Kidnapping is a crime that occurs when a person uses force or otherwise entices another individual or minor to take them from one place to another. In California, this crime is harshly punished, and if the person is convicted of the offense, they could be looking at years behind bars. But what if the individual the person took was their own child? Is that still kidnapping?
The answer is that it depends on the circumstances.
How Is Kidnapping Defined in California?
California Penal Code 207 PC, makes it illegal to forcibly steal or detain a person and transport them across state, county, or country lines. It's also unlawful to illegally take a person from one part of a county to another area of that same county.
What about cases where a person doesn't use force? If the individual the person is accused of taking is under 14 years of age, that conduct is still illegal.
The law says a person is prohibited from using any of the following to make a minor go with them:
- False promises
If convicted, the alleged kidnapper could be sentenced to imprisonment for 3, 5, or 8 years. However, if the victim was under 14 years of age, the penalties increase to imprisonment for 5, 8, or 11 years.
Reading the statute, it seems to apply to a stranger or person who wasn't the child's parent. However, if the child's parent didn't have lawful custody of the child, they could be charged with kidnapping.
For instance, recently in California, a surgeon was charged with attempted kidnapping for trying to leave the state with her 12-year-old son. She was under court-monitored visits. During a chaperoned outing, she attacked the woman monitoring the visit. The woman told the boy to run, and the surgeon took off to her car. Investigators later discovered that the woman had chartered a plane under fake names for herself and her son, making them believe she had planned to kidnap the boy.
In addition to the attempted kidnapping charge, she is also accused of child abduction.
What Is Child Abduction?
California Penal Code 278 PC is a separate offense from kidnapping. It states that a person is prohibited from maliciously taking a child from a legal guardian or to deny visitation rights. The law can apply to parents who do not have lawful custody of the child themselves.
Child abduction is different from kidnapping in that the former is a crime against the parent whereas the latter is a crime against the child.
In California, this offense is a wobbler, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Depending on the circumstances, a conviction can result in up to 1 year in jail or 2, 3, or 4 years in prison.
What Is Deprivation of Custody?
If a person maliciously takes their own child, of whom they have legal custody of, to deprive a lawful custodian of their right to custody or visitation, they could be charged with deprivation of custody. A person convicted under this law could be jailed for up to 1 year or imprisoned for 16 months or 2 or three years.