Los Angeles Child Abduction Defense Lawyers
A parent’s love for their children knows no bounds. When a child is maliciously taken by someone with no right to do so, there’s no question that a crime has been committed. Unlike kidnapping (which is a crime against the victim), child abduction is a crime against the parents or legal custodians of a child. Under the constitution, you are innocent until proven guilty – but when charged with child abduction, it won’t feel that way. In any case involving children, the full force of the law will be brought to bear.
A conviction on charges of child abduction can lead to years in state prison, fines, and restitution. If you are facing criminal charges of child abduction in Los Angeles, you need a criminal defense lawyer from Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP immediately, as a conviction will dramatically change the course of your life. Exercise your right to remain silent and retain an experienced criminal defense attorney so your defense strategy can be formulated and executed. To begin building your defense, call our firm at (213) 688-0460 today. You don’t have any time to waste.
Child abduction is defined in California Penal Code 278 PC, which states:
“Every person, not having a right to custody, who maliciously takes, entices away, keeps, withholds, or conceals any child with the intent to detain or conceal that child from a lawful custodian shall be punished…”
Unlike kidnapping, child abduction is a crime against the lawful custodian of a child. Fully understanding this crime and its defense requires an understanding of the elements of the crime:
- “not having a right to custody”: For this crime to have been committed, you must have no legal right to custody. Parents and other legal guardians cannot be convicted of this crime.
- “maliciously”: There must be a degree of malice, meaning intent to annoy, harm, injure, or otherwise damage in some way.
- “takes, entices away, keeps, withholds, or conceals”: The child must be removed and then withheld or concealed from their lawful custodians. Whether the child goes willingly or is forced is irrelevant, as this crime is against the lawful custodians – not the child.
- “with the intent to detain or conceal that child from a lawful custodian”: The crime must involve the intent to delay or prevent the child from returning to their lawful custodian. Note that this is an intent – it doesn’t matter if you did or not, only that you intended to do so.
Child abduction can be charged individually or in addition to other criminal charges such as kidnapping, loitering at a school, or others.
Child abduction is a serious crime in California. As such, the penalties for child abduction are harsh and can leave your life in shambles. This offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the circumstances and your prior criminal record. As a misdemeanor, a conviction of child abduction carries the following penalties:
- Up to one year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Both the jail time and fine
As a felony, the penalties for child abduction include:
- Probation and up to one year in prison
- Two, three, or four years in a state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Any combination of the above
Any conviction of child abduction may also require the defendant to pay restitution to the victim and anyone acting on the victim’s behalf for costs reasonably incurred in locating and retrieving the child.
Parental kidnapping and child abduction are similar crimes and are closely linked together. You may assume that as the child’s parent, you have the legal right to take them anywhere you choose. This is only true if you have legal custody of your child. If custody was taken away from you, then you cannot take your child anywhere without permission of the party that does have custody.
If you take your child without the knowledge and permission of the party with legal custody, then it is considered parental kidnapping. Kidnapping and child abduction are two separate crimes, but you could be charged with both if you are the child’s parent and take them away from the lawful guardian. This means that you could be facing penalties for child abduction on top of penalties for parental kidnapping.
Upon being convicted of parental kidnapping, you may be facing an additional five to eight years in prison, on top of a fine of up to $10,000. Because parental kidnapping and child abduction are often tried together, parental kidnapping could be considered an aggravating factor for child abduction. It is important to keep in mind that it is not the only such factor.
After you have been arrested for child abduction, oftentimes the prosecution will use what are called aggravating factors in order to extend your prison sentence. Aggravating factors are circumstances around the case that make the crime more serious, thus making the penalties harsher.
Some aggravating factors for child abduction include:
- The age of the child
- Whether the child was injured
- The distance the child was taken
- How long the child was held
- Whether the child was assaulted
- Your criminal history
Along with these factors, the prosecution may seek to convict you of related crimes. These are crimes that are linked to the original charge or are linked to circumstances around the crime you allegedly committed. When it comes to child abduction, there are several related offenses that you could be charged with. If you are convicted, then that could extend your original prison sentence by several years, or even decades. Some common related offenses include:
- False imprisonment
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
- Assault of a minor
If you are facing a charge of child abduction, you should never assume that is all you will be convicted of. The penalties you could be facing may be far worse than what is listed on this page. That is why you need to work with a skilled child abduction defense attorney who can build the strongest possible defense on your behalf.
Thankfully, you do not have the burden of proof. That lies with the prosecution. This means that your defense does not have to prove your innocence, but instead create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. There are several defenses that you can implement in order to accomplish this, including:
- You had legal custody over the child in question, either as a parent or someone granted legal custody by a court.
- You had good intentions for your actions, such as taking the child out of an environment you know to be abusive or dangerous. For this defense to be valid, you must have acted in such a way to corroborate this story, such as calling child services or the police once the child was safe.
- There was no malicious intent and simply made a mistake doing something you thought was right and good for the child.
- That the charge is false, and the child was never abducted. In cases of severe parental dispute, it is not uncommon for a parent to make false accusations about the other in an effort to gain full custody.
However, you should never construct a defense based on a page you found on the internet. Instead, you should work with an attorney who can launch an investigation into your alleged crime, the officers that arrested you, and the evidence that the prosecution has against you.
Charges of child abduction can destroy your good name and ruin your life. The penalties imposed can include hefty fines, prison time, and a felony on your criminal record that will destroy your opportunities for employment. Don’t let this happen to you without fighting with everything you’ve got – there is a good chance that our award-winning criminal defense attorneys at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP can craft an effective defense strategy – the first step is to meet with us. Our team of Los Angeles criminal trial attorneys has the skills, experience, and talent you want on your side. Call us today at (213) 688-0460 to schedule a free consultation.
Recent Case Results
- Complete Dismissal of Molestation Charges
Attorney Mark Werksman’s 29 year old client was falsely accused of molesting two neighborhood children and was subsequently charged with felony child molestation, with a significant prison sentence hanging over his head should he be convicted. Instead, at the preliminary hearing Werksman was able to convince the court to grant his client a complete dismissal of any charges.
- Decision Set Aside
Client, a college student in a faulty Title IX case, was awarded $130,000 in attorney fees.
- Probation with No Jail Time for Drug Money Laundering Charge
Wilmington man accused in New York federal court of laundering drug money through the sale of laptop computers. Mark was able to get the case transferred to federal court in Los Angeles, where he convinced the United States Attorney to reduce the charges. His client was sentenced to probation with no jail time on a misdemeanor conviction.