Kidnapping is defined as taking away a person against their will by way of force, fraud, or threat and holding them in false imprisonment.  False imprisonment is to confine a person without the legal authority to do so.  Kidnapping can be done to seek ransom, to further the success of another crime, for political purposes, and to gain illegal custody of a child.  Kidnapping is a crime that can be committed by a stranger, acquaintance or relative to the victim.  The punishment for kidnapping depends on the state and circumstances of the case. 

The term kidnapping was originally “kid nabbing” and referred to the stealing of a child.  Under common law, “abduction” was the term used for the kidnapping of a woman.  Today, the word kidnapping is used to refer to the taking away and false imprisonment of any person against their will.  In many jurisdictions, the charge of abduction is a different charge than that of kidnapping.  There are certain criteria that must be met for the taking of a person to be considered kidnapping.  This criterion has led to some controversy over adequacy of the laws regarding kidnapping.  

The law considers an act to be kidnapping if it is done with any of the following intentions: holding the victim for ransom, reward, or some other ordered condition of release; using the individual as a shield or a hostage; to disrupt or interfere with government or political functions; to aid the commission of a criminal act, or to inflict injury or suffering on the victim or another party. 

Another major area of kidnapping law makes it unlawful for a parent without legal custody rights to take a child.  State, federal, and international laws protect the rights of parents whose children have been taken unlawfully by a non-custodial parent. 

International kidnapping laws established at the 1980 Hague Conference seek to reduce child abductions across international borders.  Under these kidnapping laws, each sovereign nation sets up a Central Authority responsible for investigating international kidnapping cases.  The Central Authority is required to do everything within their power to protect the child and secure his return to the lawful guardian.  

Kidnapping perpetrated by a family member occurs more often than any other type of kidnapping.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates that 200,000 minors are kidnapped ever year by a family member in the United States.  Even if the minor consents to being taken somewhere, the non-custodial parent or relative can still be charged with kidnapping. 

The laws surrounding kidnapping are complex and may be difficult to understand without extensive legal training.  If you seek more information about kidnapping, please contact us to speak with a qualified and experienced attorney in your area who can evaluate your case to determine your rights and options.  If you have been the victim of kidnapping, an attorney can advise you of how to proceed.  If you have been charged with kidnapping, an attorney can determine how best to protect and maximize your legal interests. 

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