Kidnapping Defense Lawyers in Los Angeles
There is no way to ever consider kidnapping a minor crime. The California courts take such an offense incredibly seriously and are likely to bring swift and harsh charges down upon you. In fact, kidnapping comes with a possible life sentence, and it is no light matter to be charged with this offense. The justice system is confusing and intimidating, and although you are “innocent until proven guilty,” your freedom is at risk.
The good news is that several effective defenses could be presented if you are facing charges of kidnapping. At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, we make it our business to provide a powerful, compelling defense and relentlessly pursue a positive outcome for our clients: whether that’s not guilty, a reduced charge, or a lesser sentence. If you want to work with some of the best Los Angeles violent crime defense attorneys, call our firm at (213) 688-0460 to schedule a free consultation. We are ready to defend you.
Kidnapping, which is defined under California Penal Code 207 PC, refers to when someone takes another person a substantial distance against the other person’s will by using force or threats or other forms of coercion. That force is a key aspect of a kidnapping charge. There must be force or the threat of force, an act of deceit, or some form of restraint in order for the act to be legally considered kidnapping. There must also be a lack of consent. If someone willingly gives their consent to be taken to a second location, then you cannot be charged with kidnapping for doing so.
While most people assume that kidnapping is a catch-all term, there are actually four different kinds of kidnapping charge that are established under California law. The four classifications of kidnapping are aggravated kidnapping, simple kidnapping, false imprisonment, and child kidnapping. Each charge has their own definition, as well as their own penalties. Knowing which one you have been charged with is crucial when it comes to defending yourself at trial.
Aggravated kidnapping is considered the most severe kidnapping crime. It is taken incredibly seriously, and anyone convicted of aggravated kidnapping is likely to face some serious penalties. Generally, it must meet any of the following criteria:
- Kidnapping for ransom, reward, or to commit extortion
- Kidnapping to commit robbery, rape, or other sexual offenses
- Kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking
- Kidnapping in which the victim suffers, or there is a substantial likelihood of suffering, death, or bodily harm
The real key thing that sets aggravated kidnapping separate from other kidnapping crimes is the level of violence used and the reason behind the kidnapping. While all forms of kidnapping must involve forced movement, aggravated kidnapping does it for the purpose of severely harming the victim or for personal gain. For those reasons, it is usually punished incredibly harshly. If you have been charged with aggravated kidnapping, you may be facing penalties such as:
- Life in a state prison with the possibility of parole if the victim was not severely harmed
- Life in a state prison without the possibility of parole if the victim was severely harmed
In either case, you can expect to be behind bars for a very long time if you are convicted. That is why you should consider reaching out to a skilled criminal defense attorney the moment you believe that you are being investigated. The longer your attorney has to build your case, the better chances you have of not facing a conviction.
Simple kidnapping is defined as moving another person by force or fear without that person’s consent across a considerable distance. Considerable distance is defined as “more than a slight or trivial distance.” In California, it is up to a judge to decide whether the distance is “considerable” or not. As an example, forcibly moving a person within the same house may not be found to be “considerable distance,” whereas moving them to another area of the city may be.
This is often the crime most people think of when they hear “kidnapping.” However, just because the word “simple” is used, that does not mean that isn’t considered a serious offense. A simple kidnapping conviction is still likely to result in serious penalties, including:
- Between three and eight years in prison, or
- Between fight and 11 years in prison if the victim is under 14 years old
What sets simple kidnapping apart from aggravated kidnapping is the amount of force used and the purpose of the kidnapping. In simple kidnapping, the victim will not have experienced much harm, nor will the kidnapper obtain any sort of personal gain from the crime. Of course, simple kidnapping can quickly be pushed up to aggravated kidnapping or the penalties can be extended by other crimes, such as false imprisonment.
False imprisonment is defined as restraining, detaining, or confining another person without their consent. False imprisonment can be as simple as locking a co-worker in their office or as serious as locking someone in a basement for an extended period. Because you can’t physically kidnap someone without a degree of false imprisonment, false imprisonment charges are often filed along with kidnapping charges.
