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Kidnapping + Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

June 24, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Does kidnapping have a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is the time limit that a conviction can occur for the crime. And, no, kidnapping does not have any because it is extremely harmful and serious. Also, even if the previous captives have been released, there’s the danger that the captor could kidnap again.

What is the legal definition of kidnapping?

Kidnapping is snatching a person and then, imprisoning, confining and/or transporting that individual against his or her will. In many cases, it leads to murder.

When you say “kidnapping” to most people, they think of the snatching, abuse and murder of a child. While that’s not at all uncommon, almost anyone from women to government officials can be kidnapped. Today, the motives can be anything from weaponizing a child custody battle to sex trafficking.

Are kidnapping laws the same everywhere?

First and Second Degree kidnappings are almost always charged as felonies. First Degree involves political kidnappings, kidnapping with the intent to terrorize and/or murder, for ransom, etc. Second Degree is similar but is not usually done with harmful intent. Federal law gets involved if it is suspected that the captor has taken the captive across state lines. This is usually the assumption if the captives are not released within 24 hours.

Otherwise, it more or less varies by the state, the nature of the case and the point system. For example, a parent kidnapping their own child during a custody battle is actually a misdemeanor in some states. In most of those cases, the captor receives an average of a three-year prison sentence. Most other cases, however, receive an average of about 20 years in prison. If unlawful restraint and/or a weapon was used, the average prison sentence increases to 32 years, which is the second level. If ransom was involved, the level increases to six in some states. Every aspect of what happened during the crime is considered. Other than a parental kidnapping, most Second Degree kidnappings receive an average of five years.

Other Charges

Court fines for kidnapping are very hefty. For First Degree kidnapping, it’s an average of $50,000 while non-violent kidnappings result in average of $10,000.

Some captors are sentenced to serve at least 10 years of probation as an alternative to prison. However, if they violate it, that’s when they serve the actual prison sentence. The usual terms for probation are that the suspect has to meet with their probation officers on a regular basis, he or she can’t move or travel without the court’s permission, commit further crimes or associate with other known criminals.

Other Legal Fine Print for Kidnapping

By nature, a kidnapping can’t occur if the “captive” consents to it. Since a child under the age of 18 can’t legally consent to the action, it means that the parent or guardian didn’t consent to the captor taking the child. The same applies to individuals with intellectual or neurological disabilities whose parents or guardians have legal guardianship of them.

Ironically, some states require active use of force before the confinement or imprisonment to consider the kidnapping to be official. Others don’t, however, verbal threats or otherwise terrorizing the captive is considered to be a form of force by many states.

Some states don’t require any movement for the kidnapping to be considered official. Others do but some require that the movement be from one building to another. However, one room to another does not qualify in other states. Movement from a vehicle to a building is enough to make the kidnapping official in most states.

Some states make confinement a key element for a kidnapping to be official. Others convict even on the mere intent of an aggravated kidnapping. That is, the captor simply had to have the goal of holding a person and harming them but it ended up falling through.

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