Few crimes are as serious as kidnapping. If you get convicted, you will face some of the longest prison sentences authorized in the United States. If you’re facing kidnapping charges in either state or federal court, you should immediately seek the counsel of a seasoned legal professional who can help you avoid the devastating consequences of a conviction for kidnapping.
Fundamentally, kidnapping involves taking or restraining another person’s freedom of movement against that person’s will—often with the intent of collecting a ransom or of terrorizing the victim. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged taking, you may face criminal charges under either state or federal law.
The Differences Between State and Federal Kidnapping Laws
Kidnapping was incorporated into the American common legal system hundreds of years ago. Over time, each state incorporated kidnapping into its penal code, which means that the definition of kidnapping and the corresponding penalties vary from state to state.
For example, Ohio Revised Code section 2905.01 defines the crime of kidnapping for Ohio. In most cases, kidnapping is charged as a first-degree felony involving a 15-year to lifetime prison sentence and possible fines of up to $20,000. The offense is a second- degree felony involving a 10-year to life sentence and $15,000 in fines if the victim is released without harm.
The federal government did not create any laws against kidnapping until the Lindbergh Act of 1932, prompted by the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s infant child. In that case, the federal authorities were hindered by the lack of a federal law authorizing the prosecution of kidnapping offenses. Since then, kidnapping may be charged as either a state or a federal crime, depending on the circumstances of the alleged crime.
Federal Kidnapping Laws
According to Title 18, section 1201 of the United States Code, a person can be charged with federal kidnapping when the victim is transported across state lines. Importantly, federal kidnapping law assumes that the victim has been taken across state lines if he or she is not released with 24 hours. In other words, many if not most kidnapping cases can be prosecuted under federal law.
The penalties for committing federal kidnapping are very serious. Prison sentences span from 20 years life, with the exact sentence depending on whether you used a dangerous weapon or made a ransom demand. Furthermore, the cost of defending yourself in federal court will be significantly higher than defending against charges in state court. Thus, federal kidnapping charges involve higher stakes.
Federal law contains a special provision for when a parent abducts a child, which sometimes happens during divorces or custody disputes. According to Title 18, section 1204 of the United States Code, it’s illegal for a parent to remove a child from the custody of the other parent without obtaining that other parent’s consent. The penalty for committing this offense is significantly less than for standard kidnapping, with sentences averaging around 3 years.
Like murder, there is no statute of limitations for kidnapping. A statute of limitations means that a prosecutor cannot bring charges against you after a specified number of years have passed since the alleged offense. Thus, you may find yourself facing kidnapping charges years or even decades after the alleged incident.
Defending Against Federal Kidnapping Charges
Few crimes garner as much publicity as kidnapping. The public will be outraged and the authorities will be under significant pressure to punish the alleged offender. This means that kidnapping suspects face an uphill battle when defending against their charges. But with a skilled and aggressive advocate by your side, you stand a chance at obtaining a positive case outcome.
The first step in defending against any criminal charges is ensuring that the authorities respect your rights. This isn’t just the right thing to do—it can also have a practical effect on your case. Prosecutors are not allowed to use evidence in a criminal trial that was obtained in violation of the suspect’s rights. So challenging the authorities’ abuses can result in less evidence being available to prove your guilt.
The second step in defending your kidnapping case is showing that the prosecutor has failed to prove the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If your lawyer can show there is some reasonable doubt as to whether you committed the crime, the jury will be instructed to enter a verdict of not guilty. Your lawyer can accomplish this by pointing to gaps and inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s evidence and witness testimony. It may also be possible to introduce evidence into the case that points to your innocence.
A frequent defense to kidnapping charges is to claim that you reasonably believed the alleged victim had given his or her consent to go with you. This defense is not available, however, where the alleged victim does not have the mental capacity to give consent. For example, there is no possibility of using the consent defense when the case involves the kidnapping a small child or a mentally disabled person.
Luftman, Heck & Associates Is Here To Help
If you are facing kidnapping charges in either federal or state courts, Luftman, Heck & Associates can help. We’ve built our reputation on our ability to obtain positive case outcomes for clients facing serious criminal charges. To learn more about what a Columbus criminal defense attorney can do for you, call us today at (614) 500-3836 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.