charged under Penal Code 278.5 ad has the following elements:

  1. You took, enticed, or concealed a child. You entice a child when you lure them to go with you by creating desire or hope. You can still get charged for this offense even when the child came with you voluntarily.

  2. The victim was a minor. Under the detention law of California, a child is anybody under the age of eighteen years.

  3. You deprived the lawful custodial of their custody rights. You can only get convicted for this offense if deprived of a lawful custodian of the right to be with the child. These charges will also apply if you deprive another person of the right to visit with the child.

  4. You acted maliciously. Acting with malice means that you acted intentionally to disturb, defraud, or annoy another person.

Deprivation of custody or visitation rights is a wobbler, and the penalties you face will depend on the nature of your charges. A felony conviction attracts a prison sentence of up to three years and fines of up to $10,000. When charged as a misdemeanor, you may face a jail sentence not exceeding one year.

Frequently Asked Questions on Kidnapping

The laws surrounding California Penal Code 207 are complicated. Therefore, guidance from a knowledgeable criminal lawyer when dealing with these charges is crucial. The following are some of the frequently asked questions on kidnapping in California:

  1. If I move a person a few blocks away from the place they were in, could the distance qualify to kidnap?

Under California kidnapping laws, several factors are considered when determining whether you have moved someone a substantial distance. These factors will include the distance over which you moved the alleged victim and whether it was done to enhance another crime. Moving a victim a few blocks from their location will not automatically determine whether the distance qualifies as kidnapping. If the place where you took the victim was closer to your home and had any intention of harming them, the jury may find you got under California Penal Code 207. A competent criminal defense attorney could help determine if your case involved substantial distance.

  1. If the alleged victim agreed to go with me but later changed their mind, could I still get convicted for kidnapping?

The use of force or lack of consent is one element of the crime that a prosecutor needs to prove before being convicted for kidnapping in California. If the prosecutor cannot show that you took the alleged victim against their will, you cannot be found guilty. If you had a good faith belief that the alleged victim consented to go with you, you could use their consent to defend your criminal case. However, this will depend on whether your belief of the victim's consent was reasonable. Even when the victim withdraws consent and changes their mind multiple times, your attorney could argue that the mind's multiple changes are ambiguous.

  1. Will I serve a state prison sentence if I get convicted for kidnapping?

Not necessarily. There are several penalties that you can be subjected to after a conviction for kidnapping in California. The nature of your sentence will significantly depend on your case's nature and your criminal history. Although California Penal Code 207 mandates an eight-year prison sentence for individuals who get convicted for kidnapping, your criminal defense attorney could help you obtain probation. This will help you serve a sentence outside prison, which is less stringent.

  1. Can a kidnapping charge be dropped?

Yes. Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of a crime in which you were not involved. There are several legal defenses that your attorney can help you present against these charges. If you were not aware of the kidnapping taking place or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may have dropped charges.

  1. If I get convicted for kidnapping in California, will I be required to register as a sex offender?

Sometimes, you may be subject to a lifetime sex offender registration after a conviction for kidnapping. However, this may be the case if it is clear that you committed the offense due to sexual compulsion or for sexual gratification. Guidance from a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney could go a long way for you in such a case.

Find a Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Holding or taking another person from their home by force or fear of a different location attracts serious kidnapping charges. A conviction for this offense in California attracts severe legal penalties. If you have been accused of kidnapping in violation of California Penal Code 207, it would be wise to contact a competent criminal defense attorney for guidance. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we provide top-notch legal guidance and representation for people who are facing criminal charges in the Orange County area. Contact us today at 714-262-4833 and discuss more details of your case.