Kidnapping For Ransom Or Extortion – Penal Code Section 209 in Los Angeles
Believe it or not, I’ve done a number of kidnapping for ransom and extortion cases in LA County over the course of the last twenty-five years. One of the last ones I did was in Norwalk Superior Court and my client basically had a business disagreement with another person and allegedly grabbed him and put a bag over his head, and basically held him in order to get the money back that he lost. He was charged with kidnapping for ransom. Obviously, you’re looking at life if you’re charged with that. So, it’s a very serious case. If you have a family member or you’re charged with kidnapping for ransom, you’re going to want to get a good attorney, been battle-tested, done these types of cases before, and is familiar with Penal Code Section 209, how it works, what the elements are.
In the case that I’m mentioning, the prosecutor basically had two witnesses. One of them was the alleged victim who had a bunch of inconsistent statements that were put in on direct examination, and they also had kind of a middle person that arranged my client meeting with the alleged victim. They were going to exchange these parts and they had a business deal all set up and then the alleged victim supposedly backed out and that’s when he was retaliated against. The key is in any criminal case, but specifically in kidnapping for ransom because it’s such a serious charge, and the prosecutors have to show certain elements and certain things. If their case is hinging upon one witness like it was in this case, if that witness is not credible, says some things that are inconsistent, lies – a jury is not going to buy what they’re saying. In the case in Norwalk, which is a tough courthouse in LA County bordering Orange County, the jury came back not guilty pretty quickly.
It was because the alleged victim didn’t support the elements of the crime of kidnapping for ransom or extortion. The prosecutors in that scenario have to show #1 that the person was taken against their will, was moved to a different location and also the individual that supposedly defended has to actually try to extort some money out of him. They have to meet those elements of Penal Code Section 209. There has to be someone taken, moved, money demanded or some other pecuniary gain, and if the prosecutors cannot prove that, then they’re not going to be able to make their case. The jury will find the person not guilty very quickly. Defenses in kidnapping for ransom or extortion cases pursuant to Penal Code Section 209 in LA. There’s a number of different defenses that apply. One is that the person is not moved any distance. That’s not a kidnapping.
If there’s no threats or demands for any type of money or monetary gain, then it’s not a kidnapping; and three, probably the biggest thing is it’s going to center on the facts of the case. The jury, the judge are going to look at the totality of the circumstances. If the other party is basically claiming someone kidnapped them and was trying to extort money or was trying to get a ransom, and the other party has some sort of an interest – some sort of thing to gain by making this claim – in other words, they’re trying to settle some sort of civil dispute by getting the police and prosecutors involved in order to have a huge advantage over the other party and basically put the other party in a bad situation where they’re looking at prison and bunch of other bad ramifications if they don’t cooperate.
Another thing I see them do is if they think they’re owed money now they’re going to try to get their money back through the criminal justice system which is appropriate if you have really been kidnapped for ransom. But if you haven’t been kidnapped for ransom, no money’s been extorted from you and your just lying and improperly use the police and prosecutors in order to get what you want – this is inappropriate and the best defense attorneys will take a witness like that apart, and even the police and prosecutors – if they believe – once the other side of the story is gotten across to them – if they believe that this person is lying, not telling the truth, is trying to trick them and give them bad information, especially on such a serious charge as kidnapping for ransom or extortion, then they’re going to prosecute that other person and they’ll let the defendant go.
The bottom line is this. If you have a kidnap for ransom case and you’re being charged with Penal Code Section 209, I suggest you come in, we sit down, or if you’re a family member, I can go out and see the person in jail. Really, the most crucial thing in these cases is, in my opinion – having tried a lot of big cases over the years – over 200 jury trials and some of the most serious cases you can think of – is really the client and the attorney working together, because a client obviously is going to do and think of everything they possibly can to help themselves. The lawyer has the experience and obviously has been in battles where the person is looking at the significant amount of time in custody. So, for me, if my client is working with me and we’re working together and I zero-in for the client how they can help me, it really makes a difference in defending some of these cases.
Especially cases that are on the fence and are close. There is a jury instruction basically that says tie goes to the defendant, so if there’s some evidence that points to guilt, some evidence that points to innocence and the jury can’t decide which evidence is stronger, that’s a not guilty verdict right there. So, it’s really crucial in these cases that a criminal defense attorney has a good relationship with their client, and also, the criminal defense attorney – when you’re talking about kidnapping for ransom, extortion – you’re already behind the eight-ball. The jury walks into that trial looking at what this guy is charged with, then he must have done it. Of course, this is not right. That’s not our criminal justice system, but its reality. So, that’s the first thing I attack when I do the voir dire of these jurors. I say listen, how many of you already think the client’s guilty just because they are charged, and some people raise their hand. We have to deal with that. We have to tell them, listen, that’s not the way our system works. He’s presumed innocent. So, if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty and you want to talk to somebody that’s been down this road before and had success and knows how to handle these kidnapping for ransom cases, knows the elements of Penal Code Section 209 – come and sit down with me and we’ll get you on the right road.
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