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When are Prosecutors Likely to Seek Life in Kidnapping Case?


California Penal Code 207 defines the serious felony crime of kidnapping as moving another person a substantial distance, against their will, by the use of force or fear.

PC 207 is commonly called “simple kidnapping,” which is a felony offense that carries up to 8 years in prison.

Penal Code 209 PC aggravated kidnapping is the statute used by prosecutors to charge someone when they kidnap somebody for:

  • ransom or reward, or
  • in order to commit another crime, such as PC 261 rape.

PC 209 aggravated kidnapping is the more serious charge and carries a sentence of life in prison if convicted.

While the statute 18 U.S.C. § 1201 makes kidnapping a federal crime, state kidnapping charges are more common than due to the fact there is no requirement to move the victim across state lines.

Definition of PC 207 Kidnapping

Under California Penal Code 207 PC, kidnapping is defined as follows:

  • “Anyone who forcibly or by fear taking, holding, detaining the victim, and carrying them into another country, state, county, or into another part of the same county, is guilty of kidnapping.”

This means moving a victim under restraint is enough for be charged with PC 207 kidnapping, even if it didn’t cross any jurisdictional lines.

The use of force or fear is the crucial factor in a kidnapping case.

PC 209 Enhanced Kidnapping Charges

Penal Code 209 defines the more serious aggravated kidnapping as when a kidnapper has intent for the kidnapping a victim to be for ransom, reward, or extortion.

Anyone who is convicted of PC 209 aggravated kidnapping is facing the following penalties:

  • life in prison without the possibility of parole if the victim suffers serious bodily harm or death, or if confinement subjected them to a risk of death;
  • life in prison with possibility of parole if there was no risk of injury or death;
  • same penalties above for any person who aids or abets in the aggravated kidnapping for ransom.

Aggravated kidnaping charges under Penal Code 209 PC are enhanced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole when the crime was committed for another crime, such as:Kidnaping in California - Penal Code 207 PC

Kidnapping during a carjacking – Penal Code 209.5 

The penalties are also increased when a defendant committed a kidnapping during a carjacking.

California Penal Code 209.5 PC imposes a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole for a conviction.

Kidnapping for Murder or Sexual Purpose

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of kidnapping cases charged in Los Angeles county, the San Fernando Valley and actually throughout California.

Those people who are charged with this crime and those people who are family members trying to help somebody charged with kidnapping, are obviously worried that they could potentially get life in prison.

That is a possibility. Kidnapping is a very serious charge because you’re taking somebody else’s liberty away and that’s how death occurs, when people start doing things related to kidnapping related offenses.

However, a lot of these cases are over-charged.  Just moving somebody a distance against their will, they can hit you with a kidnapping charge under Penal Code 207 PC.

But, the usual more serious statute they can charge you with when they’re trying to seek life, is Penal Code 209 PC aggravated kidnapping.

Kidnapping with intent to murder 

I really think when you evaluate when prosecutors are going to seek life in a California state prison, is when somebody is kidnapping somebody for a horrific purpose.  Kidnapping somebody to murder them is a good example.

Let’s say somebody grabs somebody that they intend to kill, throws that person in the trunk of their car and is headed to the woods to kill and bury the person and then the person is caught before they are able to actually commit the murder.

That’s the type of kidnapping where the person is going to be looking at a life sentence.

Kidnapping for a sexual purpose 

Also, if you were to kidnap a child for some sort of sexual purposes, that would be a good example of case where the prosecutors are likely going to seek life against that person.

Just grabbing a significant other and dragging them across the room because you’re angry with them and you’re in the middle of a domestic violence situation, is not likely a scenario where they should be charging any type of a kidnapping or life-related offense.

Review of Circumstances and Defendant’s Criminal Record

So, you really have to look at the circumstances of what’s going on, and also, you have to look at the person’s criminal record.  Is this person a serial criminal who continues to commit dangerous and violent felonies?  If the answer is yes, you can bet the prosecutors are going to be trying to angle the case into a life case.

If the answer is no, and you really have a situation where the person shouldn’t be charged with kidnapping or shouldn’t be charged with kidnapping that involves a life sentence, then obviously, there may be other charges that are more appropriate.

For example, Penal Code 236 false imprisonment is the little brother of kidnapping, where somebody keeps somebody against their will.  False imprisonment is a much less serious crime than kidnapping.  So, that would be a good alternative if somebody has to plead guilty to something.

Some of these cases when you’re charged with kidnapping people view it as an “all or nothing” situation when it’s really not.  Sometimes the person acted wrong.  Sometimes they acted criminal, but they don’t deserve to be convicted of kidnapping.

Then, maybe they’re going to get some other charge that’s not as serious as kidnapping that doesn’t involve a life sentence and maybe even is not a strike. Kidnapping, in additional to potentially carrying life, is also a strike on a person’s criminal record that they can never get off.

Criminal Defense for Kidnapping Cases

So, if you or a loved one is charged with kidnapping or being investigated for a kidnapping charge, you’ve come to the right place.  I’ve been doing these cases for almost three decades.

Some defense to a charge of Penal Code 207 kidnapping focus on reasonable doubt as to the main elements of the crime, including:Criminal Defense for California Kidnapping Cases

  • insufficient movement of the alleged victim;
  • insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction;
  • consent by victim to be moved.

If the victim was not moved by use or force or fear, then you are not guilty of the crime of kidnapping.   Through the process known of prefiling intervention, we might be able to persuade the prosecutor from filing formal charges before court.

So, if you need help, pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

Hedding Law Firm is a based in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (213)…

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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