In California, child abduction is defined by California Penal Code 278 as the purposeful and deceitful taking, luring, keeping or concealing a minor with the intent of removing another person of their rights to authorized custody or visitation with the child.
Many times, abductions are committed by parents, grandparents, in-laws or other close relatives. Any person who does not have the lawful right of guardianship or custody of the child and has committed any of the acts under California Statutes is guilty of the crime of child abduction.
California Penal Code 278, defines child abduction as two separate crimes:
- No Right to Custody
- The accused maliciously took, enticed, kept, withheld, or concealed a child from the lawful custodian
- The child was younger than 18 years at the time
- The accused had no legal right to custody of the child
- The accused intentionally acted to detain or conceal the child from their legal custodian
- Deprivation of the Right to Custody or Visitation
- The accused enticed, kept, withheld or concealed a child
- The child was younger than 18 years of age
- The accused maliciously deprived a lawful custodian of the right to custody or a person the right to visitation
Child abduction is different to kidnapping in that kidnapping is a crime solely against the person kidnapped. Child abduction is also a crime against the abducted child but also against that child’s lawful parent. Moving or transporting the child is not necessary to be guilty of child abduction, only the intent to detain or conceal the child from their legal guardian. The penalties for the child abduction of a person under the age of 14 is more severe.
What Are The Penalties For Child Abduction?
A conviction of child abduction carries penalties of up to 4 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. If you are convicted of kidnapping you face the possibility of up to 8 years in prison. If the victim was a child under the age of 14, you could face up to 11 years in a California state prison. If any ransom was involved, a life sentence can be imposed.
Several factors will be considered during the penalty phase of a trial including:
- If there was any injury to the victim
- The victim’s age
- The duration of the abduction
- How far the victim was taken from their original location
- Where the victim was taken against their will
- If the child was taken to a foreign country
- If the abductor changed the appearance of the child in order to conceal their identity
In California, child abduction is considered a “wobbler” crime which means the crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on particular factors in the case.
A child abduction case will involve careful scrutiny of the circumstances and consideration of all elements in order to determine the penalty required.
Do I Have A Defense?
There are many ways an attorney can defend someone accused of child abduction. Some of the ways a child abduction case can be defended are:
- The accused has a full or partial custody of the child
- The person the accused took the child away from was not a legal custodian
- The accused did not violate the elements of the law requiring malicious taking away of the child
- The accused filed a report with the courts after abducting the child to report a change of custody, giving locations and contact information in a within a reasonable time (10 days for filing a report and 30 days for a custody proceeding)
If you have been charged with child abduction in Los Angeles you should immediately contact a Los Angeles child abduction lawyer to represent you against this serious charge.