Suppose you or a loved one is charged with the crime of kidnapping? In that case, you will want to find the best attorney because kidnapping cases are treated very seriously in Los Angeles County and surrounding counties.
I've handled many of these cases over the past 30 years of defending people charged with crimes, and I've noticed that the prosecutors will use this kidnapping charge as a weapon. California Penal Code Section 207 PC defines the felony crime of kidnapping as moving another person a substantial distance against their will using force or fear.
Kidnapping is distinct from its lesser included offense, Penal Code 236 PC false imprisonment, in that kidnapping requires the victim to be moved.
If they charge you with Penal Code 209 aggravated kidnapping, you could be facing life in prison. With that hanging over your head, that gives the prosecutors a lot of leverage as it relates to trying to resolve cases.
They've often got weak cases charged against people, but because of that kidnapping charge and the potential for a life sentence, they have a lot of power. As a defense attorney:
- I've got to try to take that power away from them,
- Damage their case at the preliminary hearing if that's what we decide, or
- At least be able to talk to their boss about the case and discuss the weaknesses in their case if weaknesses exist.
Holding somebody against their will in one location, i.e., preventing them from leaving, is considered false imprisonment, often related to domestic violence cases. Our California criminal defense lawyers will explain further below.
What Are the Kidnapping Laws in California?
California Penal Code 207 PC defines kidnapping as moving someone a substantial distance, against their will, by force or fear. It's often called “simple kidnapping” and a felony crime punishable by up to 8 years in prison. The elements of the crimes are listed under California Criminal Jury Instructions 1215. PC 207 states:
- “(a) Anybody who forcibly, or by any means of instilling fear, steals, takes, holds, detains, or arrests someone and carries them to another country, state, or county, or into a part of the same county, is guilty of kidnapping.”
The movement requirement means proof that the victim has moved a substantial, or non-trivial, distance. There is no rigid definition of how far a distance would qualify as “substantial.”
The courts typically look to different factors to determine if this element is met, such as the following factors:
- Did the movement increase the danger to the victim?
- Did the movement help the perpetrator avoid detection?
- What was the actual distance the victim was moved?
The victim's movement must be accomplished by either force or fear, which means applying physical force. Fear is frequently used in kidnapping cases through a deadly weapon, such as holding the victim at gunpoint or knifepoint. A related, more serious offense is Penal Code 209 PC aggravated kidnapping which is charged when a person kidnaps someone for:
- ransom or reward, or
- to commit another crime, such as rape or carjacking.
If convicted of PC 209, you could face a life sentence in prison. Kidnapping is also a “strike” offense under California's three-strikes law.
What are the Related Crimes for Kidnapping?
- Penal Code 209.5 PC – kidnapping during a carjacking,
- Penal Code 210 PC – kidnapping for extortion,
- Penal Code 236 PC – false imprisonment,
- Penal Code 210.5 PC – false imprisonment to protect from arrest,
- Penal Code 278 PC – child abduction,
- Penal Code 278.5 PC – deprivation of child custody order
Can We Identify Weaknesses in a Prosecutor's Kidnapping Case?
Some ideas I have are, number one, the prosecutors have to decide that someone is taking another person intending to really, truly kidnap them? I see many cases; you don't have that scenario going on. You don't have somebody intentionally taking somebody.
A lot of times, the person goes willingly, and a lot of times, there are different things underlying what's happening in the factual situation. So, the prosecutors have to be made aware of that.
If the prosecutors are not reasonable and you honestly weren't trying to kidnap anybody, then a lot of times we have to fight the case, try to get it dismissed, either, at the preliminary hearing with having the judge find that there's not enough evidence for a kidnapping charge, or it's a situation where we've got to take the case to trial.
Will We Discuss a Defense Strategy at First Meeting?
Yes. These are some of the things we will discuss in the first meeting. Start talking about how you can defend a kidnapping charge.
Unfortunately, a Penal Code Section 207 allows some leeway and flexibility for the prosecutors to charge somebody with kidnapping when they probably shouldn't be able to do that.
That's not a life charge, but it's still a severe case. You're still facing prison time, and obviously, nobody wants a kidnapping charge on their record, which is a strike, and you have to serve 85% of any time you get – whether it be in county jail or state prison.
So, I think the first idea is to break down the case, and we do that at the first meeting. I will encourage you to give me all the facts and details. Please don't leave anything else because I will start formulating and developing a strategy for you right from the beginning.
I think once we get everything out on the table and we see what's going on, a lot of times when I'm able to show prosecutors the other side of the equation, they take a different look at whether that case is a kidnapping case. So, that's one idea – one area of attack. That's one idea.
Can You Negotiate My Kidnapping Case with Prosecutors?
Yes. The other idea is to fight the case and try to attack the witnesses that the prosecutors will bring forth and get out the defense because many times, that either get the case dismissed or points out the weaknesses in the case.
It's all on a transcript. It's all under penalty of perjury, and I can now go to the supervisor and show them the preliminary hearing transcript and say look, this is your case.
You don't have a great case here. We need to work this case out. That assumes that you did something wrong and should have to plead guilty or no contest to a crime.
So, if you need the best – you need somebody who's battle-tested and has handled many kidnapping cases throughout decades of defending people like you; pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. The Hedding Law firm is based in Los Angeles County and offers free case evaluation via phone or contact form.