What is kidnapping?

Under the laws of most states, kidnapping is a crime where the victim is transported a substantial distance or held in a place of isolation through the use of force. Kidnapping statutes also define a set of purposes for kidnapping including: collecting ransom, facilitating the commission of a felony, inflicting bodily injury, or terrorizing someone.

Elements of Kidnapping

In order for transportation of a victim to constitute a substantial distance necessary to charge kidnapping, the movement must be more than slight or trivial. Similarly, a place of isolation must be one where the victim's ability to communicate with others is inhibited. The most recognized form of kidnapping is where a victim, often a young child, is taken away and held so that the perpetrators can collect ransom. Kidnapping can also be charged when employees/hostages in a bank robbery are locked in a vault, or when a victim is locked in a room and sexually assaulted.

Kidnapping vs. Other Similar Crimes

Kidnapping differs from unlawful restraint in that a necessary element for the latter is the victim's forced restraint under circumstances exposing him to serious bodily injury; but, unlawful restraint does not require that the additional elements of transporting the victim, holding him in isolation or the specific intent elements discussed above (e.g. - ransom). Kidnapping differs from false imprisonment in that the latter only requires that the victim's liberty be substantially affected.

Lindbergh Law

The most famous kidnapping in American history occurred when the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh was taken from his home and ultimately murdered. After the arrest and execution of Bruno Hauptmann for the crime, the Federal Kidnapping Act, also known as the Lindbergh Law, was enacted making it a federal crime to transport a victim across state lines.

Kidnapping is most often graded as a felony, and depending on the specific circumstances, it can be punished very severely. In California for example, even if a victim suffers no serious bodily injury, the sentence can still be up to life in prison with the possibility of parole.  For questions about kidnapping, or if accused of kidnapping, consult an experienced criminal attorney.