When a juvenile, or someone under the age of 18, is charged with a crime, the emotional impact upon the families of the minor can be devastating. Parents may feel they are no longer able to raise their children without the Juvenile Justice System invading their privacy and parental rights. Additionally, parents and children face…
Kidnapping is among the most serious crimes a person can be charged with in Pennsylvania, and it is important to retain an experienced and aggressive kidnapping defense attorney. A kidnapping conviction can result in decades of prison time, tens of thousands of dollars in fines, a serious criminal record, among other devastating consequences. If you, your spouse, or a family member was arrested and charged with kidnapping in Philadelphia, it is vital that you contact a criminal defense attorney for immediate legal assistance. For a free and confidential legal consultation with a Philadelphia kidnapping lawyer, contact criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer right away.
What Does and Doesn’t Constitute “Kidnapping” in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s kidnapping statute is located at 18 Pa.C.S. § 2901. This offense is defined by 18 Pa.C.S. § 2901(a), under which a person commits kidnapping if he or she “unlawfully removes another [person] a substantial distance… from the place where [the person was] found, or if [the alleged kidnapper] unlawfully confines another [person] for a substantial period in a place of isolation.” In other words, a person can be charged with kidnapping for:
- Taking a person a significant distance from where they were, or
- Confining somebody in an isolated place for a significant amount of time.
Additionally, the person must also have acted “with any of the following intentions:”
- To hold the person “for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage.”
- To make it easier to commit or flee from a felony.
- To injure or terrorize the victim or another person.
- To interfere with any governmental or political actions, or functions carried out by public officials.
A separate section of the same statute, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2901(a.1), specifically defines a crime known as “kidnapping of a minor.” This offense has the same definition as kidnapping, with the added element that the victim was under the age of 18 when the kidnapping occurred.
In addition to kidnapping and kidnapping of a minor, Pennsylvania’s criminal laws also establish several similar, related offenses. Offenses related to kidnapping include:
- Concealment of Whereabouts of Child – 18 Pa.C.S. § 2909
- Criminal Coercion – 18 Pa.C.S. § 2906
- Custodial Interference – 18 Pa.C.S. § 2904
- False Imprisonment – 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903
- Luring a Child – 18 Pa.C.S. § 2910
- Unlawful Restraint – 18 Pa.C.S. § 2902
The Penalties for Kidnapping Charges Can be Severe
Kidnapping is an extremely serious charge. Mounting an aggressive kidnapping defense provides the greatest opportunity to reduce the charges you face and any associated consequences. While many crimes are graded as misdemeanors, or have the potential to be reduced to misdemeanors, kidnapping is always a felony in Pennsylvania. In fact, kidnapping is a felony of the first degree – the highest level of crime except for murder.
This classification applies regardless of whether the victim was a minor or an adult; kidnapping an adult is a first degree felony under 18 Pa.C.S. 2901(b)(1), and 18 Pa.C.S. 2901(b)(2) specifically makes kidnapping of a minor a first degree felony.
Related offenses are similarly serious. To provide a few examples, related offenses are classified as follows:
- Unlawful Restraint of a Minor (Parent, Non-Parent) – Second Degree Felony
- False Imprisonment of a Minor (Parent, Non-Parent) – Second Degree Felony
- Luring a Child (Under Age 13) – Second Degree Felony
- Custodial Interference – Second Degree Felony, Third Degree Felony, Second Degree Misdemeanor
- Concealment of Whereabouts of a Child – Third Degree Felony
- Unlawful Restraint – First Degree Misdemeanor
- Luring a Child (13 or Older) – First Degree Misdemeanor
- Criminal Coercion – First Degree Misdemeanor, Second Degree Misdemeanor
- False Imprisonment – Second Degree Misdemeanor
Based on the classifications above, the defendant may receive the following penalties if he or she is convicted or found guilty of kidnapping or related crimes in Pennsylvania:
- First Degree Felony
- » Sentence – Up to 20 years
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $25,000
- Second Degree Felony
- » Sentence – Up to 10 years
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $25,000
- Third Degree Felony
- » Sentence – Up to 7 years
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $15,000
- First Degree Misdemeanor
- » Sentence – Up to 5 years
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $10,000
- Second Degree Misdemeanor
- » Sentence – Up to 2 years
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $5,000
The Penalties for Parental Kidnapping Charges
Many arrests for kidnapping arise from custody disputes, and involve parents accused of kidnapping their own children. As an experienced kidnapping defense attorney there is a lot I can do to bring additional evidence and underlying circumstances to light to protect your custody rights and minimize the consequences.
This type of kidnapping is sometimes broadly referred to as “parental kidnapping.” However, Pennsylvania’s criminal statutes do not establish any crimes by this name. Instead, a parent may be charged with the following offenses:
- Unlawful Restraint of a Minor – 18 Pa.C.S. § 2902(c) makes it a second degree felony for a parent to unlawfully restrain his or her own child if the child is under the age of 18, and the parent knowingly:
- » Unlawfully restrains the child “in circumstances exposing him to risk of serious bodily injury.”
- » Keeps the child “in a condition of involuntary servitude.”
- False Imprisonment of a Minor – 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903(c) makes it a second degree felony for a parent to “knowingly restrain… [his or her child under age 18] unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with [the child’s] liberty.”
Pennsylvania’s legal definition of “parent” is not restricted to biological mothers and biological fathers, but also includes:
- Adoptive Parents
- Legal Guardians
- Since these are second degree felonies, they can result in up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines, so it is very important to take your case to an attorney who may be able to help you avoid these steep penalties.
Kidnapping cases can be highly complex, and it is vital to examine every detail in order to craft a vigorous defense strategy. It may be possible to have the charges reduced, or even get the case dismissed; but the longer you wait to consult with a defense attorney, the fewer legal options you’ll have left. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense or call today for a free consultation at 215-712-1212. Learn how we can work to reduce the charges you may face as well as the short and long-term consequences.
If You’ve Been Charged with Kidnapping, WE CAN HELP
If you were arrested for kidnapping or if you are concerned that a criminal investigation may be underway, contact us immediately for a free, confidential legal consultation.