Orange County Kidnapping Crime Attorney
Chances are, if you’re arrested for kidnapping, the prosecutor will seek harsh penalties and care little for your side of the story. Charges of kidnapping can apply to many situations you are not aware of, such as taking your own child. Most defendants have no idea how they were breaking the law until they land in a jail cell.
We understand that lines can be blurry and sometimes you end up on the wrong end of a misunderstanding. Facing charges of kidnapping can be stressful, with severe implications on your personal and professional lives. If you're being accused of kidnapping, call Law Office of Michael L. Guisti at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 for experienced legal representation to help keep you out of jail. Our attorneys are here to help.
Kidnapping is defined by Penal Code (PC) 207 as the use of force or fear to take a person and move that person a "substantial distance." This can include cases in custody disputes where one parent removes a child from the care of another who does not have the legal right to do so. Especially in cases involving parents accused of kidnapping their own children, the lines can be blurry and a good defense can successfully dismiss charges or reduce penalties.
In order to be convicted of the crime of kidnapping, a prosecutor must prove the following:
- You detained another person by means force or fear
- By using that force and/or fear, you moved the other person a "substantial distance"
- You were not within your legal right to custodianship
What is considered a "substantial distance?"
A "substantial distance" under PC 207 is a distance more than slight or trivial. However, you can still be tried and convicted of kidnapping if the movement increased the risk of physical or psychological harm, provided the opportunity to commit additional crimes, and/or decreased the likelihood of being caught.
While Penal Code 207 outlines the broad definition of kidnapping charges, there are also individual charges for specific scenarios. A common one is parental kidnapping, which can occur when one parent takes the child without the permission of the other parent, violating a custody agreement. Violating a court-ordered custody agreement is breaking the law and can lead to serious consequences: a charge of child abduction or Penal Code 278.5. This can occur whether a parent refuses to return a child to the other parent when they have joint custody or whether a parent refuses to allow the other parent to have court-ordered visitation time. In order to convict you, the prosecution must prove that:
- You attempted to “maliciously deprive” another parent of the child by luring or taking the child away;
- The child was under the age of 18;
- You did not have a right to custody at that time; and
- You intended to detain or hide the custody from the other parent.
However, there is an exception to this law. If the detaining parent believed that the other parent abused the child, then he or she could violate the custody agreement to protect the child so long as that parent contacted the proper authorities, including the district attorney, and filed for custody under the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act.
Another common kidnapping charge is aggravated kidnapping, which applies when:
- The alleged victim suffers a great bodily injury while detained.
- The alleged victim is kidnapped during a carjacking.
- The alleged victim was under the age of 14 and the crime involved force, fear, or fraud.
- The kidnapping involved a ransom demand.
Aggravated kidnapping is punished with an extensive prison sentence. In all cases, you should not hesitate to contact a skilled attorney who can explain your situation and advocate for the lightest possible sentence for you.
The penalties for kidnapping are extremely serious. Under California’s Three Strikes Law, kidnapping can result in a strike on your criminal record, and you may be required to served 85% of your sentence. Kidnapping is also a crime of moral turpitude, meaning it can affect your immigration status. In most cases, it is a felony. The specific penalties include:
- Kidnapping: Up to three, five, or eight years in a California state prison and/or a fine of $10,000.
- Aggravated Kidnapping: Up to five, eight, or eleven years in a California state prison and/or a fine of $10,000.
- Parental Kidnapping/Child Abduction: Up to one year in an Orange County jail and/or a fine of $1,000 if charged as a misdemeanor, or up to two, three, or four years in a California state prison and/or a fine of $10,000 if charged as a felony.
If you are granted probation, the court requires that you serve at least one year in a county jail.
There are many scenarios in which an alleged kidnapping can be fought. An attorney at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti can help formulate a defense pertinent to your specific case and fight to reduce your criminal charges. Let us guide you through the legal process, represent you in and out of court, and provide you with the best possible options to make this complicated time much easier for you.
In our experience, a strong defense against kidnapping charges may be that:
- You were falsely accused.
- You had not traveled a substantial distance.
- The alleged victim freely and voluntarily went with you.
- You were coerced by another individual to kidnap someone.
- You misunderstood the custody agreement, or you did not have a court-ordered custody agreement.
- You had lawful custody over your child.
- The other parent lost his/her parental right to custody or abused your child.
Law Office of Michael L. Guisti has successfully represented clients all over Southern California in cases of alleged kidnapping. Our Orange County criminal defense attorneys have the knowledge and experience to understand the complexities of the law and the court system. Contact us today at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 for a consultation and let us represent you.
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Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.