Most people worry about the possibility of their child being kidnapped from the park or shopping mall. While these things do happen, most kidnapping cases don’t involve strangers but are actually parental kidnappings. According to Safe, at Last, more than 90% of all reported kidnappings are the result of parental kidnapping.
The U.S. Department of Justice states, “Parental kidnapping” occurs when a non-custodial parent takes possession of his/her child in order to prevent the custodial parent from having any contact with the child.”
One of the scary things about parental kidnappings is that while it seems like it’s preferable to a child being taken by a stranger, there are often long-lasting side effects. We’re only just starting to understand that the children who are abducted by their parents often experience psychological and emotional trauma. The Justice Department states that victims of parental kidnappings experience:
- Poor nutrition
- A lack of consistent schooling
- Unstable lifestyle
One of the mistakes many parents make is assuming that because they are the child’s parents, they won’t be charged with kidnapping. That’s not the case at all. If you’re a non-custodial parent and take your child without permission, you can be charged with kidnapping in California.
In California, kidnapping, including parental kidnapping is defined in Penal Code 207 PC.
According to California law, you can be charged with kidnapping when you, “forcibly, or by any other means of instilling fear, steals or takes, or holds, detains, or arrests any person in this state, and carries the person into another country, state, or county, or into another part of the same county.”
Whether you’re a parent, a family friend, or a stranger to the child, all kidnapping charges are felonies. If you’re convicted you can be sentenced to as long as 8 years in prison. If the victim is a child or is an adult who is injured/killed during the kidnapping, you can be sentenced to life in prison.
In addition to straight kidnapping, you can also be charged with aggravated kidnapping in California. Kidnapping is upgraded to aggravated kidnapping if force, fear, or fraud is used to move a child who is less than 14 years old. Other things that can trigger aggravated kidnapping charges include:
- Demanding a ransom
- If the victim is grievously injured
- If the kidnapping was part of a carjacking
There are instances where a parental kidnapping turned out to be a breakdown in communication. The best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is by communicating clearly with the other parent, writing down any dates involved when you’ll have the child that isn’t part of the original custody agreement, and double-checking everything.