Kidnapping is a type of crime that involves taking a person away, imprisoning, confining, or transporting a person against their will. There are many different types of kidnapping, and the type that one is charged with will depend upon the specifics of the crime. Kidnapping is done for ransom, in child custody cases, to further another crime in some way, and more. It comes in many forms, ranging from kidnapping of children to kidnapping of government officials, and many motives have driven kidnapping cases throughout the centuries.
Kidnapping laws today are derived from the old English Common Laws on the subject. Different states and jurisdictions all have different laws in place for kidnaping, and as a result the precise nature of the law and the punishment can sometimes be more difficult to define. In most cases, kidnapping is defined by the different types and goals that are in place.
For example, first degree kidnapping is often considered kidnapping used to obtain ransom, interfere with political functions, terrorizing the victim, and more. Second degree kidnapping is similar, but lacks some of the more serious aspects of the crime such as intent to terrorize or harm. No matter which type of kidnapping is found to be used, felony charges are almost always placed against the suspect.
Federal laws are somewhat different, and are governed by the Lindbergh Act of 1932. Federal laws will focus more on the transportation between state lines of the individual being kidnapped. Under this law, if a victim isn’t released within 24 hours a court can assume that the victim has been taken across state lines and, as a result, federal law could apply.
Kidnapping Crimes and Charges
Due to the wildly varying nature of kidnapping in general, there are many different laws and charges that one can face.
- Parental kidnapping is a situation when a parent kidnaps their own child, often due to legal battles and custody issues. This is usually charged under a different law with a lesser sentence than other types of convictions, often averaging about 3 years in prison.
- Under federal code 18 USC Section 1201, kidnapping that is charged on the federal level is much more serious. This will usually involve the transportation of the abducted across state lines and can lead to heavy sentences of 20 years or longer.
- Kidnapping that is linked to other crimes such as extortion, robbery, or even murder will bring the strongest charges and lead to more serious penalties. These laws and charges vary between states, with even the definition of kidnapping changing from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
- Charges often have to take Double Jeopardy laws into account. Under US law, a person can’t face multiple punishments for the same crime. This means that when a kidnapping takes place during another crime, only one of the two charges could be filed against someone. This isn’t always the case, but in some instances it may be determined that a kidnapping conviction is technically a second punishment.
As mentioned above, the specific punishment a person can face as a result of kidnapping can vary depending on the specific type of charges, the jurisdiction the crime occurs in, and more. Federal crimes and first degree kidnapping charges can bring punishments of 20 years in prison or more. Lesser charges such as parental kidnapping could bring 3 years or more, but in some jurisdictions are actually considered to be misdemeanors.
Kidnapping Sentencing Guidelines
Kidnapping sentences are determined based on a point system. The base level for kidnapping, abduction, and unlawful restraint is 32, and different characteristics of the crime will increase the level. For example, the use of a dangerous weapon increases the level by 2. Ransom demands increase the level by 6. Each aspect of the crime will be used to determine the overall penalty.
Kidnapping Statute of Limitations
Due to the very serious nature of kidnapping, there is no statute of limitations associated with the crime. Charges can be filed at any time following the crime.
Kidnapping cases have often attracted major media attention, and are usually among the most well-known types of crimes perpetrated today. They are frequently the source for films, books, and documentaries. Among the most famous cases are:
- The Lindbergh Baby – This kidnapping involved a famous aviator, whose baby was kidnapped and murdered in 1932. The kidnapping captured national attention and led to stricter laws for kidnappers.
- Elizabeth Smart – Elizabeth smart was kidnapped at the age of 14 and subsequently found 9 months later.
- Amber Hagerman – Amber Hagerman was kidnapped in 1996 and remained missing for four days. Her body was found later, and the kidnapping led to the creation of the Amber Alert – which has led to 495 recoveries of abducted children thus far.
Kidnapping Laws by State
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming