Kidnapping is a serious crime that is often associated with forced labor or sexual servitude. While this may be the case in some instances, the law defines kidnapping very broadly. To explore what it means to ‘kidnap’ someone under federal law, continue reading.
1. What Is Considered Kidnapping
It is important to understand that the law defines kidnapping very broadly. To be considered a federal offense, all that has to happen is for one person to move another without consent. It does not matter whether this movement exposes the victim to any danger.
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2. Federal Law
When someone commits a crime in conjunction with an act of kidnapping, that crime will be classified as ‘felony kidnapping.’ As federal laws are written broadly, it is often possible for multiple people involved in moving an individual across state lines to be charged with felony kidnapping. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting System, there were 275 arrests for incidents of felony kidnapping in 2013 alone. Although it may seem like these are all cases where people are taken against their will and held against their will, some states have expanded upon the definition of kidnapping so that taking an individual and holding them against their will no longer needs to be part of the crime.
Felony kidnapping is a very serious crime that carries significant consequences. In many cases, an individual convicted of this type of kidnapping will have to spend at least two years in prison. In some instances, the court could sentence the defendant to life in prison.
3. Federal Law vs State Laws
One thing that makes it difficult to draw conclusions about how frequently kidnappings occur is because there is no standard definition of the crime. For example, one state may define kidnapping as taking a person against their will and holding them for ransom, while another could say it is simply moving someone without consent. Consequently, different states report dramatically different numbers of kidnappings. For example, in 2013 there were over 200 federal kidnapping charges reported per every 1 million people. By contrast, California only had six such charges reported per 1 million people. This is because the state’s laws define kidnapping as holding someone against their will and charging them with a crime.
4. Legal Definition
Although there are differences between how states define kidnapping, almost all of them make clear that only moving an individual can be considered kidnapping if it is done with criminal intent. That means if the movement occurs during the commission of another crime, such as rape or assault, then it cannot be charged as kidnapping on its own even if this movement exposes the victim to further risk. Generally speaking, many legal experts agree that this type of movement does not meet the criteria for what qualifies as ‘kidnapping.’
There are some states that do not make a distinction between crimes committed during the act of kidnapping and other crimes. If someone is convicted of kidnapping, they may be forced to serve time for both offenses, even if one was completely unrelated to the other.
5. Lawyer Involvement
If you are accused of committing felony kidnapping, it is important for you to speak with a qualified attorney before entering any sort of plea bargain or agreeing to serve time in prison. If the court determines that you committed the act involuntarily or against your will, then they’re not going to charge you with kidnapping. This is especially true if the movement was a product of coercion from another person, such as when a kidnapper forces their victim into the trunk of their car and later moves them against their will. If someone did move you without your consent and they did so specifically to commit a separate crime, then this may be considered kidnapping under the law.
Kidnapping is a serious offense in the United States and must be handled in a court of law if a person has been accused of committing this crime. It is important to contact a qualified defense attorney as quickly as possible because they can help build a strong case to fight against your charges.