This means that your penalties for a charge of aggravated or simple kidnapping could be extended due to a further conviction of false imprisonment. That being said, false imprisonment is also a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. You may be charged with a felony over a misdemeanor if the court determines that the crime was impacted by violence, menace, deceit, or fraud. Going off of the above example, even if you are charged for locking your co-worker in their office, it would not be a felony charge, as you did not hurt, threaten, or deceive your co-worker in order to trap them.
For a misdemeanor conviction, you could be punished with:
- Up to a year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
For a felony charge, on the other hand, your penalties could include:
- Between 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail
- Further fines
While having your sentence extended by a conviction of false imprisonment on top of your charge of kidnapping, keep in mind that false imprisonment is often used as a bargaining chip. If it becomes clear that there little chance you will beat the charges outright, it may be smart to take the conviction of false imprisonment, whether it be a misdemeanor or felony, instead of a conviction of simple or aggravated kidnapping. The punishments for false imprisonment are far less severe than those for kidnapping and may actually be the best-case scenario for you and your case.
Child abduction is the crime of maliciously keeping a child, as in someone under the age of 18, from his or her legal guardian. The offense may be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. As with most of the crimes we have discussed at this point, the key difference between the misdemeanor charge and the felony charge is the intention behind the kidnapping, as well as the harm done to the child. This crime may also be aggravated by other crimes, such as assault, rape of a minor, and false imprisonment.
If you are facing misdemeanor charges, then upon conviction you could face:
- Up to a year in county jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
If your charges are a felony, however, then your punishment may include:
- Up to four years in state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
Child abduction is a separate charge from kidnapping, and in some cases, a prosecutor files charges of both kidnapping and child abduction. Separate charges can also be filed in the case of hiding a child from anyone with legal custody or visitation rights, in which case a parent or legal guardian retains a child illegally and thus faces criminal charges. This means that even the parent of the child in question can be charged with kidnapping. When it comes to child abduction, it is incredibly important to consider just who has full custody. In addition to your own custody rights, the charge may be based upon violating a court order, moving out of state or country, or other violation of a custody agreement. In these cases, it is the court who decides on custody, and the court will not take kindly to their order being ignored.
Kidnapping is not an easy conviction to beat. Even the most minor prison sentence we mentioned is at least a year, and most are longer. That means at least a year away from your family, home, job, and any other responsibilities you have taken on in your life. On top of that, these sorts of crimes are highly publicized, which means that your reputation, even among people you know well and care deeply for, could be completely ruined. All of this is reason enough to work out the strongest possible defense. Some commonly used defenses for kidnapping-related crimes include:
- You were protecting or trying to protect a child, or adult victim, from harm
- You were acting within legal restraint, such as in the case of authorized citizen’s arrest
- The person consented to be moved or held
- You were acting in self-defense
- You were within your rights due to shopkeeper’s privilege, which is a specific law allowing store employees to restrain a customer suspected of shoplifting for a reasonable amount of time
- There was only incidental movement of the victim, and it was not intentional
- There is a case of mistaken identity, and you are not the kidnapper
- The officers who arrested you were acting in misconduct, meaning your arrest is not legal
However, building the right defense is not an easy task. It requires hours and hours of work and long nights pouring over potential evidence and arguments. If you want the best chance at having your charges lowered or completely dropped, then you need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Thankfully, you will find some of the best at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP.
At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, we have the expert knowledge to prepare a compelling, well-organized defense, and we know how to maximize the charges being dropped or reduced to a lesser offense. If you want proof, all you have to do is read our case results. It doesn’t take long to realize that we may be the right firm for your case. We work with our clients to make sure that they receive the utmost attention and care. Thorough, caring, and detailed defense is our standard at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP. Call us today at (213) 688-0460 for a free consultation.
- False Imprisonment vs Kidnapping
- Simple Kidnapping vs. False Imprisonment
- When You’ve Been Accused Of Kidnapping Your Own Child: What Parents Need to Know
- California Penal Code 207 PC
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